The last three weeks of the Western Hockey League season were better than the first three, but the Kelowna Rockets are still in a work in progress for head coach Jason Smith.
After closing out October on a six-game winning streak, the Rockets have lost two of their last three games, including a 6-2 defeat Saturday night at the hands of the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers.
“There have been some ups and downs, some inconsistencies in our game this season,” said Smith, who is in his first season as the Rockets’ bench boss.
“Overall, we’re progressing, getting better in a lot of areas, now we just need to implement that and put it to use every night.
“We know we have success when we stick to the systems and played a structured game, so we need to be more consistent with that.”
Like most WHL teams at this time of year, the Rockets are dealing with their share of injury problems.
Dillon Dube has yet to play this season after suffering a knee injury at Calgary Flames’ camp.
Defenceman Gordie Ballhorn is sidelined day-to-day with an upper body injury, while forward Riley Stadel is out 4-5 weeks (lower body).
Still, Jason Smith said injuries come with the territory.
“It happens to every team in the league,” he said. “It’s how you deal with those injuries that counts. When you have players out, it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up.”
In addition, Leif Mattson has two more games to serve on a four-game suspension.
On the upside, Nolan Foote returns to the Rockets this week after playing with Team Canada Black and winning a silver medal at the World Under 17 Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, ON.
Forward Nick Merkley and defenceman Cal Foote will also return to the Rockets this week after playing for Team WHL in the Canada-Russia series in Prince George and Edmonton.
The Rockets return to action Saturday night when they host the Prince Albert Raiders. Face-off is 7:05 p.m.