An old WHL rivalry is about to heat up once again, as the ‘Battle of the Blazers’ is about to begin this weekend.
The Kelowna Rockets (34-14-1-3) will face their old rivals, the Kamloops Blazers (39-14-2-0), six times over the next three weekends — including four straight starting Friday night in Kamloops at the Sandman Centre.
“This could really set the table for us, right. We’ve got to make sure that we stay physical and play with real heart,” said Rockets head coach Kris Mallette.
In order to have success, the Rockets will have to remain disciplined. Kelowna gave up eight power plays the last time they faced the Blazers.
The result was a 6-2 loss for Kelowna, marking the Rockets’ first loss to Kamloops this season in eight games.
“We’ve got to be smarter. We gave them a lot of opportunities last game, so we’ve got to control that emotion, but, at the same time, bring that physicality,” said Mallette.
Judging by a quick survey of the players following practice on Thursday, everyone is on the same page when it comes to Mallette’s game plan.
“We gotta be physical and be prepared for their game,” said left-winger Gabriel Szturc.
“I think we just got to be physical, play our own game. We’ve had success against them before when we did that,” added centre Colton Dach, who is second in team scoring with 18 goals and 51 points.
“We have always been physical when we won the games, so we have to play hard,” said Pavel Novak, Kelowna’s leading scorer, who has 24 goals and 57 points.
“We got to be physical right off the hop in their home barn. They beat us pretty good last time, so we owe it to them, and we know how important these next four are for us,” Mark Liwiski said in summing it all up.
Kelowna is just eight points back of the Blazers for first in B.C. Division standings. And with three games in hand, the Rockets still have a chance to bring home a division banner this season.
Fans won’t be required to wear masks on Saturday at Prospera Place when the Blazers visit the Okanagan to finish this weekend’s home-and-home series.
However, anyone attending will still have to show their vaccine passport at the door,