Even after an opening game loss, the Kelowna Rockets got up Monday morning in Quebec with a sense they were still very much in the hunt at the Memorial Cup.
The WHL champs hope that’s the case once again on Tuesday.
In a pivotal game for both teams (0-1), the Rockets take on the Rimouski Oceanic today, 4:30 p.m. Pacific time at Colisée Pepsi.
The winner will earn a berth in at least Thursday’s tiebreaker, while the loser slips to 0-2 and down to its last chance at the 2015 tournament.
After two days off to regroup from their opening game loss to the host Quebec Remparts, veteran Tyson Baillie said the Rockets are upbeat and ready to take on what will be their biggest challenge of the season.
“We’re obviously excited to get back at it,” said Baillie, 19. “You know after a tough start to the tournament, I think we had a couple of good practises, got our rest. Everybody’s pretty positive, rejuvenated and focused up for this.”
To a man, the Rockets felt their play in Friday’s 4-3 loss to Quebec fell far below the team’s capabilities.
A slow start, several key turnovers and a lack of discipline all figured in Kelowna’s 0-1 start to the tournament.
Baillie would be surprised if the Rockets didn’t come out markedly better tonight against Rimouski.
“I thought Friday was one of our poorest, if not the worst game of our playoff run,” said Baillie, who added the Rockets have responded well after poor efforts all season, including in the Western Conference final against Portland.
“We can bounce back, we’re not the type of team that plays two bad games in a row.”
In the Oceanic, the Rockets will see a team similar in style to the Quebec Remparts—quick and skilled up front, complimented by steady goaltending and a stanch defensive game.
Still, Rockets defenseman Joe Gatenby said it’s more important for the Rockets to focus on their game plan than that of their opponents.
“We’ll know what to expect, but the biggest thing here is to focus on playing our game,” Gatenby said. “I think that’s something that maybe we didn’t do enough of (on Friday). There’s a reason why we’re here and I think if we do that, we’ll be successful.”
The Rockets wrap up the round robin on Tuesday night against the OHL champion Oshawa Generals.