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Kelowna Rockets full of confidence heading into playoff series with Seattle

Rockets up for challenge

Not many people outside the Kelowna Rockets dressing room are giving them much of a chance in their first round Western Hockey League playoff series.

The Rockets, who needed a late season surge to snag the final Western Conference playoff spot, will take on the heavily-favoured Seattle Thunderbirds in the opening round of the playoffs beginning Friday in Seattle.

The T-Birds captured the Western Conference regular season title with 54 wins, twice as many as the 27 posted by the Rockets. Their 111 points were 53 better than the Rockets.

But, the underdog label is one veteran forward Adam Kydd says the team is embracing.

"You've got nothing to lose. We can play without worries, play our game, play our style, how we want to," said Kydd following a spirited two-hour practice Tuesday.

"People might be overlooking us going into the series. It's definitely exciting, it fuels the room. It's a new season, everyone has got the same record, so anything can happen."

The T-Birds roster is loaded with 10 NHL draft choices including five taken in the first round. They also six players, including former Rocket Colton Dach, who helped helped Canada win a gold medal at the World Junior championships over the Christmas break.

"They have a lot of depth top to bottom offensively. Our players, I alluded to it the discipline aspect has to be a very big focus for our group," said Rockets head coach Kris Mallette.

"We have to play them as a five man unit. We are not going to out skill them so our game plan is somewhere along the lines of lets not try and be too fancy lets make real good puck decisions and if we do that I really like our chances."

The T-Birds mortgaged a good chunk of their future to assemble the group they have.

And while Mallette agrees the team is built to win, he is also confident in his room which has been essentially been in playoff mode the last month.

"I am very confident with our group from goaltending to our defence and our forward group as well. It will come down to who can play the best team game overall.

"I think our group is coming along very nicely at the right time. Our kids really care for each other so anything can happen at that point."

The Rockets and Thunderbirds met four times during the regular season and, while Seattle won all four, each was close with the T-Birds winning 5-4, 4-2, 4-1 and 2-0.

With the first two games on the road, Mallette agrees it's important to get off to a good start in a rowdy building.

"They are going to be chanting how bad we are like every time we're in there. But our guys have to play within it and try and take that crowd out of it as early as possible. The last couple of times we've been there we've been a little behind the eight ball and that just builds to the momentum.

"If we can nullify that and play with confidence, don't get caught up in the hype and just play a great road game I really, really like our chances."

Discipline will play a big part in getting off on the right foot.

"Discipline is going to be a huge part of this series, special teams could be a deciding factor," said Kydd entering his final junior playoff.

"We feel good about our penalty kill and power play right now so we're going to have to come up big when it counts."



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