The Kelowna Rockets couldn’t have asked for a much better conclusion to 2017.
Five straight wins—and 12 consecutive victories on home ice—have Jason Smith’s club heading into the new year atop the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division.
On Wednesday night, in their first action of 2018, the Rockets (23-11-2-1) will look to extend both streaks when the Tri-City Americans pay a visit to Prospera Place. Face off is 7:05 p.m.
While Kelowna is among the league’s hottest teams, the Americans aren’t far behind with five victories and a pair of overtime losses in their last seven games.
“We try not to think about the streak too much, we just need to go out there and play our game,” said Rockets assistant captain Gordie Ballhorn. “Tri-City is a good team, we’ve had a couple of good battles with them this season, so we’ll need to be ready to play and bring our best game against them.”
What’s most encouraging for the Rockets is the success they’ve had without the services of Dillon Dube and captain Cal Foote, both of whom are playing with Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo.
“We wanted to get as many wins as we could with Dillon and Cal away, and the guys have really stepped up,” Ballhorn said. “Some guys have had their roles expanded and have really excelled and contributed. It’s made us better as a team.”
In addition to some timely scoring in recent games, the Rockets have been getting exceptional goaltending from their two rookie netminders.
“It’s been huge for us,” Ballhorn said of the goaltending of Porter and Basran. “They give us a chance to win pretty much every night. They’re young guys, they’re learning, and they’re doing a great job for us.”
Porter, the WHL’s goaltender of the week, earned his second shutout of the season and his career in a 3-0 win Dec. 29 in Kamloops.
Rockets forward Kole Lind has been red hot since being returned from Canada’s junior team evaluation camp last month.
In his last seven games, the 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks’ draft choice has eight goals—including two hat tricks—and 14 points.
The Rockets will be home again Friday to host the Seattle Thunderbirds, then will travel to Calgary to face the Hitmen on Sunday afternoon.
Porter goaltender of the week
With a pair of victories and just one goal allowed, James Porter has been named the WHL’s goaltender of the week.
In two starts, the 5-foot-11, 157-pound product of Bonners Ferry, Idaho posted a 0.48 goals against average, a .987 save ratio and one shutout
Last Wednesday, Porter stopped 46 of 47 shots in a 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Kamloops Blazers. Two nights later, he stopped all 28 shots in Kamloops for his second career shutout in a 3-0 win.
Porter, 17, is 15-5-2-0 this season with a 3.22 goals against average and .904 save percentage.
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