By Larry Fisher
The Daily Courier
The Kelowna Rockets need to be better at home. They know it, and now they must show it with results.
This weekend is as good as any to start a winning streak at Prospera Place, hosting the Lethbridge Hurricanes (17-30-0-1) tonight and the Vancouver Giants (26-17-1-1) on Saturday. Both puck-drops are 7 p.m.
“That’s something we’re trying to address here,” said veteran goaltender Adam Brown, who was between the pipes for Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the last-place Everett Silvertips (9-27-1-8). “Whenever you’re at home, you want to get those wins, especially in front of your home crowd. They get behind you and those are the most fun games to play.”
For the sixth-place Rockets (19-22-2-3) to climb in Western Conference standings and catch teams such as the fourth-place Giants, home-ice success is essential.
In fact, the difference between those B.C. Division rivals is their home records, as the Giants are 16-7-0-1 for 33 points in Vancouver while the Rockets are 10-11-0-1 for 21 points in Kelowna. That’s a 12-point separation and, by no coincidence, Vancouver leads Kelowna by 11 points overall. Their road records are almost identical with Kelowna at 9-11-2-2 for 22 points and Vancouver at 10-10-1-0 for 21 points.
“We want to get ourselves winning at home,” said Rockets coach Ryan Huska, whose squad has 26 regular-season games remaining, including 14 at Prospera Place. “That’s something we have to do a better job on. Our record isn’t great at home right now and we want to make sure we’re improving that as we move forward.”
Kelowna has, however, dominated this weekend’s opponents at home. The Rockets twice beat Vancouver 6-3 at Prospera Place, both wins dating back to October, and also blasted Lethbridge 5-2 in the only meeting between the two teams to date, Dec. 7 in Kelowna.
Kelowna is also responsible for one of Vancouver’s home losses, winning 4-3 at Pacific Coliseum last Saturday after falling 3-2 in overtime and 5-2 in previous trips to Vancouver. But the Rockets haven’t won consecutive home games since late October and have yet to string together three straight wins at Prospera Place this season. Kelowna also suffered through a four-game home losing skid from Oct. 29 to Nov. 9.
Huska said his players need to work harder and smarter to reverse that trend and gain some much-needed momentum at home.
“I think it’s a bit of both,” he said. “A lot of times players have the best intentions and sometimes they are working so hard to get something done that they’re not moving their feet or they’re thinking way too much. So it’s working smarter as well. Once you get yourself over a hump and you get some wins, then everything comes a little easier.”
Success should come easier against the Hurricanes, who pawned their former captain Cam Braes to Moose Jaw prior to the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline for a couple of bantam draft picks.
Since that Jan. 9 deal, Lethbridge has only won once in four games, a 6-3 road victory in Vancouver on Tuesday before getting blanked 3-0 by the B.C. Division-leading Kamloops Blazers (32-10-1-2) on Wednesday.
Braes had one of Lethbridge’s two goals in the aforementioned loss to Kelowna, while the Rockets were led by Brett Bulmer’s three-point night on one goal and two assists. Captain Colton Sissons, leading scorer Shane McColgan, Penticton product Carter Rigby and injured defenceman Damon Severson also lit the lamp for Kelowna, which got 21 saves from Brown in that victory.
On an unrelated note, regardless of whether the Rockets win tonight or Saturday, they will be in for a relaxing Sunday as the club hosts its annual Tim Horton’s Family Skate with the Rockets. Fans and families are invited to skate with players and coaches at Prospera Place from 3:45 to 5 p.m.
The event is in support of Bankhead Elementary with admission being recyclable bottles and cans. Skate rental is not available and you must be on skates to be on the ice.