A 6-1 victory for the Kelowna Rockets may have made the visiting Kamloops Blazers look like relative pushovers on opening night of the Western Hockey League’s regular season.
Three weeks later, Rockets head coach Dan Lambert looks for a much more formidable opponent when the B.C. Division rivals square off Wednesday night in Kamloops.
Since the clubs last met on Sept. 20, the Blazers are 6-2-1-0, including 3-1-0 at home.
“There’s no doubt they have a good home record, and we all know how Don Hay’s teams play,” said Lambert. “That first night is certainly not an indication of what kind of team they are. I expect more snarl and more bite from them. I expect a much different game, and we’re going to have to be ready for them.”
When it comes down to results, the Rockets have been adequately prepared for every one of their opponents this season with a perfect 8-0-0 record.
Despite a less than complete effort on Saturday night, Kelowna kept its flawless record in tact with a 4-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
“Obviously, it’s always a challenge when things are going good, just like it’s a challenge when things are going bad,” said Lambert. “Really, you just have to focus on short term things, just one day at a time and not get ahead of yourself. Our last game, we weren’t as good as we’ve been and you’re not always going to be great. But we found a way to win and that’s important.”
Wednesday’s game will make the first of three straight on the road for the Rockets for the first time this season. On Friday, Kelowna will head south to take on the Spokane Chiefs, followed by a visit to Kennewick Saturday to face the Tri-City Americans.
Two injured Rockets could return to the lineup this week. F Dillon Dube (lower body) and D Joe Gatenby (lower) are botih considered day-to-day.
Defencemen Mitchell Wheaton (upper body) and forward James Wishnowski (upper body) are both out with longer-term injuries.
The Rockets’ next home action is Wednesday, Oct. 22 at Prospera Place. Kelowna is 4-0-0 at home this season.
Down to three 20s…
With four 20-year-old players on their roster and just three overage spots available, one player had to go by the Oct. 15 deadline.
Carter Rigby was the odd man out as the Kelowna Rockets traded the veteran forward on Friday to the Swift Current Broncos for a third-round bantam draft pick in 2016.
“It’s a big loss for our organization to lose a person of this calibre,” said Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton. “Carter is a quality young man and he has been an important part of our organization for three years, not only on the ice but out in the community as well.”
Since joining the Rockets at the start of the 2011-12 campaign, Rigby played in 171 career regular season games scoring 57 goals, including a career-high 21 goals as a rookie.
This year Rigby had scored five goals in seven games. He was also a regular in Rockets’ community events and a past winner of the Rockets’ Humanitarian award.
The Rockets remaining 20-year-old players are Tyrell Goulbourne, Cole Martin and Colton Heffley.