Over the last month, Prospera Place has turned into a wasteland for opposing Western Hockey League teams.
It’s a trend the Kelowna Rockets hope to keep in tact heading towards the Christmas break.
Kelowna plays host to the Swift Current Broncos Wednesday night, its last game inside the warm confines of Prospera until Dec. 28.
The Rockets’ 6-3 win over Saskatoon on Saturday night was their seventh straight on home ice, and 12th overall in the last 14 games.
“We want to build on our last game against Saskatoon where we had very good effort,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “Now it’s a good challenge for our guys to keep themselves up to that standard. We want to leave here feeling good about what we’ve been able to do at home the last while. It’s important have that feeling before heading out on the road.”
Following Wednesday’s game, the Rockets hit the pavement for five games in eight nights against Eastern Conference opponents. The road tour begins Friday in Red Deer and wraps up Dec. 17 in Calgary.
But Ryan Huska won’t be making the trip. The Rockets head man will instead head to Toronto for the Canadian junior team’s final selection camp Dec. 12 to 15. Huska will serve as an assistant with Team Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championship, Dec. 26 to Jan. 4 in Buffalo.
A month away from home will be both exciting and possibly a little unnerving for the 35-year-old father of three young children.
“This is a great opportunity, it’s very exciting, but at the same time it will feel different being away from my kids for that long, I might be a little uneasy,” Huska said. “But that’s what web cams are for. At least I’ll get to see them everyday.
“As for being part of this tournament, it’s a huge honour and a great opportunity for me.”
Joining Huska at the selection camp will be Rockets’ captain Tyson Barrie, one of 12 defencemen vying for a spot on the Canadian roster.
Barrie will play for the Rockets in Red Deer Friday, but will then miss at least the team’s next three games while he’s in Toronto—and more than that if he makes Team Canada.
“Without Tyson there will be some challenges, especially for our defense,” said Huska. “What’s important is that nobody tries to pick up for Tyson’s absence. We don’t have someone who can play like him and we don’t anyone trying. The guys we have, we just want them to make sure they’re solid in their own end and play their own game.”
In Huska’s absence, assistants Dan Lambert and Ryan Cuthbert will guide the Rockets for the team’s next nine games, with help from both Kim Dillabaugh and Kim Gellert.
Rocket Shots…The visiting Swift Current Broncos feature a pair of ex-Rockets, Stepan Novotny and Kyle Verdino. Novotny, 20, led the Broncos with 14 goals heading into Tuesday’s action…Kelowna’s next home action is Tuesday, Dec. 28 against Everett.