Rockets on road
The Kelowna Rockets get set to take on the Chiefs in Spokane on Friday night before returning home for a Saturday night meeting with the Kootenay Ice for the fifth annual Teddy Bear Toss at Prospera Place.
Having won their previous three games, the last loss the Rockets suffered came at the hands of the Chiefs on November 22nd when Kelowna fell 6-2 in Spokane. Assistant Coach Travis Crickard believes his teams overall readiness in their last trip to Spokane wasn't where it needed to be.
"There were a lot of things that happened in Spokane that hockey fans don't see that had a big effect on our team," said Crickard. "Those were things like when players were blocking shots, or when players were making hits, their teammates weren't cheering them on. That told me that a lot of players weren't engaged in the game. When we have guys engaged right from the get-go, whether they're on the ice or not, if they're cheering on their teammates, and they're ready to go onto the ice when their shift comes we have much more success. I think that's what hurt us the most in Spokane last time."
This is the second of four meetings between the Rockets and Chiefs thus far this season. This is the last trip the Rockets will make to Spokane. The Chiefs make their stops in the Okanagan on January 10th, 2018 and March 4th, 2018.
On Saturday the Rockets are back home for the fifth annual Teddy Bear Toss in a game against the Kootenay Ice. Crickard says for players, games like this are special.
"I remember when I played, seeing the Teddy Bear Toss always gave me goosebumps," Crickard said. "It's a really cool thing to be a part of. When that first goal goes in you can really see how much support there is out there for the Rockets and for that cause, and it's just a really cool concept."
The Teddy Bear Toss is an annual event in which fans bring new teddy bears to the game and when the Rockets score their first goal of the night, the fans let the bears rain. The Rockets donate the bears collected to the patients of the Kelowna General Hospital over the holidays. Last season Rockets fans contributed to three full truck-loads of teddy bears that were all delivered to the K.G.H.
Saturday night is the only meeting of the season between the Rockets and the Ice.
The Rockets enter Friday night with a record of 15-8-2-1 that gives them 33 points placing them second in the B.C. Division, five back of the division leading Victoria Royals, and seven ahead of the third place Vancouver Giants.
The Chiefs come into Friday night with a 14-9-1-2 record that gives them 31 points placing them second in the U.S. Division, 10 back of the division leading Portland Winterhawks and one ahead of the Tri-City Americans.
Kootenay has Friday night off, so they enter Saturday with a record of 12-14-1-0 placing them second in the Central Division five back of the Medicine Hat Tigers, and two ahead of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Saturday marks the final Rockets home game before the Christmas break. Kelowna hits the highway for a six game prairie road trip starting on December 8th in Regina. The Rockets play the following night in Brandon against the Wheat Kings before heading to Moose Jaw for a battle with the Warriors on the 12th of December. Kelowna visits Swift Current on the 13th, Prince Albert on the 15th, and they finish off the road trip in Saskatoon on the 16th.
The next home game following Saturday will be December 27th when the Rockets host the Kamloops Blazers at Prospera Place for a holiday B.C. Division battle.