Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open their 22nd season in the WHL tonight with a date in Kamloops against the Blazers. The Rockets are celebrating their 18th season in Kelowna after spending four years in Tacoma, Washington. This is one of ten meetings between these two teams this season. The Rockets host the Blazers tomorrow night at Prospera Place before the two teams meet against November 1st in Kamloops. In eight meetings with the Blazers last season the Rockets were 3-4-1-0. Six of the eight games were decided by a single goal. The Rockets were out-scored 30-24 in the eight games. The start of the schedule isn’t easy for the Rockets, who play 11 of their first 16 games on the road.
Last Year’s Facts: The Rockets finished 6th in the Western Conference last season with a record of 31-31-4-6. The Rockets won 16 games at home and 15 games on the road last season. The Rockets scored the 6th fewest goals of the 22 teams in the WHL with 217. Only Red Deer, Swift Current, Everett, Seattle and Prince George scored fewer times. For a second straight season, Shane McColgan led the team in scoring (18+46=64). Brett Bulmer led the team in goals (34) while McColgan led the team in assists (46). Bulmer was named the team’s MVP while Mitchell Chapman picked up the team’s top defenceman award.
The Rockets were eliminated in four games in the opening round by the Portland Winter Hawks.
New Faces Emerge: The Kelowna Rockets were one of the most active teams, obtaining players before the puck dropped on the 2012-2013 season. The Rockets acquired two 20 year-old players in separate deals last Thursday. J.T Barnett was acquired from the Everett Silvertips off waivers while Dylen McKinlay was picked up from the Kootenay Ice for a 5th round bantam pick. Goaltender Jackson Whistle was acquired from Vancouver for a third round bantam pick. Ryan Olsen was picked up in the Shane McColgan/Jessey Astles deal.
Rookie Watch: The Rockets will ice a team consisting of three 16 year olds this season. Rourke Chartier was the teams 1st round pick in the 2011 WHL bantam draft. Austin Glover was taken in the second round while defenceman Riley Stadel was a 3rd round pick. Glover and Stadel played a few games with the team last season as 15 year-olds. Eighteen year-old Swedish born forward Henrik Nyberg fills one European spot. Defenceman Mitch Wheaton joined the team after entertaining several offers from high profile U.S colleges. Wheaton, 17, was the Rockets 10th round pick in 2010.
Leaving the Nest: Cody Chikie, Adam Brown and Brett Lyon are no longer with the team. All three were 20 year-olds last season. Chikie is attending school in Lethbridge and playing with the Pronghorns while Brown is expected to spend the season in the ECHL with the Colorado Eagles. Lyon signed a contract with the Orlando Solar Bears. Shane McColgan was traded to the Saskatoon Blades along with Jessey Astles June 2nd for 18 year-old forward Ryan Olsen. Brett Bulmer will play pro hockey this season as a 20 year-old while overage forward Spencer Main retired after suffering a series of concussions. Tanner Moar, who played in 65 games as a rookie, was traded to Vancouver on Monday.
Who’s Hot: For a second straight pre-season, Tyson Baillie led the team in scoring. Baillie had 3+3=6, which was one point better than Austin Ferguson 2+3=5. The Rockets were 2-2-0-2 in pre-season, out-scoring the opposition 20-18.
This and That: The Rockets were involved in a whopping 37-one goal games last season…The Rockets were 2-2-0-2 in six pre-season games, scoring 18 goals and surrendering 18 goals…Tyson Baillie led the team in pre-season scoring for a second straight season….J.T Barnett attended the New Jersey Devils development camp along with Damon Severson in July…Ryan Huska is entering his 6th season as head coach of the Kelowna Rockets. He becomes the longest serving coach in franchise history, surpassing the five seasons that Marcel Comeau was behind the bench of the Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets from 1991-1992 until 1995…Last season the Rockets opened on the road with a 5-4 shootout win in Everett….Eight of the Rockets first 11 games to start the season are against teams in the BC Division…Goaltender Jordon Cooke has appeared in three games in Kamloops over his two year career. All three have been in a relief appearance for Adam Brown. Cooke has stopped 39 of 40 shots he’s faced…Defencemen Madison Bowey and Mitch Wheaton have been identified by NHL Central Scouting. In a preliminary rating system, Bowey is rated as a ‘B’ prospect (2nd to 4th round) while Wheaton is rated as a ‘C’ prospect (4th to 7th round).