Injured forwards Mitchell Callahan and Colton Sissons were sorely missed as the Kelowna Rockets were swept last weekend by the Prince George Cougars.
Understandably, the WHL club is hoping to have both back in the lineup this weekend for a doubleheader against the Chilliwack Bruins.
“It’s tough when you lose guys like that because of their style of play and what they bring to the team,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “When you don’t have that gritty element in your lineup, you need someone to step up. And in Prince George we didn’t get that.”
With Callahan (head) and Sissons (groin) on the shelf, the Rockets dropped a 4-2 contest to the Cougars on Friday, then lost again 3-0 on Saturday.
Colton Jobke was also sidelined with a knee injury, but the 18-year-old blue liner is now ready and will return against Chilliwack.
At the same time, the Rockets will have to do without forward Jessey Astles for the next three weeks with a separated shoulder.
On the positive side, the two losses followed a season-high seven-game winning streak which has the kept Rockets firmly in contention for top spot in the B.C. Division.
Kelowna (30-22-0-0) trails Vancouver (29-21-1-4) by three points but the Rockets hold three games in hand.
It’s a dramatic change from three months ago when the club was 4-10 and in last place.
“We’re disappointed about losing the two but at the same time, we’re still right there and the guys can be proud of that, considering where we came from,” said Huska. “We just need to make sure we’re better game in and game out than we were in Prince George.”
This weekend’s home-and-away set with the Bruins marks the start of a busy stretch of hockey for the Rockets with eight of the next 10 on the road.
All told, Kelowna will play its last 20 regular season games in just 36 days.
“That’s a lot of hockey,” Huska said. “As a staff we’ll have to do a good job of keeping them sharp mentally and at the same time keep them in line, make sure they’re getting enough rest and and taking care of themselves.”
The Rockets will battle the Bruins Friday at Prospera Place, then again Saturday in Chilliwack. Kelowna will visit Everett on Sunday.