You Ready? The Kelowna Rockets are in their 27th year of existence since coming into the Western Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1991. After four seasons in Tacoma, the team relocated to Kelowna in 1995-96, where the team has spent the last 22 years in the Okanagan. The team has four WHL championships (2003, 2005, 2009, 2015) and have missed the playoffs only once in their existence. The hockey club has made four straight appearances in the Western Conference final and has registered 40 or more wins in five consecutive seasons. The team has 255 wins in 360 games over that stretch. That is an average of 16 losses per season over that last five years.
Rockets Review: The Rockets were 45-22-0-5 last season which was good for second place in the BC Division with 95 points, one fewer than division leading Prince George. The team had the 6th best winning percentage in the WHL while scoring the third most goals and allowing the fourth fewest goals against. The Rockets won 22 road games, the second most in the Western Conference behind only the Cougars (23). Kole Lind was the teams scoring champion (30+57=87) with Lind leading the team in assists (57) and MVP Calvin Thurkauf leading the charge with 33 goals. The hockey club made it all the way to the third round of the playoffs before eventually losing in 6 games to WHL champion Seattle.
Broadcasters Notebook: The Rockets boast one first round NHL draft pick and two second rounders. Cal Foote was chosen 14th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in June’s while Kole Lind (2nd round (33RD) Canucks - 2017) and Dillon Dube (2nd round (56th) Flames - 2016) were picked in the second round….Nolan Foote, last season’s rookie of the year, is not eligible to be drafted until June 2019….Dube played for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships last season…Rookie defenceman Libor Zabransky’s father played in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues…Zabransky played for the Czech Republic at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August. Nolan Foote was a member of the gold medal Canadian team…Rookie Kaeden Korczak was a Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League all-star last season with the Yorkton Maulers….Rookie Liam Kindree was the BC Major Midget Hockey League scoring champion last season with the Vancouver Northwest Giant (67 points in 40 games).
Who’s Gone? The team lost seven significant players following the 2016-2017 season. Calvin Thurkauf (33 goals and 70 points) is playing pro hockey with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Nick Merkley (63 points in 63 games) is playing pro with the Arizona Coyotes. Captain Rodney Southam graduated and is playing with the Acadia Axemen. Lucas Johansen is with the Washington Capitals organization while Reid Gardiner, acquired at last year’s trade deadline for a first round bantam pick, signed an American Hockey League deal with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Overage goaltender Michael Herringer is playing with the University of Regina Cougars (U Sports) this season.
Rockets Schedule: In the first half of the season, the Rockets play 19 of 34 games on the road. The longest road trip of the season is in early December when the team completes its bi-annual Eastern Conference road trip with stops in Regina, Brandon, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, PA and Saskatoon. In December the team plays a season high 8 games on the road. The longest home stand this season is just four games. The team plays three games in three nights only once (October 14th, 15th, 16th). The quirkiest part of the schedule is a lone trip to Calgary to face the Hitmen on January 7th
September: 3 games December: 11 games March: 8 games
October: 11 games January: 13 games
November: 12 games February: 14 games
NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).