Just seven points separate the Swift Current Broncos and the Kelowna Rockets, and yet that slim margin seems like a wide gulf.
Tonight, in what will be their only meeting of the season, the Rockets host the Broncos at Prospera Place. Game time is 7 p.m., and Kelowna is considered a heavy favourite.
According to one website, masseyratings.com, the Rockets (17-9-1-1) are ranked as the No. 3 squad in the WHL on its list of overall team ratings. The Portland Winterhawks top the list, with the Spokane Chiefs in second and the Calgary Hitmen in fourth. Swift Current (12-14-3-2) is ranked 14th. The website says all rankings are statistically based, with injuries and psychological factors not figuring into the calculations.
Further, when it came to team power rankings, the website lists Kelowna as No. 2, with Portland first and Spokane third. Swift Current is rated 13th. Massey says "in contrast to the overall rating, the power (rating) is a better measure of potential and is less concerned with actual wins-losses."
Part of Kelowna's high ratings has to do with its impressive home record of 11-2-0-0 (59 goals, 21 against). Portland (13-2-0-0; 67-29) and Spokane (12-2-0-0; 56-32) have the top two home records.
Following a 2-1 loss on Tuesday to the host Kamloops Blazers, Swift Current's road record is 5-7-1-1.
But regardless of where Kelowna is ranked, the Rockets' home record this season will certainly surpass last season's mediocre mark of 16-18-0-2.
"(Player maturity) is part of it, but we also put some priority on it at the beginning of the season," Huska said of Kelowna's home-ice turnaround. "A guy like (captain Colton Sissons) has been one of the biggest reasons why we've had success; he's making sure our team is prepared to play. We've had good first periods at home. A lot of that comes down to leaders, and this group of leaders has done a good job."
Asked if it's tough to prepare his squad for a team it'll only play once this year, Huska said it's not as hard as it used to be.
"There's video and we have an opportunity to watch them (in Kamloops) before we see them," said Huska. "So we have an idea of what they're all about. They're a very hard working team and a team with good size. They try to play physical, and we have to make sure we're ready for that style of game."
The Rockets should be ready, judging from their success of late. Kelowna has won its last 10 home games, outscoring the opposition 46-12 in that span. Yet in this league, anything can happen on any night, such as the Rockets' 4-2 loss on Saturday to Seattle (14-13-1-0), which ended a five-game winning streak.
"You're not going to win every game over the course of a season," said Huska. "The most important thing is how you're playing. If we continue to take pride in playing as a team, we'll find ourselves back in the win column sooner than later."