|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
Game Day Preview: Welcome to the playoffs. The Kelowna Rockets are making their 11th straight appearance in the WHL post season. The team has missed only once in franchise history. The Rockets have appeared in four straight Western Conference finals. The Portland Winterhawks were able to reach the WCF five times between 2011 and 2015. These two teams met four times during the regular season, with the Rockets going 2-1-1-0. While separated by only 8 points in the Western Conference standings, the two teams allowed the exact same number of goals (249). The Rockets are facing the Americans in the opening round for the second time in three years. In 2015, the Rockets eliminated the Americans in four games on their way to winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Dillon Dube has the most playoff experience with 54 games under his belt. Dube has 14+25=39 in those 54 playoff games. Dube is the only remaining member of the 2015 WHL championship team.
Battle on the blue-line: This series features four-first round NHL draft picks, with three residing on the blue line. Cal Foote, a first round selection of Tampa Bay anchors the Rockets defensive core. The Americans are highlited by Jusso Valamaki, a first round pick of the Calgary Flames. Joining Valamaki is Jake Bean, a first round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s don’t forget Gordie Ballhorn and Dylan Coghlan either. Both had terrific seasons and will make some noise both defensively and offensively in this series.
Award Winners: Captain Cal Foote was named the MVP and Top Defenceman in 2017-2018. Foote collected 19+51=70, which was two points shy of the franchise record of 72 points set by Tyson Barrie in 2009-2010. Foote is a two time recipient of the Top Defenceman award, joining the likes of Damon Severson, Gavin McLeod, Tyson Barrie and Luke Schenn, who have also won it twice. Scott Hannan won it a franchise record three times. Gordie Ballhorn was the Unsung Hero and Top +/- winner. Ballhorn shared the Humanitarian award with Carsen Twarynski. Twarynski was named the Most Improved player while Leif Mattson was the Most Sportsmanlike player. Connor Bruggen-Cate was voted the Top Defensive forward. The Rookie of the Year was Kaedan Korczak.
Bring in the recruits: The team has called up affiliated players Dallon Wilton and Cayde Augustine. Wilton is from Beausejour, Manitoba and was a third round bantam pick from 2016. Wilton had a great season with the Eastman Selects scoring 25 goals, collecting 27 assists for a 52 point season in only 48 games in the Manitoba Midget Hockey League. A big boy, the 16 year-old Wilton stands 6’2 and weighs 215 pounds. Augustine, from Airdrie, is a 6’2, 220 pound 16 year-old defenceman who played three games with the Rockets earlier this season.
Broadcasters Notebook: This is the 7th time these two teams have met in the WHL playoffs. The last time was 2015, when the Rockets eliminated the Americans in four straight games…Cal Foote was named the Western Conference nominee for Defenceman of the Year. Foote will go up against Kale Clague of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the league award. The last Rockets player to win WHL Defenceman of the year was Tyson Barrie in 2009-2010….Foote was also named a Western Conference First Team All-Star while teammate Dillon Dube was named a Second Team Western Conference All-Star….Dube has the most playoff experience of anyone in the WHL post season. The 19 year-old has played 54 playoff games, which includes a WHL championship in 2015 and three appearances in the Western Conference final.
Player total: 25
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3 Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager
19’s (1998) - 5 Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6 Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 9 Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2 Korczak, Basran
NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017 - Signed), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016 - Signed), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016 - Signed), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).
Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150