If the Kelowna Rockets and Prince George Cougars didn’t know each other’s tendencies inside out when the season began, there are no excuses now.
The Rockets and Cougars are about to meet for the fourth time in a two-week span when the B.C. Division rivals face off in WHL action Friday night at Prospera Place.
And while familiarity may breed contempt—or in some cases monotony—Rockets’ head coach Brad Ralph said seeing the same opponents four times in the last five games isn’t all bad.
“It’s good from a coaching perspective because the work is already done, there’s no more pre-scouting to be done, no mysteries about the team you’re playing,” said Ralph. “We know the (Cougars) are a good hockey team and how they play.
“It’s a challenge to be ready every night, regardless of who you’re playing, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be seeing the same team.”
The Rockets (9-4-0-0) have won two of the first three meetings between the teams this season, including a 5-2 verdict last Friday in Kelowna.
Over-age forward Cole Linaker said seeing the Cougars yet again simply adds fuel to the long-standing rivalry.
“It reminds a bit of a playoff series, tempers might start to flare a little, seeing the same guys so much,” said Linaker, 20. “They’re coming out hard for sure, like every team that comes in here, we have a target on our backs. The (Cougars) want to come in here and take something, we want to stop them from doing that.”
On Saturday, the Rockets will close out a four-game home stand against the Lethbridge Hurrricanes.
With their Central Division opponents off to a torrid 10-2-0-0 start, Ralph expects the Rockets will have their hands full.
“They’re young and energetic, they play hard and they play fast,” Ralph said of the Hurricanes. “They’d be a handful for anyone. We’ll have to be disciplined and stay out of the penalty, not give them any more chances than we have to.”
Game time both Friday and Saturday at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.
Chartier sidelined vs Russians
Centre Rourke Chartier will be kept out of the 2015 Canada-Russia series game Nov. 9 in Kelowna due to injury.
The 19-year-old forward suffered an upper body injury on the team’s season opening road trip to Alberta and remains out of the Rockets line-up on a week-to-week basis.
“We want to be cautious with Rourke’s return to the line-up and the injury will keep him out of the Team WHL line-up for the Canada-Russia series,” said Rockets’ president and GM Bruce Hamilton.
Chartier and Nick Merkley were named to the team for the Nov. 9 game in Kelowna, the first of the six-game series between the CHL and Team Russia.
No captain yet
Thirteen games into the Western Hockey League season, the Rockets have yet to name a captain.
And head coach Brad Ralph says there’s no rush to appoint one.
“As of right now, it’s leadership by committee,” Ralph said. “We have a lot of leaders, there’s no urgency to single one guy out. We might go the whole year this way, we’ll see how it shakes out.”
Tyson Baillie, Cole Linaker, Rourke Chartier and Rodney Southam currently serve as the team’s assistant captains.
Linaker said the absence of a designated captain is of little importance to him or his teammates.
“We all consider ourselves leaders, there are a lot more guys who lead on this team than just two or three,” said Linaker. “Whether or not the coaches pick one doesn’t really matter. The captaincy will take care of itself.”