Marissa Baecker/Shoot the BreezeKyle Topping (right) and the Kelowna Rockets will take on Matthew Smith and the Victoria Royals Friday and Saturday in WHL action at Save on Foods Memorial Centre.

Rockets battle rival Royals in weekend set

Kelowna looks for payback as the WHL rivals play Friday and Saturday at Save on Foods Centre

It’s been a month since they were humbled on home ice by the Victoria Royals, but the wound remains raw for the Kelowna Rockets.

With an 8-3 loss to the B.C. Division leaders serving as ample motivation, the WHL rivals will square off this weekend for two games at Save on Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.

“They got us in our own rink and it was a real eye-opener for our group,” Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette said of the Oct. 4 defeat at Prospera Place. “A lot of different things didn’t go our way due to us cheating the game. We’re reminding the guys, they can’t take what happened lightly and that was a wake-up call we have to respond to.

“This rivalry goes back as long as I’ve been here and it’s always very intense,” Mallette added. “I’d expect the same this weekend.”

The Rockets (7-5-2-1) rebounded from the Victoria loss with a pair of overtime victories in Prince George, before sliding into a five-game winless funk in mid-October.

Kelowna has since righted the ship with a 3-0-1-0 record over the last four games, the result of a better team game in all respects, according to Mallette.

“Over the last couple of weeks, we’re doing things better, playing better team hockey as a whole,” said Mallette. “For the most part we’re playing more disciplined, we’re making sure we’re not cheating and we’ve been getting results because of that.”

Kelowna saw a three-game winning streak end Wednesday in Kennewick, Wash., but not before pushing the Americans to overtime and picking up a point in the 4-3 loss. Kelowna’s rookie netminder, James Porter, continued his stellar play of late, making 37 saves on 41 shots.

Buoyed by the exploits of Porter, Mallette said the Rockets are continuing to make progress.

“I think we’re playing faster in all the zones, we’re trying not to sit around as much and wait, our break outs are cleaner and that’s allowing us to attack better,” Mallette said. “We’re also getting really good goaltending from James Porter. He’s stepped in as a 17-year-old and is really giving our guys confidence.”

Kelowna will be without defenceman Kaeden Korczak for this weekend’s games. The rookie blueliner is playing with Team Canada Black at the World Under 17 Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. The tournament begins Sunday and will run until Saturday, Nov. 11.

The Rockets return to home ice Friday, Nov. 10 to open a four-game homestand against the Vancouver Giants.