Ten consecutive wins on home ice.
Perhaps the Kelowna Rockets could be excused for being somewhat dubious about leaving Prospera Place behind for the next three weeks.
To the contrary, head coach Jason Smith said the WHL club is embracing the challenge of hopping on the bus this week for a demanding pre-Christmas tour against Prairie opponents.
“There’s no worry from our group,” Smith said of leaving home ice until Dec. 27. “You look at the schedule at the start of the season and you know there are going to be stretches like this. It’s a chance for the guys to get out on the road and be together as a team.
“We went on a similar trip last year before Christmas and we did pretty well (5-2-0-0),” he said. “It was a good test for us and it will be again this year.”
The Rockets (17-8-2-1) will play six games in nine days against Eastern Division opponents, beginning Friday night in Regina against the 2018 Memorial Cup host Pats.
Smith said the Rockets hope their recent success at home will translate into some positive results over the next week-and-a-half on the road.
“It’s an opportunity to see if we can play some complete games on the road,” said Smith, whose Rockets are 11-3-0-1 at home and 6-5-2-0 on the road. “We’ve made some progress in that regard, particularly at home, and now we’ve got six games in nine days to work on that away from home.”
With four games in six days to kick off the trip—including two sets of back-to-backs—Smith said the Rockets’ mental and physical stamina will be challenged.
“The guys will have to manage their time the best they can, try to get the proper rest, manage their recovery and just be prepared to play every night the best way possible,” he said.
On Wednesday morning, three Rockets will be candidates to be named to the Canadian junior team’s selection camp beginning next week in St. Catharines—Dillon Dube, Kole Lind and Cal Foote.
Regardless of whether one or all three make the grade, Smith said the Rockets must adjust accordingly.
“That’s all part of it, you can have several guys gone at one time like we did last year, and you just have to deal with it day by day,” said Smith.
“The more guys who are away, the more opportunities it gives the other players to step up and contribute.”
Following Friday’s game, the Rockets will visit Brandon on Saturday, Moose Jaw next Tuesday and Swift Current on Wednesday, Dec. 13. After playing in Prince Albert Friday, Dec. 15, Kelowna will close out the trip the next night in Saskatoon.
The Rockets’ next home action is Wednesday, Dec. 27 against the Kamloops Blazers.
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