Playing without several veteran players, the Kelowna Rockets took care of business in Prince George on the weekend, winning two Western Hockey League games against the Cougars including a dominant performance on Saturday night.
The 4-1 win on Saturday came after a narrow 2-1 win on Friday that prompted Rockets coaches to challenge its players to come out stronger against Prince George.
And Saturday the Rockets responded, outshooting Prince George 47-18 and winning easily, despite playing without 19-year-old Brett Bulmer, 20-year-old Brett Lyon and defenceman Mitchell Chapman, 19, who left the game early in the first period.
“We responded well,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “We were a little bit younger that night and it was important for our group to see our young guys can push and be the difference in games. We were happy with the way they competed.”
Bulmer missed both games in Prince George—what could have been the Prince George native’s final WHL games in his hometown—due to illness. Both Bulmer and Chapman will be game time decisions while Lyon was suspended after Friday’s game and also sat out Saturday. The length of his suspension hadn’t been determined as of Monday.
The pair of wins equals the Rockets best stretch of hockey of the year, winning five of six games and climbing to one game over .500 at 24-23-2-4. The team remains mired in sixth in the WHL Western Conference however, 11 points back of fifth place Vancouver and 14 points ahead of seventh place Victoria.
“We’ve been playing much better,” said Huska. “I think there is a lot more consistency to our game than we had earlier in the year. We’re still trying to find the consistency where we are doing everything right every night but in big picture we have been going in the right direction.”
The Rockets return to Prospera Place on Wednesday night when they host the Seattle Thunderbirds, a team currently holding down the eighth and final playoff position in the WHL Western Conference. That will be followed by a home and home series this weekend against Kamloops.
“With Seattle they are a team fighting for a playoff spot so you know they will bring their very best.” said Huska. “We have to make sure we are prepared for that. We have to be be focussed on our game and making sure we continue to improve.”
The Rockets and Seattle play at 7 p.m. Wednesday while Kelowna hosts Kamloops at 7 p.m. on Friday.