Friday, September 26, 2014

Rockets face Cougars

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open the road portion of their 2014-2015 schedule with a stop in Prince George to face the Cougars. This is the first of four games at CN Centre for the defending BC Division champions. The Rockets make a return visit November 14th and 15th. Last season the Rockets were 3-1-0-0 in Prince George, out-scoring the Cougars 16-11. Overall, the Rockets are 11-1-0-0 in their last 12 appearances at the CN Centre dating back to the start of the 2011-2012 campaign. The Cougars make four separate visits to Kelowna on December 5th, December 30th, January 3rd and February 9th. The Rockets next home game is Wednesday October 1st against the Vancouver Giants. The Rockets opened the season last Saturday with a 6-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers. Kris Schmidli and Tyson Baillie each had a goal and two assists in the win. Jackson Whistle made 32 saves and was named the first star.       

This and That: This is the first time since the 2001-2002 season that the Rockets have been the opposition in the Cougars home opener. The date was September 25th, 2001 when the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie…Did you know that the first ever goal scored in Kelowna’s arena, known now as Prospera Place, came against the Prince George Cougars? Nolan Yonkman scored the goal on opening night in September of 1999…The Rockets are playing ten of their first 16 games on the road….The Rockets are playing back-to-back games this weekend for the first time this season. The team will play on back-to-back night’s 22 times this season… Last season the team missed the services of Damon Severson for the first two games of the regular season. Severson was attending the training camp of the New Jersey Devils…Kris Schmidli scored his first goal of the season Saturday night in the team’s home opener. Last season it took him 13 games to score his first goal of the season. …Last season Colton Heffley had just 1 goal in his fist 15 games…  The Rockets season opening crowd at Prospera Place was 5 thousand 235. Last season the team drew 5 thousand 384 patrons to its home opener. 

NHL Central Scouting Speaks: Kelowna Rockets Nick Merkley, Joe Gatenby and Tomas Soustal have made NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary list of ‘players to watch’ for next June’s NHL draft. Merkley is rated an ‘A’ prospect, which means scouts believe he will be taken in the opening round. Gatenby and Soustal are ‘C’ rated prospects meaning they could be chosen anywhere from the 4th to 6th round. The NHL draft is next summer in Philadelphia.        

Banner Raiser: The Kelowna Rockets raised two banners high to the rafters at Prospera Place Saturday night. The team won the Western Conference regular season title with 118 points last season, which was five points better than the Portland Winterhawks. It is the Rockets first WHL regular season banner since 2003-2004. The team also won the BC Division title last season with an 18 point advantage over the Victoria Royals. It is the third BC Division banner in four years. The team has won BC Division banners in 2010-2011, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014.   

Rockets Review: The Rockets set franchise records for wins (57) points (118) and road wins (29) last season. The teams overall record was 57-11-4-0. The club was able to score 310 goals which was one of only two teams to accomplish that feat. The Rockets were 28-4-0-0 on home ice. After a successful regular season, the Rockets eliminated the Tri City Americans in five games in round one before dispatching of Seattle in four games in round two. In the Western Conference final against Portland, the Rockets were eliminated in five games. Myles Bell led the team in goals (42) and points (77) while Damon Severson led the team in assists (46). Madison Bowey set a new team record for goals by a defenceman (21). Cole Martin led the WHL in +/- with a plus 61.

Back for More: The Rockets return 18 players from last year’s team. Captain Madison Bowey anchors the blue line while Justin Kirkland, Nick Merkley, Tyson Baillie and Rourke Chartier return to put the puck in the net. The team does lose its top three point getters in Bell (77), Ryan Olsen (64) and Damon Severson (61). Marek Tvrdon also graduated after a deadline deal in January. Jordon Cooke is now attending the U of S and will play with the Huskies. Jackson Whistle returns after playing a back-up role to the CHL goalie of the year. Whistle played in 22 games last season and won 18 times. Tyrell Goulbourne, Colton Heffley, Cole Martin and Carter Rigby are fighting for three overage spots.   

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