Captain Tyson Barrie and the Kelowna Rockets host the Portland Winterhawks Friday and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday.

Top teams provide weekend test for Rockets

A respite from the rigours of a junior hockey season couldn’t have come at a much better time for Tyson Barrie.

Back from a four-day break, the rejuvenated Kelowna Rockets captain will lead his club into battle this weekend against two of the Western Hockey League’s top teams.

The Western Conference-leading Portland Winterhawks will stop at Prospera Place on Friday, while the fleet-footed Medicine Hat Tigers will come calling 24 hours later.

“It’s going to be a real good test for us and we’re going to find out where we stand against them,” said Barrie. “Those are two good teams are we gotta be ready for them. I’ve had a nice break and I’m ready to go.”

Barrie played in Saturday’s 8-1 victory over Kamloops, then headed home to Victoria to reload after an intense and busy month of hockey with Team Canada at the world junior championship in Buffalo.

The Rockets had their ups and downs in the Barrie’s absence—and that of head coach Ryan Huska—including a four-game losing streak to start off 2011.

But now that the dust has settled and the team’s full roster is back in place, Barrie feels good about the Rockets’ capabilities over the final 31 games of the regular season.

“We’ve struggled a bit in the New Year, but our last game against Kamloops was big for us, it was a good win,” said Barrie. “This is always a good time of year, the trade deadline has passed, and this is it…this is our team.

“I like our team, we have a real good core group and as long we continue to follow what the coaches have been preaching to us, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

The Rockets and the rest of the Western Conference find themselves in the tightest race anyone in the WHL can ever remember.

A mere five points separate the last seven clubs, with every team still firmly in the playoff race.

In the B.C. Division, only four points divide the first and last-place teams.

The division champion will earn the second overall seed in the conference come the post-season.

“We’ve been saying it for a while how tight our conference is and how big every game is,” said Rockets coach Ryan Huska. “There’s an opportunity to win our division and get that second seed…every team is in it. If you don’t win, you might end up fourth of fifth and get a good American team in the first round.”

Speaking of good American teams, the Winterhawks (27-13-0-3) have slipped somewhat over the last month but are still hanging on top spot the Western Conference standings.

With skilled players like Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter providing leadership, and new acquisitions Craig Cunningham and University of Denver defenceman William Wrenn in the mix, Huska said the ‘Hawks are a talented and well-rounded team.

“They’ve strengthened their group with some of the moves they’ve made,” said Huska. “They’re deep all over the place, up front and on defense. We’ll have to try and take away as much time and space from them as we can.”

As for the Tigers (27-12-2-0), Huska expects his team to be challenged by Medicine Hat’s speed and high-tempo style.

“We’ll learn in a hurry if our team is quick enough to handle them. They’re very fast.”

The Rockets (22-19-0-0) head into the weekend in second in the B.C. Division, one point back of the Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants.

Just Posted

Okanagan can learn from Washington’s wine industry growth

Winery owner cites importance of industry collaboration

Okanagan wineries shine in global chardonnay competition

Recognition for Kalala and Liquidity wineries at 2018 Chardonnay du Monde competition

Kelowna’s South Perimeter Road project to go ahead

Project to extend Gordon Drive doesn’t get enough signatures to keep it from moving ahead

Fleeing driver leaves behind severely damaged car

West Kelowna crash occurred at Highway 97 South junction

Dozens of impaired Kelowna drivers ticketed on St. Patrick’s Day

Kelowna RCMP stopped many vehicles for impaired driving during a one day blitz

Rainy week ahead for Okanagan and Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecast rain for the next three days, starting Tuesday afternoon

Attempted gun smuggler across the Osoyoos border sentenced

Alex Louie, who prefers the name Senk’lip, was sentenced to the mandatory minimum

Pro-Trump protest sign with F-word is OK, court rules

Judges say Ontario man can protest publicly, even using vulgar language

VIDEO: Police officer looking for distracted drivers gets hit by truck

Road safety investigator clipped by trailer while patrolling busy intersection

YVR wants you to help name three new puppies

Say hello to the Vancouver Airport’s new assistance pups

Search and rescue help injured sledders off Owlhead

Volunteer searchers also locate two hikers near Little Shuswap Lake

Suspect who attacked autistic man in Ontario could be from B.C.’s south coast: police

29-year-old man was sent to hospital with serious injuries

Privacy watchdog to explore Facebook leak

Canadian expert says his analytics company helped Trump campaign capitalize on private Facebook info

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Most Read