Better late than never is an adage that just might apply to the 2011-12 edition of the Kelowna Rockets.
In a enigmatic season beset with more downs than ups, the Rockets are, of late, looking a lot more like a team with a sense of both direction and purpose.
The Western Hockey League club is 4-2-0-1 in its last seven games and while the record is unspectacular, it’s the way the Rockets have played since a horrifying 7-1 loss at home to the Calgary Hitmen and Feb. 17 that is most encouraging for the coaching staff.
And with the playoffs just around the corner, the turnaround—if it is indeed for real—couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
“The stinkers have been fewer and farther between lately, for sure, and that’s a good sign,” said Huska.
“I think what we’ve seen lately is a group that’s played harder, and we’re also doing a better job of making plays with composure. Our defencemen are more comfortable and they’re making better decisions. The guys look a little more sure of themselves and they’re playing with more confidence.”
The Rockets are coming off one of their best weekends of the season, a two-game sweep of the B.C. Division-leading Kamloops Blazers in a home-and-home set.
The challenge for his club now, according to Huska, is to build off the recent success and carry it into the playoffs where they’ll be greeted by either the Tri-City Americans or Portland Winterhawks.
“I think we still have a lot to prove,” said Huska, whose team will visit the Spokane Chiefs Wednesday.
“We had a good weekend, now the question is how do we respond going into Spokane this week? We have to continue to be very competitive down the stretch and need to have our game in as good a shape as possible. We’re going to face one of two very good teams.”
The Rockets have also welcomed a resurgence in Brett Bulmer’s game over the last 2 1/2 weeks. After scoring just five times in an 18-game stretch, the 19-year-old forward has erupted for 10 goals and 14 points in his last seven outings.
“He’s been very important for us,” Huska said of Bulmer. “He’s a guy who’s more than capable of putting up points every night, just on ability alone. When he adds in compete and work ethic, and uses his line mates he can be very good…and he has been.”
The Rockets have six games remaining, including four at home. Victoria will visit Prospera Place Friday, with the Prince George Cougars in town on Saturday.
Kelowna will host Everett next Wednesday, March 14, before closing out the regular season with a home-and-home set against Vancouver, March 17 and 18.