While he doesn’t consider it a day-to-day priority, Ryan Huska admits finishing first overall in the Western Hockey League standings would be a most welcome scenario for the Kelowna Rockets.
But with the Portland Winterhawks having closed the gap over the last couple of weeks, the race for No. 1 appears to be a long way from over.
Kelowna (46-8-0-4) still leads the Winterhawks (42-12-2-3) by seven points for first and holds one game in hand.
Huska doesn’t expect the Winterhawks, who have won a club-record 16 straight games, to falter down the stretch.
“They probably won’t lose another game,” Huska said of the Winterhawks. “But the reality is, we can’t be worried about what other teams are doing. We have to look after our own game and look at the next game in front of us, that’s what we can control. That’s what we’ve tried to do all year.”
The Rockets will look to make it four straight wins when they host the Tri-City Americans Wednesday night. After dropping back-to-back games at home to Edmonton and Victoria on Feb. 7 and 8, Kelowna has rebounded with solid wins over Seattle, Spokane and Prince George—an encouraging sign for the coaching staff.
“There have been some good signs over the last few games,” Huska said. “The guys have showed some resilience, we’re doing better in little areas that we did a good job of earlier in the year. Now we want to try and build on those and be playing our best heading into the playoffs.”
The Rockets will be without centre Tyson Baillie for the next three to six weeks due to a lower body injury, while defenceman Jesse Lees (lower body) also remains sidelined, but could return to the lineup by the weekend.
The Rockets head to Prince George this weekend for a two-game set with the Cougars, Friday and Saturday nights.