Tyler Benson and the Vancouver Giants battle Carsen Twarynski and the Kelowna Rockets Wednesday in WHL action at Prospera Place.-Image: Marissa Baecker/Shoot The Breeze

Key stretch for Rockets vs. B.C. Division rivals

Kelowna will host Vancouver in WHL action Wednesday, then face Victoria three times in four days

Four games in six days against B.C. Division rivals.

By next Monday night, the Kelowna Rockets will know what separation, if any, they have from the Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants.

The Rockets (32-16-3-1) will host the Giants (28-15-5-3) on Wednesday night, before seeing the Royals (32-18-3-1) three times in a four-day span this weekend.

Kelowna and Victoria head into the week tied for top spot with 68 points—with the Rockets holding two games in hand—while the Giants are just four points back in third.

While Jason Smith tends to adhere to the one-game-at-a-time philosophy, the Rockets’ head coach concedes the next stretch of hockey will be key for his club.

“Obviously it’s a big week for us, we’ve got an opportunity to match up against a couple of division rivals that are both playing well, so it’s a good challenge for us,” Smith said Tuesday. “We had been playing well, too, but had a disappointing weekend that we’re looking to bounce back from, getting back to playing more complete games and regaining some confidence.”

The Rockets are coming off back-to-back losses to the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips, including an 8-2 setback Saturday night in Washington.

Smith said the Rockets need to restore some of the good habits that escaped his team for a couple of games.

“Our lack of compete and execution at key times hurt us,” Smith said. “Whether it was a penalty or a mistake which led to sustained pressure or goals for (Everett), we need to clean that up.

“The guys had a day off, came back and worked hard at practise (Monday) and should be ready to take on the challenge.”

With rookie James Porter still on the sidelines with an upper body injury, Kelowna is expected to continue to go with veteran Brodan Salmond and rookie Cole Tisdale in goal.

Twenty-year-old defenceman James Hilsendager remains sidelined after taking a high hit during last Wednesday’s game against the Medicine Hat Tigers.

The Rockets will play the Royals Friday and Saturday nights at Save On Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, then again in a holiday Monday matinee at Prospera Place. Face off is 2:05 p.m.

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