March 14, 2018 10:42 am
Updated: March 14, 2018 10:44 am

Kelowna Rockets host division rivals for last time this season

Photo credit: Marissa Baecker

The Kelowna Rockets prepare to host their divisional rival the Prince George Cougars for the last time this season.

Following back-to-back wins over the Kamloops Blazers last weekend, Assistant Coach Travis Crickard says despite those wins, the team still needs to be better.

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“It’s nice to win games, but we really didn’t feel like we were back on track with our play yet. We were fortunate to get four points last weekend,” said Crickard. “Winning those games should give our guys some confidence and positivity, because the results just weren’t there in the previous five games. I don’t necessarily think that our play was better, I just think that leaving the game feeling good about something is a step in the right direction for our team.”

Wednesday’s game will be the eighth and final meeting between the B.C. Division rivals. Kelowna has a record of 5-2-0-0 against the Cougars this season. The Rockets were in Prince George for their first two meetings on October 6th and 7th. Dillon Dube led the way in both games putting up eight points (2G, 6A) in those two games to help the Rockets secure 7-6 and 4-3 overtime wins. The Cougars were at Prospera Place on October 28th when James Porter made 27 saves to lead the Rockets to a 4-2 victory. Kelowna hosted the Cougars again on November 29th, and this time it was Carsen Twarynski’s time to shine. Twarynski notched a hat-trick while Dillon Dube (1G, 2A), Cal Foote (1G, 1A) and Kyle Topping (2A) all had multi-point efforts in a 5-3 Rockets win. The teams didn’t meet again until February 20th, again in Kelowna. Carsen Twarynski had two first period goals and Erik Gardiner’s first goal since returning from missing 39 games to injury stood as the game winner. Most recently these two clubs met in Prince George on back-to-back nights on February 27th and 28th. The Cougars surprised the Rockets winning both games. Joel Lakusta had two points(1G, 1A) to lead them to a 4-1 victory on the 27th, and Jackson Leppard was the set-up man the next night, notching three assists in a 7-6 win. Kole Lind had a natural hat-trick in the first period of that one, and added an assist later in the game for a four point night, but the Cougars prevailed. This will be the last time of the 2017-2018 WHL regular season that the Rockets will take on the Cougars.

With a win tomorrow night, the Rockets can clinch their eighth divisional title in franchise history, and first since the 2014-2015 season. They enter Wednesday night with a 40-22-5-2 record giving them 87 points and placing them first in the B.C. Division. The Victoria Royals can still catch the Rockets as they currently sit at 84 points, but the Rockets have three games remaining, and the Royals only have two. The Vancouver Giants are in third in the division with 79 points, ahead of the fourth place Kamloops Blazers who have 63. The Prince George Cougars round out the B.C. Division sitting in the fifth and final spot with a 23-37-5-4 record giving them 55 points.

Kelowna currently sits in third place in the Western Conference, behind the Everett Silvertips at 95 points, and the Portland Winterhawks at 91. The Spokane Chiefs and Victoria Royals are tied for fourth in the conference with 84 points each.

With the ability to clinch the B.C. Division title with a win tomorrow, Crickard says the team can use that as motivation, but need to stay focused.

“It was brought up at the end of practice today. We need to focus more on what we need to do in order to clinch that, rather than just clinching it,” said Crickard.

Puck drop on Wednesday night is at 7:05pm.

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