By Larry Fisher
The Daily Courier
The Kelowna Rockets were struggling to win without Brett Bulmer — now they’re struggling to win with him.
That’s not a knock on the 19-year-old power forward, who has been impressive in three WHL games since returning to Kelowna from a stint with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. But Bulmer’s efforts, which include two goals, seven points and several more chances created, haven’t translated to victories for the Rockets (5-11-1-1), marred in a five-game losing skid and having lost 13 of their last 15 games.
Bulmer was Kelowna’s offensive catalyst in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss to the visiting Red Deer Rebels at Prospera Place, recording three assists and a plus-2 rating.
“You need that from him,” Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said. “He’s now gotta try to find a way to be consistent with it. I’m not saying he’s gotta get three points every night, but he’s gotta be a guy that looks to be the best guy on the ice every night. He has to challenge himself with that.”
Bulmer’s plus-3 through three games, also suiting up for last weekend’s sweep at the hands of the Portland Winterhawks. Kelowna needs similar contributions from Bulmer tonight against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings (11-6-1-1). Puck drop is 7 p.m. at Prospera Place.
The Rockets then visit the Vancouver Giants (11-8-0-1) on Saturday night, with Vancouver coming off a 4-1 home win over Edmonton on Wednesday.
“I have some (NHL) experience now and I’m just doing my best to help these guys get better every night,” said Bulmer, a Prince George product. “I just gotta create every time I’m out there and make sure all my guys are ready to go every night, and just put in the work to get the wins.”
Bulmer and the Rockets perhaps deserved a better fate against Red Deer. Kelowna carried the early momentum, outshooting the Rebels 15-6 in the first period, but couldn’t beat import goalie Patrik Bartosak more than once — settling for a 1-1 saw-off after 20 minutes. Red Deer pulled ahead in the middle frame thanks to three special-teams goals — two power play and one shorthanded — then held on in a back-and-forth, run-and-gun third period.
“I thought we came out really strong,” Bulmer said. “But in the second, on the power play, we weren’t as urgent as we needed to be, and a couple little breakdowns hurt us.
“Every little play has to be the difference. But I thought we worked hard for two periods and we can take a lot of things from this game.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches against Red Deer were D Tanner Moar, D Jesse Lees (upper-body, 3 weeks), D Kevin Smith (upper-body, 1 week) and C Spencer Main (upper-body, 2 weeks). . . . LW Carter Rigby of Penticton returned to the lineup from a concussion sustained on Oct. 20 against Vancouver that sidelined him for seven games. . . . Smith, out since Oct. 12 with a shoulder injury, could also return this weekend.