Opponents of the Kelowna Rockets have found wins excessively hard to come by this season at Prospera Place.
The Seattle Thunderbirds will be the latest to try their luck against the most proficient home team in the WHL’s Western Conference whey they face off against Jason Smith’s club on Friday night. Game time is 7:05 p.m.
The Rockets, who have won 13 consecutive games on home ice, haven’t lost at Prospera Place since Oct. 20, a 3-1 setback to the Portland Winterhawks.
The Rockets (24-11-2-1) have also won six straight games overall to push them three points clear of Everett for top spot in the conference and four ahead of Vancouver in the B.C. Division.
Smith said Kelowna’s play of late, both at home and on the road, is largely due to his players’ continually improving work habits.
“Our work ethic has been the biggest thing, we’re working and competing for 60 minutes and that all started with our habits in practise,” said Smith, in his second season as Kelowna’s head coach. “The habits you create by the work you put in allow you to have success. That’s what we’re pushing for, to be a team that can play consistent games by doing things the right way, with high energy and high intensity and if we do that, we’ll be in a good spot.”
Much of the team’s recent prosperity has come without two of its top players, Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, both of whom are with Team Canada at the world junior championship in Buffalo and haven’t played with the Rockets since Dec. 9.
Smith said the success his club is having is a credit to all the players who make up the Rockets’ supporting cast.
“It’s great,” Smith said of the contributions from up and down the lineup. “…it’s an opportunity for your depth players to step up and get more ice time, get more opportunity on the power play and penalty kill and if you can seize that moment and show that you can do it regularly you’re going to give yourself a chance to do it even when those players come back.
“It just adds to the depth of your group and the ability to push through in big games.”
One of those depth players, Conner Bruggen-Cate, stepped up with the first two-goal game of his career on Wednesday, leading the Rockets to a 13th straight win at home, 5-4 over the Tri-City Americans.
Following Friday’s game against Seattle, the Rockets will head east for a Sunday matinee against the Hitmen in Calgary.
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