Rockets set for a busy weekend

KELOWNA, CANADA - DECEMBER 27: Jackson Shepard #9 of the Kamloops Blazers looks for pass as Cal Foote #25 and Michael Herringer #30 of the Kelowna Rockets defend the net on December 27, 2016 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***

The Kelowna Rockets are gearing up for a big weekend with a pair of home games followed by a Sunday event.

The Rockets renew their rivalry with the Kamloops Blazers tomorrow night in Prospera Place.

Kelowna will then host the Portland Winterhawks for their second meeting in a week on Saturday evening.

The Rockets defeated the Winterhawks 4-1 at home last Saturday in a game that saw Kole Lind ignite for four points (2G, 2A).

Assistant Coach Travis Crickard says having a full lineup for the first time this season will make Friday night something to look forward to.

“It’s exciting, it’s really important to see what we have going into the final stretch, having less than 20 games left in the regular season. It’s nice to finally have a full roster,” said Crickard. “Unfortunately it’s for just one game because Kole Lind and Cal Foote wont be there on Saturday (Top Prospects game). It’ll be fun to see what we have depth wise, and build some chemistry. A lot of these guys haven’t played together yet.”

Crickard said with the week off they’ve had time to key on special teams in practice.

“We’ve focused on special teams, and our breakout during practice the last few days, Kamloops has a very strong fore-check. As we get down tighter to the playoffs special teams is a big deal,” Crickard said. “Right now our penalty kill is climbing, but our power play has been inconsistent. The power play issues could be a lack of bodies, but we’re also not moving the puck quick enough.”

The Rockets have faced the Blazers eight times already this season. The two teams opened the season with a back-to-back home-and-home in which Kamloops topped Kelowna 9-2 in Kamloops on September 23rd, then the Rockets responded with a 5-1 victory at Prospera Place the following night. The two met again November 1st in Kelowna and the Blazers won 5-1. The two clubs faced one another again on back-to-back nights, trading wins. Kelowna won 3-2 on December 27th, and Kamloops won 5-1 the next night. The two last versed each other for one more home-and-home with the Blazers winning 3-1 in Kamloops on January 6th, and Kelowna replying with a 3-2 shootout victory on January 7th.

Kelowna heads Friday night with a 27-17-4-0 record that puts them in third place in the B.C. division with 58 points, 13 back of the division leading Prince George Cougars.

Kamloops is 29-17-1-2 on the season that gives them 61 points and has them sitting second in the B.C. division, ten points behind Prince George.

The Rockets will then face the Portland Winterhawks on Saturday evening.

Crickard says getting pucks deep will be a key versus the Hawks.

“We have to stick with what we did last week,” Crickard said. “They’re a fast team, but because their D is more offensive in nature, if we can get pucks behind their defense and we can play in the offensive zone, we’ll have success.”

Portland enters their Friday night game against the Everett Silvertips with a record of 23-21-1-2 so far this season. They’re fourth in the U.S. division with 49 points, 20 points back of the division leading Silvertips.

On Sunday the Rockets will be at Prospera Place from noon-1:30pm for the BCAA skate. Bring your skates and join the Rockets in some Sunday afternoon fun.

The Rockets next home game following this weekend is Wednesday, February 1st when they play host to the Calgary Hitmen.

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