In an ideal world, the Kelowna Rockets would have finished off their WHL first-round playoff series in four games.
Still, the Canadian Hockey League’s No. 1 team is just a win away from advancing to the second round of the postseason, as they host the Tri-City Americans Friday in Game 5 at Prospera Place.
Avoiding a sixth game the following night in Kennewick, Wash., is at the top of head coach Ryan Huska’s priority list.
“We want to try and take care of business (Friday), prevent this series from going any further,” Huska said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to play in front of their home fans, with a chance to move on. The clinching game is always the toughest, Tri-City is a very good team, so we’ll need to be ready to bring our best on Friday.”
After taking the first two games at home by identical 3-1 scores, the Rockets fell 4-3 to the Ams on Tuesday, with goaltender Eric Comrie making 52 saves.
Kelowna had considerably more success against Comrie and the Ams in Game 4 on Wednesday, jumping out to a quick 3-0 lead, then hanging on for a 5-3 victory.
“We’ve played well in spurts, there have been things we’ve really liked about our game,” said Huska. “There have been other parts where we haven’t been as consistent, so we need to take care of that.”
Tyson Baillie paced the Rockets’ attack Wednesday with a goal and two assists. The third-year centre missed the last five weeks of the regular season with a leg injury, before returning for the opening game of the postseason.
“I think he’s getting his game conditioning back,” Huska said of Baillie, the team’s top scoring centerman in the regular season with 55 points. “It’s nice to see him generating offense for us.”
Meawnwhile, forward Myles Bell, the Rockets’ leading scorer during the regular season with 42 goals, left Wednesday’s game with a undisclosed injury in the second period and didn’t return.
Head coach Ryan Huska said Thursday Bell’s condition would be re-evaluated, but didn’t confirm whether the 20-year-old Calgary native would play or miss the weekend.
Bell scored once in each of the Rockets first three postseason games.
Game 5 Friday at Prospera Place Friday will start at 7:30 p.m., rather than the traditional 7:05 face off, to accommodate the Rogers Sporstnet broadcast.
Game 6, if necessary, will be played Saturday night in Kennewick.
A seventh game, if needed, would go Tuesday, April 1 in Kelowna.