The Kelowna Rockets would like nothing more than to share a piece of Western Hockey League lore with the Spokane Chiefs.
The Chiefs are the only team in WHL history to recover from a 3-0 series playoff deficit to win, rallying to defeat the Portland Winterhawks in 1996.
The Rockets, who will host Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Saturday night at Prospera Place, hope to duplicate Spokane’s historical feat in 2013 against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
After three consecutive overtime losses to the T’Birds to begin the series, Kelowna extended its season by at least one game with a 4-0 victory in Kent, Wash. on Wednesday night.
Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said the road back isn’t likely to be easy, but nor is it insurmountable.
“It doesn’t happen very often, but teams do come back and we want to make sure we’re playing the right way so that we have a chance to be one of those teams,” Huska said. “We really have to be focused on this one game, because we have no cushion, no fall back. We have to focus on Saturday night right now, and nothing else.”
Tyson Baillie scored twice and Jordon Cooke stopped 25 shots in Wednesday’s win as the Rockets showed more jump and energy, and better team play than in any of the previous three losses. It’s the brand of hockey Huska said his club will need to repeat for the remainder of the series to prolong their season.
“That was our best game of the series,” Huska said of Game 4. “We’ve had good stretches in the other games, but that was our most consistent effort. That’s the way we need to play to be successful.”
As for his club’s mental outlook trailing three games to one, Huska said the Rockets’ demeanour remains positive and upbeat.
“They’re a group that still believes,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. If you lose your spirit, it makes things pretty tough. Our guys still have their spirit and they think we can win this.
“There has to be some urgency in our game, but we can also play free,” Huska added. “The pressure is more on (Seattle) now than it is on us.”
Two Rockets were injured during the club’s two-game stop in Kent.
Centre Rourke Chartier went down in Game 3, while defenceman MacKenzie Johnston left Game 4 after being checked from behind by Connor Honey. Both have undisclosed injuries and are being evaluated on a daily basis.
Should the Rockets win on Saturday, Game 6 would be played Monday night in Kent. A seventh and deciding game, if needed, would be back in Kelowna on Wednesday, April 3.