Having reeled in the Prince George Cougars over the course of the last month, a B.C. Division pennant is now in clear view for the Kelowna Rockets.
With just a week left in the WHL regular season and holding one game in hand, the Rockets (41-21-5-0) are a mere two points back of the Cougars (42-21-3-2) for top spot.
With four of their last five games at Prospera Place—and three remaining against the last-place Vancouver Giants—the Rockets couldn’t ask for a much more favourable scenario.
Prince George, on the other hand, will visit Tri City and Spokane, before closing out the season with a home-and-home set against the rival Kamloops Blazers.
While the prospects of a division title loom large and excitement builds toward the start of the postseason, head coach Jason Smith said it’s imperative the Rockets remain focused on their day-to-day tasks.
“We’re excited that the playoffs are coming but we still have games to play and they’re all important games,” said Smith. “We have a real good opportunity to put a good stretch together here between now and the end of the year and that’s what we want to do…we want to have energy and excitement and compete every night.”
The Rockets look to have hit their stride at just the right time of year, with seven wins in their last eight games and 10 in the last 12.
Kelowna defenceman James Hilsendager says the Rockets’ game is definitely trending in the right direction.
“As a group we’ve come together the past three weeks or so, our systems are great and we’re sticking to them,” said Hilsendager. “There’s not a lot of individual play, we’re playing as a group.
“We’re playing really well right now, we’ve just gotta keep it going into the playoffs.”
And Hilsendager’s assessment is backed up by his head coach. “We’re trying to fine-tune our game, make sure we’re ready to play come playoffs,” said Jason Smith. “We’re starting to play more complete games, we’re playing with structure and detail, and that’s allowing us to have success.”
The Rockets host the Vancouver Giants Friday night, followed by the Victoria Royals on Saturday. Face-off both nights is 7:05 p.m.