Making the most of their opportunities hasn’t been a strong suit for the Kelowna Rockets this season.
And it’s a big reason the Western Hockey League club continues to be in a funk heading into Friday night’s game with the Edmonton Oil Kings at Prospera Place.
The team’s power play—or relative absence of one—was the Rockets undoing on Wednesday night in a 6-4 loss to the visiting Red Deer Rebels.
The Rockets (5-11-1-1) failed to capitalize on four straight man-advantage situations in the second period, including a lengthy 5-on-3 chance. To add insult to injury, the Rockets gave up a shorthanded goal en route to their fifth straight loss.
“Games turn when you lose your intensity and that’s the frustrating part,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “I thought 5-on-5 we were pretty good. We were physical. But our power play just lacks intensity right now.”
The Rockets continue to search for ways to turn the corner on what has been a difficult month of hockey—13 losses in the last 15 games.
On the upside, Kelowna showed some fight Wednesday night, rebounding from a 4-1 deficit against the Rebels to draw within a goal with less than seven minutes to play.
Forward Brett Bulmer, who has seven points in three games since returning from the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, said the Rockets simply need to get back to basics.
“I think we just need to work hard as a unit,” said Bulmer, who had three assists vs Red Deer. “We need everyone every night. We need to be focussed before the game and be ready to play. We can’t be worried about the score, it’s just putting in the work. Things will turn if we keep putting in efforts like this.”
In Edmonton (11-6-1-1), the Rockets face a fast-skating team with a solid defensive corps, led by veteran Mark Pysyk and Slovak rookie, Martin Gernat.
Veterans T.J. Foster and Michael St. Croix lead the offense.
“They’re very fast and we have to make sure we skate with them,” Huska said of the Oil Kings.
F Carter Rigby (concussion) returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing seven games.
D Kevin Smith (upper body) could return to action this weekend, while D Jesse Lees (upper body) and F Spencer Main (upper body) remain sidelined.
The Rockets will visit the Vancouver Giants on Saturday.