Rockets to build on U.S. sweep

Head coach Ryan Huska isn’t yet 100 per cent convinced.

Still, the Kelowna Rockets’ recent sweep of U.S. Division opponents has them looking a lot more like a team that can compete with the Western Hockey League’s best.

The Rockets coming off an unexpected three wins in as many nights in Washington, the last two against a pair of the league’s hottest clubs.

After taking down Seattle 6-3 last Friday, the Rockets handed the Spokane Chiefs just their second loss in the last 13 games with a come-from-behind 5-3 win on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, Kelowna halted Tri-City’s 13-game home winning streak with a 4-3 verdict over the Americans.

Kelowna hadn’t won in nine straight visits to the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash., dating back to Feb. 25, 2006.

And while it was far from a perfect weekend of hockey in Huska’s eyes, the head coach was pleased with the end result.

“It was a pretty good weekend for us,” said Huska. “In Seattle I thought we played very well, but not so much in Spokane. I thought our goaltending bailed us out of a poor game, it was an off-night for us.”

“Then I liked the way the trip ended, we weren’t satisified with the two wins and we competed and battled hard in Tri-City. The guys were opportunistic and did what they had to do.

“The best part is, the wins gave us a little breathing room in our division.”

Each game featured solid and, at times, spectacular goaltending for the Rockets—Adam Brown turned aside 61 shots over the first two wins, while rookie Jordon Cooke stymied the Americans Sunday with 32 saves.

“Our goaltending’s been good all year, that’s the one consistent thing I can say about out team from the start. This season our goaltenders have been winning games for us and that’s no something I can remember happening much in past.”

On the offensive side of the ledger, rookie forward Zach Franko paced the attack in Washington with four goals and a pair of assists in the three-game set. The skilled Winnipeg product has been red hot of late with six goals and 10 points in his last six games. He’s also riding an 11-game point scoring streak.

“Zach is started to get noticed out there, he’s getting more opportunities and he’s making them count,” Huska said. “He’s starting to feel good about where he’s at, he’s working hard and it’s paying off. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Thanks to their four-game winning streak, the Rockets (27-20-0-0) remain hot on the heels of the Vancouver Giants (25-19-1-4) for top spot in the B.C. Division.

Kelowna is just a point back but holds two games in hand.

The Rockets will play their next seven games against division rivals beginning Friday at Prospera Place against the third-place Prince George Cougars. Don Hay’s Giants will visit Kelowna on Saturday.

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