The Kelowna Rockets will hit the ice to face a couple of division foes this weekend. They’ll battle the Prince George Cougars tonight at Prospera Place, then head to Kamloops to take on the Blazers on Saturday.
Rockets rookie forward Alex Swetlikoff, who netted his first two WHL goals in Wednesday’s home loss to Spokane, says Kelowna is going to build on the positives from that setback.
“We’re going to look at last night’s game and take the good things from it,” Swetlikoff said on Thursday. “We’re going to prepare for Friday and Saturday, Prince George and Kamloops are big games and big rivals. We’re excited for them.”
Tonight is the ninth and final time that the Rockets will take on the Cougars this season. The Cougars hold the edge in the series, having won six of the eight games to date — with one victory in overtime and another in a shootout.
The first meeting of the season was Sept. 28 at Prospera Place, with the visiting Cougars prevailing 4-2.
The Rockets then trekked north to P.G. for a twinbill on Sept. 28-29, falling 3-2 in the opener but avenging that defeat the next night with a 5-2 win. Kelowna was led by its three leading scorers in Leif Mattson (2G, 1A), Kyle Topping (1G, 2A) and Nolan Foote (1G, 2A) with three-point performances in that rematch.
The next three games needed extra time. The Rockets won 4-3 in overtime off the stick of Foote on Oct. 27 at Prospera Place. But the Cougars topped Kelowna 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 14 in P.G., then 2-1 in a shootout at Prospera Place on Jan. 4.
Prince George made it four straight over Kelowna by sweeping a two-game homestand on Jan. 11-12, routing the Rockets 7-2 and 4-0.
The Rockets enter tonight with a 21-26-4-1 record for 47 points, which places them third in the B.C. Division. They’re nine points up on the fifth-place Cougars and two points ahead of the Blazers, who sit in fourth place. Kelowna trails the Victoria Royals by eight points for second place, while the Vancouver Giants are topping the division standings with 73 points.
In the Western Conference playoff picture, the Rockets and Blazers are battling for the third seed in B.C., while both are competing with the Seattle Thunderbirds for the second wild-card berth.
Heading into this weekend, Kelowna is two points up on Kamloops and one point ahead of Seattle, but the Blazers have two games in hand on the Rockets and the T-Birds also have one in hand. Kelowna has 16 games remaining in the regular season, Seattle has 17 and Kamloops has 18.
Kelowna and Kamloops clash four more times down the stretch, starting Saturday. The Blazers have won four of the six games to date, with each team getting an overtime victory thus far. The Rockets won 2-1 in OT last Saturday at Prospera Place.