Game Day Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open their 25th season in the Okanagan tonight against the visiting Spokane Chiefs. The Rockets are celebrating their silver anniversary after re-locating from Tacoma, Washington to Kelowna for the start of the 1995-1996 season. This is the first time in 8 seasons that the Rockets haven’t opened the regular season against division rival Kamloops. The last time the Rockets opened the season against a team other than Kamloops was September 24, 2011 vs. the Everett Silvertips. The Rockets won the game 5-4 in a shootout. The last time the Rockets opened the season at home to the Spokane Chiefs was way back on September 20, 1996 in a 4-3 overtime loss. Current Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette played in that game and wore sweater #5. The game was played at Memorial Arena in front of a crowd of 18 hundred and 49 people. The game took 3 hours and 3 minutes to play. The Rockets were 1-2-1-0 against the Chiefs last season, with a 4-3 shootout victory, a 6-5 overtime loss and a 5-4 and 4-0 regulation time loss. After tonight, the Rockets are in Kamloops next Friday to face the Blazers.
Welcome back! The team essentially welcomes back 17 of the 22 players that wore a Rockets jersey last season. That includes 5 of the teams’ top 6 scorers in Kyle Topping, Leif Mattson, Nolan Foote, Liam Kindree and Kaedan Korczak. Topping led the team with 69 points while Mattson and Foote collected 63 points apiece. Foote led the team in goals with 36. The team said farewell to 20 year-old’s Schael Higson, Dalton Gally and Matt Barberis. The team also parted ways with Lassi Thomson, Conner Bruggen-Cate and Ted Brennan. Adam Foote returns as head coach for his first full season behind the bench with Kris Mallette and Vernon Fiddler as his assistants. Fiddler was added to the staff on July 3rd.
Broadcasters Notebook: The Rockets play 4 of their opening 8 games against teams based in the U.S Division….Nolan Foote was selected in the opening round (27th overall) of the NHL Draft in June by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Foote joins his older brother Cal, who was chosen 17th overall by the Lightning in 2017….Foote attended Hockey Canada’s Summer Development Camp, collecting 2+4=6 in four exhibition games....Kaedan Korczak was chosen in the second round of the NHL Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights….Newly acquired forward Dillon Hamaliuk was selected in the second round by the San Jose Sharks. Hamaliuk was acquired in a trade with Seattle back in May….Jake Lee received a free-agent tryout with the Sharks, attending the teams rookie camp….Leif Mattson and Kyle Topping attended the rookie camp of the Carolina Hurricanes…19 year-old d-man Sean Comrie received an invite to Philadelphia Flyers rookie camp which led to an invite to main camp…On May 2, 2019 the team acquired Dillon Hamaliuk, Jake Lee and goaltender Cole Schwebius from Seattle for the Rockets 10th overall pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, a 2nd round pick in 2021, a first round selection 2022 and Conner Bruggen-Cate. Hamaliuk and Lee were members of the 2017 WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds…The team will start the season with three-20 year-old’s after obtaining d-man Carson Sass from the Tri City Americans September 11th for a 10th round WHL bantam pick. Sass has played the majority of his career with the Red Deer Rebels…The team will have two-16 year-old’s on its roster this season. Trevor Wong, the Rockets 1st round bantam pick from (18th overall) 2018 is joined by 16 year-old blueliner Elias Carmichael. Carmichael was the teams 2nd round pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft…The Rockets welcome Czech Republic forward Pavel Novak to the team this season. Novak was chosen 13th overall in the opening round of June’s CHL Import Draft. Novak played recently for his country at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, helping the Czech Republic to a 5th place finish...Back on October 3rd, the Rockets were awarded the host site for the 2020 Kia Memorial Cup, beating out bids from Kamloops and Lethbridge. The Memorial Cup will be held at Prospera Place May 22nd to 31st and will represent the 102nd edition of the Canadian Hockey League national championship.
Did you know? Vernon Fiddler played 203 games with the Rockets between 1997 and 2000 before being traded to Medicine Hat in his 20 year-old season….Fiddler played close to 800 NHL games with Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas and New Jersey…..Prospera Place celebrated its 20th birthday on August 28th. It was August 28, 1999 that the facility opened its doors to its first official event, a rock concert with Canadian alternative band – Moist....The team had a record of 2-3-0-1 in six pre-season games. Kyle Crosbie led the team in scoring with 4+1=5 in 6 games. Liam Kindree (2=2+4), Alex Swetlikoff (2+2=4) and rookie Jake Poole (0+4=4) each collected four points in the exhibition seasn….Last season the Rockets were 28-32-6-2 and were just edged out by the Kamloops Blazers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.