The Okanagan Rockets head to Vancouver this weekend to take on the Vancouver NW Giants.
In years past, this match-up has typically represented a 1st place show-down, this year however both the Giants and Rockets have some work to do in an effort to get back into the race for 1st place overall.
With both clubs looking up to see the Cariboo Cougars running away with things in the overall standings, this weekend takes on a little bit of a different meaning, although that doesn't mean the games are any less important.
The Rockets are in 2nd place with an overall record of 17-6-1, good for 35 points, five more than the North West Giants who sit in 4th with an overall record of 15-7-0. The Giants do hold a pair of games in hand on the Rockets.
"The last 10 games or so versus the Giants have always had major meaning" said Rockets general manager David Michaud. "It seems 1'st place was always on the line when we met, and of course the BCMML championship falls in there as well. There is a little different feeling to this weekend, but at the same time we know just how valuable the points are going to be for our club."
The Rockets and Giants find themselves 8 and 13 points behind the Cougars respectively.
To complicate matters further for the Rockets, they head into the weekend missing key members of their club.
Both Lucas Cullen and Nolan Kneen will be away with Team BC as they prepare for the Canada Winter Games in 2015, and Jordan Reynolds the clubs 17 year old net minder will join the West Kelowna Warriors of the BCHL for a home-and-home set with the Penticton Vees. Brett Witala meanwhile will miss Saturday's game with a one-game suspension before returning on Sunday.
"It's not ideal to be loosing key members of our club, but we also aren't the kind of club that makes a whole bunch of excuses. Nobody will feel sorry for us that we are missing some bodies, and besides, we feel confident that the players we are bringing in will help our club and gain some big experience this weekend."
The Rockets have called up 99 born Spencer Hora from the Tier 1 Midget Rockets to take Kneen's spot on the blue line, and 98 born forward Jordan Todd from West Kelowna to fill in for Cullen. Todd has already chipped in a goal for the Rockets earlier in the season.
Filling in for Reynolds in goal is 1999 born goaltender Brody Greggain, also of West Kelowna. Greggain had a great camp with the Rockets after attending the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings camp. It is expected that Cole Demers will get the call in both games for the Rockets this weekend.
This weekends games will be the Rockets final games before the Christmas break, however it's far from a break for both clubs. Both the Giants and Rockets will be participating in the annual Mac's Midget Tournament in Calgary over the holidays. The Rockets open tournament action on Boxing day against the Calgary Buffaloes.