Two games, four points. All in all, it was one great weekend for the Kelowna Rockets after sweeping a home-and-home series with the Kamloops Blazers.
Now the tough news: Will what happened then be carried over for tonight’s road game against the Spokane Chiefs?
Kelowna (28-29-3-6) is facing a tough challenge in the Chiefs (35-22-5-3), who are 13 points and two spots up on the sixth-place Rockets in Western Conference standings. Spokane is also 2-1 against Kelowna in their four-game season series.
In addition, the Chiefs have a stellar home record (21-8-1-1), while the Rockets’ road mark (14-13-3-4) is pedestrian.
Normally, you’d think Kelowna would have a tough time winning, but one can’t ignore the team’s 6-3 victory and 4-3 overtime win against Kamloops (44-17-2-3) this past Friday and Saturday.
“We’re playing well right now,” said Rockets forward Brett Bulmer. “We know that going into the playoffs, you have to get some wins under your belt and feel good about yourself.
“Doing it against one of the top teams in the league is also huge, so it was great weekend for us and we’re going to build on it.”
Defenceman Mitchell Chapman echoed that the weekend was more about building confidence than earning points. The Rockets, who locked themselves into the playoffs with Friday’s win, are stuck in sixth, unable to move up or down, and will face either the U.S. Division-leading Portland Winterhawks (46-16-3-1) or Tri-City Americans (46-17-1-2) in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s more about working as a team,” offered Chapman. “We’re heading into the playoffs against two hard teams, and we have to do everything we can to get ready. It’s a step in the right direction.”
On Saturday night, the Blazers stormed Kelowna for the first half of the first period, only to be turned aside. From there on, the Rockets flipped the tables and, simply put, were the team with the better step on the night.
“It’s just sticking to our systems,” stated Chapman. “Guys can’t get down when they score on us, and we can’t get too overzealous when we score goals, too. We have to come together as a team and realize we can’t have too many ups and downs during a game. Our goal right now is to be as even-keel as we can.”
“We knew that if we stuck with our game plan, that we were going to get the win,” added Bulmer. “Every guy bought in and played a great game. Obviously, we’re very happy. (Kamloops) is our closest rival and to sweep them, it’s huge going into the playoffs. We have to continue to roll from here on out.”
While it certainly was a great result for the Rockets, given their Jekyll-and-Hyde season, the question can’t be helped: Is this just the latest up to be followed by another down?
“No,” said Bulmer. “We definitely have to build on this. You can’t look back; even Friday night, we got the win, then we had to focus on the next game. You have to feel good about yourselves going into the playoffs, and that’s where our focus is.”