Rockets battle Hitmen before break

The Kelowna Rockets are about to get a welcome and lengthy break from the grind of the Western Hockey League season.

But not until the final horn sounds Friday night in Calgary does the coaching staff want anyone getting too wrapped up in the spirit of the holiday season.

“It’s always a struggle this time of year keeping the guys focused, but they’ve done a pretty good job of it,” said Rockets assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert. “We’ve got one more game, we’ve got to do the right things and finish strong…then we can have a good break. Overall the guys have been pretty good about not thinking ahead.”

The Rockets will close out a five-game eastern road tour Friday against the Hitmen, then will have 10 days off for Christmas before returning to action Dec. 28 at home to Everett.

So far, the road trip has produced mixed results with wins over Red Deer and Lethbridge and losses to Medicine Hat and Edmonton.

“I thought we played two really good games, and two games where we were OK at times, if that makes sense,” said Cuthbert who, along with fellow assistant Dan Lambert have been guiding the club in Ryan Huska’s absence. “The win in Red Deer and the loss in Medicine Hat, I thought we were very good and the guys came with everything they had in both games. The other two games, we struggled at times and didn’t have the same push. Overall, it’s been all right.”

The Rockets (18-15-0-0) are coming off a 3-2 shoot out win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Wednesday.

The game featured the Rockets debut of 15-year-old defenceman Madison Bowey. Kelowna landed the Winnipeg native in the second round of the 2010 bantam draft.

“I thought he was great,” Cuthbert said of Bowey’s effort against Lethbridge. “He’s a guy who makes a good first pass, and he reads the play very well. He was solid and didn’t look a bit out of place.”

The Rockets will get a glimpse of another of their top defensive prospects as Calgary’s Jesse Lees is expected suit up Friday against the Hitmen. Lees was Kelowna’s No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft.

As for Friday’s opponent, the Hitmen have had a tough start to the WHL season and currently sit last in the Eastern Conference.

However, Calgary, the defending WHL champs, have shown signs of life of late with three wins in their last four games.

“They have a great coach (Mike Williamson), systematically they’re very solid, and they’re a hardworking team,” said Cuthbert. “Regardless of where they are in the standings, they’re a good team. I expect a good battle from them.”

The Rockets will be without forward Mitchell Callahan for Friday night’s game.

The 19-year-old California native is in New York at Team USA’s selection camp for the world junior hockey championship.

Just Posted

Accidents mount as snow falls

Kelowna drivers are having a tough time with worsening conditions

Kelowna’s global awareness festival set to go

Festival organizers get $22,800 grant from federal government to help stage this year’s events

Bus slams into truck at Kelowna intersection

A transit bus and a pick-up truck came together in the noon hour in Kelowna

Downtown Kelowna shopping mall getting face lift

The Towne Centre Mall on Bernard will be renamed and renovated inside and out

Kelowna man charged in 2013 killing yet to be released

The man charged in the 2013 killing of Kelowna resident Theresa Neville appeared in court Monday.

Scandia Jungle mini golf course reopening

Kelowna - Rutland Elementary students were the first ones to try the revamped course Tuesday

Drawings connect autistic student with the world

Leifen Mitchell-Banks creates colourful cartoon characters at Salmon Arm Secondary.

Lake Country skier named Olympic alternate

Ian Deans will be a back up for the men’s ski cross team in South Korea

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

10 Safeways in Lower Mainland to close, union says

Locations in Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond and Mission slated to shut

‘Miraculous that nobody was killed’

Tanker full of aviation fuel involved in Highway 3 crash

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Waters: Ending homelessness in Kelowna is a tall order

City plan is a good start but real key is ongoing work by the entire community

Flying squirrel touches down inside Salmon Arm home

Rodent jumps around residence before homeowers encourage it back outdoors

Most Read