Anything that’s happened to date in the 2009-10 Western Hockey League season is no longer of any consequence to the Kelowna Rockets.
All that matters now is three periods of hockey—Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinal Friday in Kennewick, Wash.—as the Rockets face playoff expulsion at the hands of the Tri-City Americans.
“We can’t look at the big picture, we can only win one game at a time and that’s what our focus has to be, just this one game,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “We’re confident that if we win down there (Friday) then we can bring it back here for Game 6 and even it up. We all know, after that, if we can get the to seventh game anything can happen.”
Rarely have teams been able to battle back from a 3-1 deficits in the WHL playoffs, but that’s the conundrum facing Huska’s squad.
After the team split the first two games of the series last weekend at the Toyota Center, the Americans have put Kelowna in a bind by stealing both Games 3 and 4 at Prospera Place.
A 3-2 loss on Wednesday was particularly galling for the Rockets who outshot Tri-City 35-13 and carried the play for the better part of the last two periods. But the sparkling goaltending of Drew Owsley combined with a lethargic Rockets power play (1-for-6) sabotaged Kelowna’s attempt to even the series.
Still, veteran defenceman Tyson Barrie said the Rockets have plenty of positives to build on heading into Game 5.
“We thought we likely deserved something better, we did a lot of good things and we limited a really good offensive team from getting a lot of chances,” said Barrie, who scored Kelowna’s first goal Wednesday on the power play. “We just didn’t bear down on our chances, and they did.
“We have the confidence to know we can beat any team,” added Barrie. “We already beat the (Americans) in their barn, so we know we can win down there. It’s a big challenge, but this is what you play the game for. It’s far from over.”
Just as his charges did against Everett, Ryan Huska expects the Rockets to remain confident and resolute right to the final whistle.
Based on the hurdles they’ve already cleared in 2009-10, Huska wouldn’t be at all surprised to see his Rockets push the Ams to the maximum seven games.
“We’ve been a resilient group all year,” Huska said. “We’ve gone through an awful lot with guys not coming back, like Tyler Myers and Colin Long, being short with all the injuries we struggled with most of the year,” he continued. “…and we were down two games against Everett and came back to win. The guys have shown how resilient they are and we still feel we definitely have a shot.”
If needed, Game 6 of the WHL Western Conference semifinal will be played Sunday, 5 p.m. at Prospera Place. A seventh game would be played Tuesday, April 13 in Kennewick.