Given the various scenarios his team could be facing, GM Bruce Hamilton likes exactly where the Kelowna Rockets stand four games into the Western Hockey League playoffs.
With a chance to close out their first round series on home ice, the Rockets will battle the B.C. rival Kamloops Blazers tonight in Game 5 at Prospera Place.
“I think our guys are going to be excited, the crowd is going to be wound up, and like it’s been all series, it’ll be important for us to get off to a good start,” said Hamilton, whose team leads the series 3-1. “The fourth one is always the hardest to win.
“Since that first game of the series, every other game has been close, so we need to be ready to play,” he added. “You get behind against any team and it makes it that much harder.”
The goaltenders have been front and centre thus far in the series, with both Kelowna’s Michael Herringer and Kamloops’ Connor Ingram taking turns in the spotlight.
Herringer, 21, engineered a highlight reel save off Collin Shirley en route to a 3-2 win in Game 2, then added his second shutout of the series with 24 saves on Wednesday in Kamloops in a 1-0 win.
“Herringer has been very good for us, he’s been there to make the big save when we’ve needed them,” said Hamilton. “He deserves credit for the way he’s played.”
Offensively, Dillon Dube has been arguably the Rockets’ best player in the series, playing with speed and energy, and scoring a pair of game winners, including the decisive goal in Game 4.
Hamilton pointed to Dube and the team’s core group of veterans for setting the standard for the rest of the team.
“Dillon has been exceptional,” Hamilton said. “He’s one of those five, six core guys we had playing with us at the Memorial Cup, they have understanding of what it takes to win. The other 15, 16 guys they’re learning that now.”
Game 6, if needed, will go Sunday in Kamloops. Face off at the Sandman Centre is 7 p.m.