Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets face the Prince George Cougars in a pair of games this weekend. This is the first of eight meetings between the two teams. The Rockets face the Cougars tomorrow night at the CN Centre before meeting next Friday at Prospera Place. In fact, four of the next five games for the Rockets are against their BC Division rivals. The Cougars make a return visit to Kelowna on October 30th. This is the first of two stops in Prince George this season for the defending WHL champions. The team makes another stop February 12th and 13th. The Rockets are coming off a 5-4 win Wednesday night over the Red Deer Rebels. Dillon Dube scored twice and added an assist in the team’s sixth victory of the season. Tyson Baillie, Gordie Ballhorn, Nick Merkley and Cal Foote each had two point games. Jackson Whistle earned the win in goal with the power play going 2 for 4.
Number Crunching: The Rockets started last season by opening up the 2014-2015 campaign with two games in Prince George, winning by scores of 7-2 and 8-2. The Rockets were 4-0-0-0 in Prince George last season by out-scored the Cougars 27-9. The Rockets have a record of 10-1-0-0 against the Cougars in their last 11 visits to CN Centre.
Who’s Hot: Justin Kirkland has goals in three of his last five games…Kirkland has points in five of his last seven games (3+3=6)…Calvin Thurkauf has goals in three of the last six games and has points in five of his last six games. Thurkauf has 3+4=7 over that stretch…Tomas Soustal has 6+5=11 this season. The second year forward had 8+10=18 in 65 games last season…Soustal has goals in two of his last four games…Dillon Dube has points in five of seven games this season…Tyson Baillie has three-three point games this season.
Milestone Makers: Rourke Chartier has played 195 career games, which is five short of 200….Cole Linaker plays in his 191st career game tonight which is 9 shy of 200…Nick Merkley has 151 career points after two assists on Wednesday vs. Red Deer….Merkley is playing in his 145th game which is 5 shy of 150…Riley Stadel is playing in his 195th career game this evening which is five shy of 200…Stadel has 94 career points.
This and That: The Rockets reduced their roster Wednesday by sending 20 year-old Gage Quinney to the Kamloops Blazers for a third round bantam pick….Rookie Kole Lind turns 17 today….Head Coach Brad Ralph blows out 35 candles on Saturday…Rookie defenceman Jonathan Smart has been selected by Hockey Canada to participate in the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John October 30th to November 7th...Riley Stadel has four fighting majors this season. Stadel had eight fighting majors last season….The Rockets next play three games in three nights January 29th, 30th and 31st with two of those three games on home ice…The Rockets play eight of their first 11 games on the road…Baillie‘s goal last Saturday in Red Deer was the 100th of his career….The Rockets had two players taken in the NHL draft. Nick Merkley was taken in the first round by Arizona. Devante Stephens was chosen in the 5th round by Buffalo…Cole Linaker (Oilers), Tomas Soustal (Flames) and Tyson Baillie (Flames) all received free agent tryouts…The Rockets were 3-2-0-0 in five games during the pre-season…The Rockets were shut-out at home last Friday for the first time since February 8/2012 when Seattle beat Kelowna 2-0 at Prospera Place. The team went 117 consecutive home games without being shut-out.
New Kids on the Block: The Kelowna Rockets named 34 year-old Brad Ralph as the head coach on August fourth. Ralph took over from Dan Lambert, who resigned at seasons end to take an assistant coaching position with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Ralph is the ninth head coach in Rockets franchise history after leaving the Idaho Steelheads after three seasons in the ECHL. On defense, the team welcomes 16 year-old Cal Foote, the son of former NHL’er Adam Foote. Foote was the team’s second round bantam pick in 2013 and his younger brother Nolan was the Rockets second round pick in this past May’s draft. The Rockets selected 18 year-old Swiss forward Calvin Thurkauf in this summer’s CHL Import draft. Other new faces include rookies Danny Gatenby (Joe’s younger brother) and 18 year-old Gordie Ballhorn, who played last season with the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines.