Rockets fuel up for game 1 vs. the Blazers to kick off the 2017 WHL Playoffs

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KELOWNA, CANADA - DECEMBER 27: Nick Merkley #10 of the Kelowna Rockets tries to put the puck past Dylan Ferguson #31 of the Kamloops Blazers 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 ready to go war against the Kamloops Blazers in round one of the 2017 WHL Playoffs starting Friday night at Prospera Place.

Head Coach Jason Smith says when it comes down to it, the game plan is the same as it was all year long.

“It’s going to be putting together complete games, continuing to play with structure, playing with discipline, and capitalizing on our opportunities around the net,” Smith said.

When it comes to capitalizing on those opportunities around the net, the Blazers make it tougher than most other teams in the WHL. In fact, this season they allowed the second fewest goals in the entire league after Carter Hart and the Everett Silvertips (169 goals against) with only 198 goals against all season. That mostly stems from their all-star goaltender Connor Ingram. Ingram consistently had strong games against the Rockets all season long until the final meeting between the two teams. That last game came on February 24th when the Rockets peppered Ingram with six goals chasing him in an eventual 8-2 Rockets victory.

Smith says they’ve proven they can beat him they just have to do it again.

“We have to make sure we’re getting lots of pucks to the net, as well as make sure we’re creating traffic in front of him,” said Smith. “We can create second and third opportunities by having a net presence and not allowing their forwards or defence to block our shots from getting to the net.”

The Rockets are no slouch on defence either. The team finished tied for fourth in the league in goals against with 206, but the Rockets will be looking more to their high powered offence. Kelowna finished third in the league in goals for with 283 behind only the two Eastern Conference powerhouses the Regina Pats and the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The two teams are extremely familiar foes, having met 10 times already this season. Kamloops took the season series with six wins and four losses to Kelowna, one of those losses coming in a shootout.

Regular season series between the two clubs:

Sept. 23 – Kelowna (2) at Kamloops (9)
Sept. 24 – Kamloops (1) at Kelowna (5)
Nov. 1 – Kamloops (5) at Kelowna (1)
Dec. 27 – Kamloops (2) at Kelowna (3)
Dec. 28 – Kelowna (1) at Kamloops (5)
Jan. 6 – Kelowna (1) at Kamloops (3)
Jan. 7 – Kamloops (2) at Kelowna (3) – SO
Jan. 27 – Kamloops (3) at Kelowna (2)
Feb. 8 – Kelowna (0) at Kamloops (6)
Feb. 24 – Kelowna (8) at Kamloops (2)

If 10 games this regular season wasn’t enough, the two clubs also met last season in the first round of the WHL Playoffs and the two teams traded wins until the Rockets stole game 7 by a score of 2-1 in overtime. Buckle up, this could be a good one.

Head-to-Head Playoff History – Kelowna/Tacoma Rockets and Kamloops Blazers

2015-16: Kelowna Rockets defeat Kamloops Blazers 4-3 in Western Conference first round
2012-13: Kamloops Blazers defeat Kelowna Rockets 4-0 in Western Conference semifinal
2008-09: Kelowna Rockets defeat Kamloops Blazers 4-0 in Western Conference first round
2001-02: Kelowna Rockets defeat Kamloops Blazers 4-0 in Western Conference first round
1998-99: Kamloops Blazers defeat Kelowna Rockets 4-2 in Western Conference first round
1994-95: Kamloops Blazers (3-1-0) advance as Tacoma Rockets (1-3-0) are eliminated in West Division round-robin
1991-92: Kamloops Blazers defeat Tacoma Rockets 4-0 in West Division first round

How the two clubs match-up:

Kelowna Kamloops Blazers Primary Logo
Kelowna Rockets vs. Kamloops Blazers
45-22-5-0 (95 points)
Record
42-24-2-4 (90 points)
Sixth
WHL Standing
Ninth
Fourth
Conference Standing
Fifth
Second – B.C.
Division Standing
Third – B.C.
23-10-3-0
Home Record
26-9-1-0
22-12-2-0
Road Record
16-15-1-4
283 (Third)
Goals For
243 (11th)
206 (Fourth)
Goals Against
198 (Second)
25.2% (Third)
Power Play
17.4% (18th)
80.1% (Ninth)
Penalty Kill
84.3% (Second)
Eliminated in Conference Final
2015-16 Playoffs
Eliminated in First Round
Kole Lind – 30-57—87
Leading Scorer
Deven Sideroff – 36-42—78
Calvin Thurkauf – 33-37—70
Second Leading Scorer
Rudolfs Balcers – 40-37—77
Nick Merkley – 23-40—63
Third Leading Scorer
Lane Bauer – 36-35—71
Calvin Thurkauf – 33 goals
Top Goal Scorer
Rudolfs Balcers – 40 goals
Cal Foote – 6-51—57
Top Scoring Defenceman
Joe Gatenby – 7-31—38
Michael Herringer(33-15-3-0, 2.78, .904, 2 SO)
Top Goaltender
Connor Ingram(26-14-2-2, 2.44, .927, 5 SO)

The Rockets and Blazers go for game two on Saturday at Prospera Place before the series shifts to Kamloops on Tuesday and Wednesday for games three and four.

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