As long as they possess an unbeaten record, the Kelowna Rockets will continue to be the Western Hockey League’s most hunted team.
The Rockets (9-0-0) will travel south to Washington this weekend for a doubleheader, where both the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans will no doubt be armed and ready.
“There really aren’t any easy teams in this league,” said Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette. “Spokane and Tri-City are going to be very hungry, and are going to want to be the first teams to beat us.
“But we can’t put too much emphasis into what they’re doing, we just need to make sure we’re playing to our standard and taking care of our own game.”
The Rockets, who will be in Spokane Friday, made it nine straight wins to begin the season with a 6-4 victory over the Blazers Wednesday night in Kamloops.
Despite a couple of hiccups and a couple of late goals by Kamloops to make it interesting, Mallette said the coaching staff was satisfied with the club’s effort.
“We did a lot of good things (Wednesday),” said Mallette. “Kamloops gave a late push and we bent a little bit, but still found a way to win. With the we’ve been going, teams are going to press us and we’re going to see how we respond.”
As it has been all season, the Rockets’ power play was firing on all cylinders Wednesday with three goals on five chances.
Kelowna’s power play is tops in the WHL this season, scoring at a torrid pace of 35.8 per cent.
“Our special teams have been good, particularly our power play,” Mallette said. “It’s a big component to our success, our offensive zone play has been good and the chances we’ve been generating have been of a pretty high quality. Of course, we’re always striving to get better but right now our power is a big reason we’re having success.”
Centre Nick Merkley added three more assists to his season total Wednesday and is now second in overall WHL scoring with 18 (3-15) points. Tyson Baillie added two assists and has 16 points, while Rourke Chartier added two more goals and has 14 points (8-6) already this season.
Austin Glover provided some key secondary-line scoring with two goals and now had 10 points in eight games.
“Our plan all along was to have a balanced attack,” Mallette said. “Guys like Austin, these aren’t rookies, so this is like a coming out party for him. Guys like Merkley, Chartier, Baillie…they’re always going to produce. So it’s good to see players like Austin who haven’t been a big part of the offence before contributing more.”
In addition to a nine-game winning streak, the Rockets take the Canadian Hockey League’s No. 1 ranking into Washington this weekend.
Kelowna rose one spot from second in the weekly survey as voted on by a panel of NHL scouts.
The Rockets’ next home action is Wednesday, Oct. 25 against the Tri-City Americans.
Rockets in Super Series
Defenceman Madison Bowey and forward Tyson Baillie have been named to Team WHL’s roster for the Subway Super Series against Team Russia.
The games will be played Nov. 10 and 11 in Saskatoon and Brandon.