Since the third weekend of October, Prospera Place hasn’t been a particularly charitable environment for opponents of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets.
Jason Smith’s squad will be looking to run its home-ice unbeaten string to seven games Friday night when the Lethbridge Hurricanes pay their lone visit of the season to Kelowna.
For the first month of the 2017-18 season, the Rockets struggled to find their rhythm at home, winning just once (1-3-0-1) in their first five tries.
With six straight victories since on Prospera ice, Smith said the Rockets (11-6-2-1) are being rewarded for committing to more thorough, workmanlike efforts.
“It’s nice to win at home, we didn’t start the year off as well as we would have liked to here,” said Smith, the Rockets’ second year bench boss. “I think the guys have bunkered in and we’ve played some complete games. I think early in the year at home we played bits and parts of games.
“We’ve played better lately where we’ve played for close to 60 minutes,” he added, “or as much of that as we need to to win the game.”
In the Hurricanes (7-10-1-0), the Rockets will see a scaled down version of last year’s 44-win team, one that no longer features the likes of all-star Tyler Wong (109 points) and defenseman Brennan Menell (71 points).
Still, Smith said underestimating Lethbridge would be a mistake.
“It’s another challenge for us,” Smith said. “They’re obviously a team that’s gone through a little bit of change, but they compete and they skate and they’ve got a really good goaltender (Stuart Skinner). We’re going to have to make sure we’re focused, ready to play and playing as five guys on the ice.”
On Wednesday night, the Rockets made it 3-for-3 on their current homestand with a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings.
While veterans Dillon Dube and Carsen Twarynski scored twice each to lead the charge, Smith said the win was largely the result of another full team effort.
“I think the positive thing (against Edmonton) was every line had some opportunities in the O-zone, they were competing and moving the puck around,” Smith said. “When you get contributions from your whole lineup it gives you an opportunity to have success.”
James Porter stopped 21 Edmonton shots in the Rockets’ net to record his fourth straight win and eighth of the season.
The Rockets will be in Vancouver Saturday to take on the Giants, then will head to Spokane for their first meeting of the season against Dan Lambert’s Chiefs on Wednesday night.
Kelowna’s next home action is Saturday, Nov. 25 vs Medicine Hat.