Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze Defenceman Konrad Belcourt and the Kelowna Rockets will play their next four games in five nights, beginning Friday at home to Calgary. Belcourt scored his first WHL goal Saturday in Prince George.

Rockets ramp up for demanding stretch

Kelowna will play four games in five nights, the last three on the road in the U.S.

The Kelowna Rockets didn’t earn too many points for style. But with a challenging week laying in wait, escaping Prince George with a pair of victories just might carry some added value for Jason Smith’s club down the road.

Kelowna (4-1-0-1) will host the Calgary Hitmen (1-4-1-0) Friday, before heading to Oregon for games on Saturday and Sunday against the Portland Winterhawks. Then Tuesday, it’s off to Kennewick, Wash., to see the Tri-City Americans, the Rockets’ fourth game in a five-night span.

“We’re starting by playing a hungry team (Calgary) that’s been a little slow out of the gates,” said Rockets’ assistant coach Kris Mallette. “Then we get on a bus and drive through the night to Portland to play two games against a good, fast, young team that a lot of people are picking to come out of the conference.

“It’s going to be a good test for our guys, that’s what we want. We’re going to learn a lot about ourselves.”

The Rockets needed overtime in both wins over the Cougars last weekend. Battling back from a two-goal deficit four times on Friday night, Kole Lind supplied the decisive goal for Kelowna in a 7-6 win.

“It showed the resiliency of our team,” said Mallette. “There was a feeling on the bench from the coaches that the players knew they could win that game.

“Was it pretty ? No…but there aren’t pictures on the stat sheet. The guys battled and got it done.”

On Saturday, the Rockets jumped out to a two-goal lead, then had to rely on rookie goalie James Porter to keep them in the game. Porter stopped 42 of 45 shots—including 22 in the second period—paving the way for the Rockets to overcome a 3-2, third-period deficit and setting the stage for Dillon Dube’s OT winner.

“We came out the way we wanted and got the lead but then absolutely sat on it,” Mallette said. “We had a rookie goaltender do a fantastic job for us and we had some other unsung heroes, like Konrad Belcourt (game-tying goal), who really stepped up and played some key minutes.

“We did some good things in stretches and not in others, but we just stuck with it. It’s not the way you draw it up, but we’ll certainly take those four points.”

The Rockets head into the weekend down three players due to injury. Forwards Leif Mattson and Conner Bruggen-Cate, and defenceman Braydyn Chizen are all sidelined on a week-to-week basis.

Face off Friday night at Prospera Place between the Rockets and Hitmen is 7 p.m.


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