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Rockets ready for stiff challenge in conference champion Cougars

Tall order for Rockets

The Kelowna Rockets face a tall order as they get set for their second round WHL playoff series.

That tall order - the Western Conference champion Prince George Cougars.

The team with the number two ranked offence and defence in the league over the regular season will have waited 10 days for the arrival of the second round after dispatching of Spokane in four straight.

The Rockets meantime needed six games before eliminating the Wenatchee Wild this past Sunday.

The Rockets caused some of their own misfortune throughout stretches of the opening round series, relying on goaltender Jari Kykkanen to bail them out on numerous occasions.

"There are no surprises there," said Rockets head coach Kris Mallette after Sunday's 4-2 series clinching win over the Wild.

"If we want to turn pucks over, they are an extremely good transition team. If we want to take penalties their power play is unbelievable."

For the Rockets to have success, they will need Jari Kykkanen to continue his impressive play and the offence to get contributions from the big four of Iginla, Cristall, Szturc and Price.

Iginla (11 points), Cristall (11 points) and Price (nine points) lead the scoring race of those left in the playoffs.

And while Kykkanen is eighth among the eight starters left in the post season, 13 of the 18 goals he has allowed came in the two games the Rockets lost to Wenatchee. He allowed just five in the team's four victories.

The Cougars tandem of rookie Joshua Ravensbergen and Ty Young have a combined 2.25 goals against average through their first four games.

The Rockets had some success against the Cougars over the course of the regular season finish with a 2-4-2-0 record over eight games.

However one of those wins did come in a shootout.

The last two meetings ended in identical 6-5 overtime wins by the Cougars.

"We played them hard all year and they are definitely a good hockey club but we have a certain level of confidence especially after winning a series like this," said Cristall.

"We are going to try and go into Prince George and slay the dragon."

The series opens this weekend with games one and two Friday and Saturday in Prince George. Games three and four are set for Prospera Place next Tuesday and Wednesday.



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