As a win it might have been the biggest of the season for the Kelowna Rockets.
But Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Vancouver is now in the books as the Rockets head into what is another pair of huge games this weekend with the Western Hockey League season heading down the stretch drive.
“Every game we’re playing from now on in is a big game,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, who watched his troops head into Vancouver on Wednesday night, minus six regulars including their second and third leading scorers, to beat Vancouver and climb into first place in the WHL’s B.C. division.
“I think it was a very good win for us for a few reasons,” continued Huska. “First it was in Vancouver and it’s a tough building to play in. Second we were shorthanded and without some of our top guys. But we had guys step up for us.”
Mitchell Callahan (head) and Brett Bulmer (lower body) were on the sidelines along with defenceman Colton Jobke (suspension) and Mitchell Chapman (head) and youngster Jessey Astles (shoulder) and Jason Siebert (hand).
One of the guys who stepped up was Colton Sissons, the 17-year-old rookie who scored his first career WHL hat trick, giving him 14 goals on the season.
“Colton has gotten better very game for us,” said Huska. “He started the year as more of a solid defensive guy and we used him in that role. But since Christmas he’s been adding that offensive side to his game.”
The win gave the Rockets (32-23-0-1) the same point total as Vancouver (30-22-1-4) with the Rockets jumping into first because they have more wins.
The two teams will clash again Saturday night at Prospera Place as well as two more times before the season is over. Kelowna also plays host to Spokane tonight (Friday).
Huska said they are big games but added they continue to focus on how the team is playing.
“These are two games of 72,” said Huska. “The importance of them really isn’t that much different than any other game. The most important thing for us is how we are playing and continuing to build on our solid efforts.”
The Rockets could get some help from the injured list this weekend as Huska said he’s hopeful that Callahan will return to the lineup.