It may sound dry and somewhat cliché but as every coach will tell you, strong fundamentals win hockey games.
After scoring just three goals in the course of a three-game losing streak, committing to the basics has helped turn the Kelowna Rockets’ offensive fortunes around.
The Rockets, who are coming off a 6-4 WHL home-ice victory over the Victoria Royals Wednesday, have since scored 19 times in the process of compiling a four-game winning streak.
“I think our willingness to get the puck and people to the net, and shooting the puck with a lot more traffic in front is paying off for us,” said Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette. “Guys have been willing to pay the price. Kudos to the players, they’re buying in.”
With several veterans away at NHL training camps for extended periods of time, the Rockets struggled to find their way over the first 10 games of the season.
But thanks to a couple of weeks to work with nearly a full roster, Mallette said the Rockets (7-7-0) are getting closer to their potential.
“We we short on forwards early on and were utilizing players in different situations, ones they weren’t used to, and our record was indicative of that,” he said. “But you can’t win anything in September or October, so you just keep working.
“Slowly, through repetition Jason (Smith) has been getting his word across and we’re seeing more of what we want from the team.
“We haven’t played a full 60 minutes yet, but it’s nice to see us playing 40 or 50 now.”
The Rockets will take their four-game winning streak into Portland this weekend for a doubleheader, Saturday and Sunday against the Winterhawks.
Mallette expects some spirited hockey to be played between the two Western Conference rivals.
“The rivalry we have with the Winterhawks is probably the biggest we have in the U.S. Division, based on all the battles these teams have had over the years,” he said. “Their crows is passionate and not too fond of Kelowna. It’s not an easy place to play, so we know we’re in for a battle.”
The Rockets next home action is Tuesday when they take on the Kamloops Blazers at Prospera Place.