The Kelowna Rockets may have dispatched the Prince George Cougars in four straight games in the first round of the WHL playoffs but coaches for the club say it was a much closer series than that and the team will have to play better in the second round.
The Rockets may have played its best game of the Prince George series in a 4-2 win on Wednesday to wrap up the series and advance to the second round against a yet to be determined opponent.
“It was a lot closer than four games to be honest with you,” Rockets coach Ryan Huska said after game four. “Whoever we get in the next series we have to be ready to play and play hard for 60 minutes.”
During the Prince George series the Rockets were either tied or trailed heading to the third period in all but the deciding game four. But in the third period the Rockets took over, outscoring the Cougars 12-2 combined in the four games.
Speaking on the radio post game show, assistant coach Dan Lambert said the Rockets will have to be better in the second round and he expects them to be. He said this year’s club has played down to its opponents level many times but has also elevated it’s game against tougher opponents.
“Our team has been like that all year,” said Lambert. “We play down to our opponents level but then we play a top team and the effort is amazing. We’ve proven this year that when we play our best hockey we can play with any team in the league.”
From top to bottom Rockets players and coaches were talking about needing a more complete effort in its next series which appears like it will be against Portland, although the first round of the WHL playoffs is continuing this weekend and nothing had been determined as of the Capital News press deadline.
Forward Brett Bulmer, who returned from injury just prior to the start of the playoffs, said the team can play better.
“We need to be better all around and we need a full 60 minute effort,” said Bulmer, a Prince George native, who said they can play with the likes of Portland, who finished first in the WHL Western Conference.
“They’re a big team but we beat them this year and we’re not afraid to go up against them,” he said.
The Rockets will get Evan Bloodoff back in the lineup for the next series after he served a four game suspension for a charging major in the final game of the regular season. Bloodoff, 20, is in his final year of junior eligibility and will be a welcome addition back into the lineup.
Absolutely,” said Huska. “We noticed him while he wasn’t in play. He’s a very energetic guy who has a lot of pace to his game. he brings that energy that our team kind of feeds off so I felt like we did miss him in this round for sure.”
The next round of the WHL playoffs will begin this weekend. The exact dates are unknown as of press time.