Wednesday night’s home-ice victory over the Western Hockey League’s No. 1 team was a big step forward for the Kelowna Rockets.
Now the challenge for Ryan Huska’s club is not to take a step or two in reverse—a tendency that has confounded the coaching staff more than once this season.
The Rockets will play a home-and-away set with the Seattle Thunderbirds this weekend, Friday at Prospera Place and Sunday in Kent, Wash.
The T-Birds (17-26-1-1) have just one win in their last 10 games and are 11 points back of sixth-place Kelowna (21-23-2-3) in the Western Conference.
The Rockets’ head coach is looking for his team to progress, not regress, after this week’s hard-fought, 3-2 shootout win over the Kamloops Blazers.
“It’s important for our guys to play the same way they have the last couple of games,” said Huska, the Rockets head coach. “You don’t always get results, but if you’re working hard, overall success is going to come along with that.
“The guys need to stick together and play as a team like they did against Kamloops,” he added. “We want to keep getting better. Our leaders need to be prepared for Friday and if that happens, the rest of the guys will follow.”
The Rockets got past the Blazers for the first time in four tries this season, knocking off the B.C. Division leaders Wednesday night in a shootout.
Forward Zach Franko continued his shootout mastery for the Rockets, scoring for the seventh time in eight attempts this season. “(Zach) has a lot of confidence right now when he goes out there to shoot,” said Huska. “It’s no different than anything else in the game, when things are going well you feel like you can’t miss. It’s going well for him right now.”
Wednesday’s game also marked the return to the Rockets’ lineup for defenceman Damon Severson who registered as assist and, according to his coach, had a significant impact on the game’s outcome.
Severson missed the last 16 games with a wrist injury.
“His return was very important for us,” Huska said of Severson. “Even as a 17-year-old he plays big minutes for us, and I think him being back really solidified our back end. We weren’t quite as run-aroundish as we have been at times this season.”
Friday night’s game against Seattle at Prospera Place will close out a five-game home stand for the Rockets who were 2-2 in the first four games.