Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to a new season of Kelowna Rockets hockey! The Rockets organization is celebrating their 15th season in Kelowna, after re-locating from Tacoma for the start of the 1995-1996 season. Tonight the Rockets open the 2009-2010 Western Hockey League regular season against the Vancouver Giants. These two teams are meeting for the first time since the Western Conference final, a series the Rockets won in 6 games. The Rockets and Giants will meet eight times this season (4 at home – 4 on the road). Following tonight’s game, these two teams meet October 9th in Vancouver.
A Special Moment: Before tonight’s game the Rockets will celebrate the accomplishments of the 2008-2009 season as they raise to the rafters a Western Conference championship banner and a Western Hockey League championship banner. The Rockets captured their 3rd league title in franchise history last season with a six game series win over the Eastern Conference champion Calgary Hitmen. The Rockets also won league titles in 2003 and 2005.
By the Numbers: The Rockets are playing their 1009th regular season game tonight based in the city of Kelowna. The Rockets played their 1000th regular season game against the Rebels in Red Deer February 27/09. Tonight’s game is the Rockets 505th regular season game in Kelowna. The Rockets are celebrating their 19th season as a franchise after being granted an expansion team for the start of the 1991-92 campaign. Tonight’s game is #1297 in Rockets history (Tacoma/Kelowna combined).
Home Opener Success: Last season the Rockets were a 5-4 winner over the Kamloops Blazers in the team’s home opener. The Rockets have opened the season at home against the Giants before. It was back on September 23/05 when the Rockets earned a 3-2 win. Since the start of the 2000-2001 season, the Rockets are 4-3-1-0 with a tie in nine home openers.
Who’s Gone: The Rockets lose several key players to graduation following the 2008-2009 season. Twenty year-olds Ian Duval, Ryley Grantham and defenceman Tysen Dowzak are no longer with the team while Jamie Benn, Mikael Backlund and Cody Almond have all signed pro contracts and will not return this season. As of tonight’s game, the Rockets are missing their top five playoff point getters from last season. Tyler Myers is in that group, yet can return to the Rockets this season if he fails to earn a spot this season as a 19 year-old with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Outside of overager Tysen Dowzak, the Rockets return their entire defensive core, including goaltenders Mark Guggenberger and Adam Brown.
What’s New: The Rockets will dress no less than two 16 year-olds this season in Shane McColgan and MacKenzie Johnston. McColgan was the Rockets first round pick in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft while Johnston was listed by the team following a tryout two seasons ago. McColgan played four regular season games with the Rockets as a 15 year-old last season and then joined the team for the playoffs, dressing in an additional four games. The Rockets also welcome a new assistant coach to head skipper Ryan Huska. Dan Lambert has joined the staff after the departure of Jeff Finley, who took a job as a scout with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.
Lucas Bloodoff: Game 97 tonight – 3 shy of 100 for career
Kyle St. Denis: Game 91 tonight – 9 shy of 100 for career
Brandon McMillan: Game 197 tonight – 3 shy of 200 for career
Collin Bowman: Game 142 tonight – 8 shy of 150
Tyson Barrie – Game 140 tonight – 98 career points
Colin Long – 223 career points in 229 career games.
Refreshing Your Memory: The Rockets were third in the Western Conference last season with 98 points. The team was 47-21-1-3, and finished just three points back of the Tri City Americans for 2nd in the conference. The Rockets won 28 times and home and 19 times on the road. The Rockets rode an 8 game winning streak into the playoffs, where they beat Kamloops (4 straight) in round one, Tri City (6 games), Vancouver (6 games) and Calgary (6 games) to win the league title for the 3rd time. The Rockets played 22 playoff games last spring, just two shy of the team record of 24 set during the 2004-2005 playoffs.
Notes compiled by Regan Bartel - AM 1150