The Kelowna Rockets have an important weekend ahead of them with two games against divisional rivals the Kamloops Blazers in the tightest division in the WHL.
After a good start to the second half of the season with a 3-2 win over Kamloops, the Rockets have since gone 0-2-1-0. The Rockets will have added help on Friday though, as Tomas Soustal and Calvin Thurkauf make their returns to the Rockets lineup. Assistant coach Kris Mallette says the Rockets need to get back to the form they had before the break.
“Inserting two good players in Soustal and Thurkauf into our lineup is a start hopefully, but we just have to get back to having good starts. Our starts haven’t been great since we’ve been back so we’ve got to make sure we’re going to compete for a full 60 minutes. We just have to make sure we’re detail oriented and ready to go,” said Mallette. “Right now things aren’t going our way and it’s starting to compound the little mistakes and guys are trying to do maybe a little bit too much.”
Though the coaches wouldn’t allow it to be an excuse over the last few weeks, it is relieving to have players of Soustal and Thurkauf’s caliber return to the lineup. Mallette stressed that it makes things easier for everyone.
“Besides the fact that they’re two extremely good players, we’ve been running some guys that maybe aren’t used to the ice time lately, and getting those guys back is just going to round our lineup out and give us some more offensive looks that we haven’t had since mid December,” Mallette said. “I think our guys are going to welcome them back with open arms.”
The Rockets are currently have a 23-14-3-0 record on the season. That’s good enough for 49 points and third place in the B.C. division.
Kamloops currently has a 24-15-1-1 record that puts them in the second place in the B.C. division, just one point ahead of the Rockets with 50.
Prince George is currently the division leader with 56 points, so the Rockets are not far behind.
Inching up on the Rockets and Blazers tails are the Victoria Royals who sit in fourth place in the division with 46 points.
The B.C. division is jam packed right now so every point matters for each club.
Kelowna will be without Dillon Dube this weekend as he is still at the World Juniors competing for a gold medal with Team Canada against the USA squad.
The Rockets next home game is Saturday evening when they host the Kamloops Blazers for the second half of the home and home.
The next home game following Saturday is Wednesday, January 18th when the Moose Jaw Warriors visit Prospera Place for the first and only time of the season.