As any head coach knows, 18 games does not make a season.
Still, one-quarter of the way through the new Western Hockey League campaign, Ryan Huska has ample reason to feel good about his club.
After reeling off seven straight wins, the Kelowna Rockets (14-2-0-2) not only own a commanding lead in the B.C. Division, but also the league’s best winning percentage (.833).
In addition, Kelowna has already posted wins over last season’s WHL finalists, including a 2-0 shutout of the defending Eastern Conference champion Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday night at Prospera Place.
“I thought it was our best game all-around this season,” Huska said of the win over Edmonton. “We are getting better and that’s a really positive thing that’s happening. We are seeing improvement in areas we’ve asked our players to focus on, so that leaves you with a good feeling. We still have areas of development we need to work on, but we like a lot of what we see.”
While it wasn’t evident early in the season, Huska said the club’s defensive corps is beginning to live up to its billing as the backbone and strength of the team.
With Jordon Cooke carrying the load in goal, the Rockets have given up two goals or less in nine of their last 10 games.
“We’re doing a good job in our own zone, we’re playing physical and we’re getting pucks out in a hurry,” Huska said. “It’s a process with young men, and I thought the (defensemen) struggled early for us, but the last few games they’re playing the way we expected them to.”
By playing the fewest games in the league to date and 11 of their first 18 on home ice, the schedule hasn’t been as demanding for the Rockets as it will be later in the season.
Huska said his club will be tested with 15 games over the next month, including nine of those on the road.
“We’ve played the fewest games in the league and haven’t done a lot of travelling yet,” Huska said. “We have a lot of hockey games in a short period of time, so that’ll be a challenge for our guys to maintain their level of play.”
The Rockets return to action Saturday night when they play host to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Face off at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.