As the Western Hockey League playoffs lurk around the next corner, the last thing Ryan Huska wanted to see was his team stumbling toward the finish line.
Still, as hard as they were to swallow, the Kelowna bench boss doesn’t expect a pair of listless and disappointing home-ice losses over the weekend to overshadow the Rockets’ preparations for the post season.
With either the Portland Winterhawks or Tri-City Americans—the top two teams in the Western Conference—due up in the opening round, it’s no secret what kind of effort will be required come the post season.
But based on how the Rockets performed against the top four teams in the WHL this season—seven victories in all—Huska has every confidence his club will be ready.
“I think as much as inconsistency has been our problem, our focus has to turn to the playoffs and getting ready for them,” said Huska, whose Rockets host Everett Wednesday night.
“Sometimes as bad as things look in short periods of time, our guys have shown many times this year they can compete with anybody. They have a chance now to rise up and prove it, and they should be excited about it. It’s a pre-playoff week and that’s how we’re treating it.”
The Rockets can expect a boost in the lead-up to the playoffs with the return of Colton Sissons.
The Kelowna captain, who has been sidelined for the last 16 games with a concussion, could be back in the lineup Friday when the Rockets
“We’ve missed him a lot,” said Huska. “He’s our leader and it’ll be great for the guys to have him back.”
When the Rockets meet Everett, they’ll be looking to rebound from a poor weekend which saw them drop a pair of 3-1 decisions to Victoria and Prince George, laying waste to two spectacular efforts in goal by Adam Brown.
What does concern the coaching staff is the Rockets’ lack of success at Prospera Place where they’ve won just two of their last nine games, and only 14 of 34 overall this season.
“Usually at home, teams play better but that hasn’t been the case for us,” Huska said. “We seem to have a lack of focus here at times and that’s disappointing. It’s something we have to keep working on.”
The Rockets close out the regular season with a home-and-home set this weekend against the Vancouver Giants. The teams play at Pacific Coliseum on Friday, and at Prospera Place on Saturday night.
While Sissons is expected to return for the weekend, two other veteran leaders for the Rockets will remain sidelined: Spencer Main (concussion) and Mitchell Chapman (upper body).