Rockets Start 3 Game Stretch

The Rockets will start a stretch of 3 games in 3 nights on Friday when they host the Kamloops Blazers. After the game, it's onto the bus and off to Portland for a rematch with the Winter Hawks on Saturday (Portland knocked off the Rockets 6-3 last weekend at Prospera Place) followed by a meeting with the Silvertips in Everett on Sunday.

The Rockets are anything but pleased with their start to the 2005-06 season after splitting a pair of home games last weekend. On Friday, Justin Keller scored the only goal of the shootout to give Kelowna a victory over the Giants. But 4 unanswered Portland goals on Saturday erased a 3-2 Kelowna lead and sent the Hawks to victory.

"We were very poor in our own zone on Saturday," said forward Troy Bodie. "We had guys getting beat out of the corner and guys trying to do everyone else's job instead of their own."

"Overall, I didn't think we played very well at all in either game," continues the 20-year-old winger who'll be wearing the Captain's 'C' while Tyler Spurgeon recovers from shoulder surgery. "We were very poor structurally and I don't know if that's due to the fact that we've got a lot of new faces or what. But, we definitely weren't at our best."

"Saturday, we had a few mental breakdowns," agreed Keller on Sunday. "But today we had a good practice and went over our defensive zone coverage. We're a team that's prided ourselves in our defensive play the last several seasons and we've got to make sure we look after our own zone first. If we do that, we'll get the chances offensively."

As Bodie alluded to, there are 9 new faces on the roster, eight of whom saw action in either of the first two games. What's more, the Rockets' trademark fast break offense bogged down repeatedly as their defense was forechecked effectively. The absence of the red line this year also has the club tinkering with its defensive system.

"Offensively, our systems don't change without the red line," says Bodie. "But our defensive game has to be different in order to stop teams from taking advantage of the two line pass."

"I played without a red line when I was with Penticton in the BCHL," says Keller. "It stretches out the neutral zone and gives that added chance of a breakaway. For sure, it pushes the defense back."

Meanwhile, the Blazers are off to a 2-1 start and will be coming off a 4-2 win over Seattle at home on Wednesday night. Forwards Kris Versteeg and Reid Jorgensen are both off on the right foot offensively and have each picked up 6 points in the 3 games. Devan Dubnyk is back from the Oilers' camp and hopes to add some consistency to his often spectacular play in goal. If he does that, he'll be among the top goalies in the league this year and a candidate for Team Canada at the 2006 World Juniors.

The Rockets welcomed back Blake Comeau from the New York Islanders' training camp this week and he'll suit up Friday. Kyle Cumiskey will likely remain out with a back injury. Spurgeon and Lauris Darzins are both out until December.

More WHL articles