Monday, April 5, 2021
|Shoot the Breeze Photo|
Kelowna Rockets General Manager speaking exclusively to AM 1150 following several positive cases of COVID-19 last week involving players and coaches.
"The COVID came into us through a member of the hockey operations staff which is on the coaching side of it. Unfortunately, it was brought in through their and spread. These players have done everything we have asked them to do in guarding against it. The billets have been remarkable."
A staff member tested positive last Tuesday with two coaches and four players getting COVID a day later.
"It looks like what we will do (once allowed to play again) is pick up what was left in the regular season and then make up a couple of games in the gaps, but their just aren't many gaps when you are playing 24 games in 48 days", Hamilton added.
Those who avoided COVID-19 last week will be tested today, with results expected on Tuesday.
If all goes well, the team is hoping to be back on the ice to resume their schedule on Saturday April 17th.
"Interior Health has been unbelievable. They have communicated with the players that has been basically in lockdown and the coaches and players that have been sick, so they have done and great job and we just need to follow the line and do what we are suppose to do like everyone else," Hamilton said.
Monday, March 29, 2021
|Tristen Nielsen - Shoot the Breeze photo|
- Can someone explain to me why Tristen Nielsen is back in the WHL for his 20 year-old season? The Vancouver Giants forward is simply dominating. Undrafted, Nielsen is obviously using this platform to remind NHL scouts that he indeed has the potential to play pro hockey next season - should he choose. In a 6-0 win over the Kelowna Rockets Sunday night in Kamloops, Nielsen was the best player on the ice. Playing determined hockey, the G-Men's leading scorer from last season found the back of the net three times and assisted on two other goals in the lopsided win. A 30 goal scorer last season, Nielsen has four goals in the Hub. If he keep this pace up, and plays in all 24 games, he will end up finding the back of the net 30 times in just 15 games. Realistically, he won't be able to keep up that pace, but heck, he is arguably one of the better older players participating in this abbreviated season.
- What we learned last night in Kamloops was the Giants older players made a major impact. All three 20 year-old's were not innocent bystanders. Alex Kannok Leipert was solid and played hard. Nielsen was electric and Eric Florchuk was consistently good. Justin Sourdif had a three assist game and was also noticeable. Clearly on this night, the Giants top end players were better than the Rockets top end guys.
- Before we get too excited, one day looking like a world beater and the next game looking like a has-been will happen. We've seen it several times out East, where a team is hammered one night and then bounces back and looks completely different the next. It's about making quick adjustments, but it is also about having what the coaches call a 'short memory' from game to game. Don't get too high when you win and don't get too low when you lose.
- It is hard to determine who was good in a lopsided loss. I will say Turner McMillen stood out for me. The rookie had a grade A scoring chance in the second period and just missed. I also thought Steel Quiring was noticeable. The 18 year-old had a team high three shots on net and led the team with 19 face-offs taken. That said, both players were on the ice for three goals against. I liked Jake Lee. Lee was involved in a second period scrap. I just think he plays a calm game out there and his poise with the puck is improved.
- After the Rockets d-score had an impressive 15 shots on net in a 5-0 win over Victoria on Friday, the blue-line could muster only 6 shots on Giants goaltender Trent Miner. The reason? While the Giants did a better job of getting into shooting lanes, they also had the puck more.
- While the Giants have lost Bowen Byram to the NHL, is his replacement 15 year-old Mazden Leslie? A first round bantam pick from 2020, Leslie scored twice in his WHL debut. His first career goal was the result of joining the rush, while his second goal was a bit of a softy that was on the ice that Rockets goaltender Roman Basran overplayed. A memorable night for him regardless. Watch this player closely. In a couple of years, if not sooner, he will providing headaches for opponents every time they see #47 out on the ice. A cold sweet would occur every time Bowen Byram's #44 was seen carrying the puck.
- Ex-Rockets forward Dallon Wilton had a memorable game. The 19 year-old picked up an assist against his old team and had a breakaway where he almost scored, but was shutdown by the blocker of Basran. Wilton was acquired on waivers by the G-Men when the Rockets let him go.
- The Giants allowed the fourth fewest goals against in the WHL last season, so shutting out the Rockets shouldn't come as a surprise. They are typically fairly clean in their own zone. Head Coach Mike Dyck wouldn't stand for anything less.
- Last season the Giants shut out the Rockets 4-0 in the second road game of the season. 4-0 was the final score. The game was played at the Langley Events Centre.
- When was the last time the Rockets were shut out in their first road game of the season? It happened October 1st, 2010 in a 1-0 setback against the Tri City Americans. Drew Owsley made 34 saves in the victory.
- Nice to see WHL VP Richard Doerksen at both games over the weekend. Always a friendly smile, even though I couldn't see it through the mask he was wearing.
- A great setup in Kamloops as one of two Hubs in the BC Division. No complaints. Visually the arena looks great despite the lack of fans in the building. I called last night's game from the broadcast booth where Blazers play-by-play man Jon Keen hangs his hat. Oh how the world has changed my friends. Sharing is caring. Hard to believe I will be back there again this Friday when the Rockets face the Prince George Cougars.
Saturday, March 27, 2021
|Alex Swetlikoff - Shoot the Breeze photo|
- Kris Mallette has often said this abbreviated WHL season is all about development. The Kelowna Rockets head coach would agree that winning is a bonus. It was close to a dominating effort last night at Prospera Place in a 5-0 shutout win against the visiting Victoria Royals. It was the opening game for both teams, but it was the Rockets that owned the puck the majority of the night. Alex Swetlikoff scored twice, as the home team built up period leads of 2-0 and 4-0 before the 19 year-old closed out the scoring with a little insurance in the third. Cole Schwebius earned the win in goal with a 19 save shutout, with his best work in the opening period.
- Swetlikoff's two goal game was the second of his career. The Kelowna kid had a multiple goal game February 6, 2019 against Spokane when he picked up 2+1=3.
- Talk about making the most of your chances. 'Sweaty' scored two goals on just two shots. A 100% shooting efficiency rate looks impressive.
- Speaking of shooting, the Rockets d-core fired 15 shots on net over the course of the game. Jake Lee and Elias Carmichael found pay dirt with goals. Carmichael led the Rockets d-core with 4 shots on net while Sean Comrie, Jake Lee and Jackson DeSousa had three shots apiece. If they keep this up, we may want to name the Rockets d-core the 'd-score'.
- Cole Schwebius' shutout was the second of his career. His first came against the Royals on October 30, 2019 with a 33 save performance.
- The Rockets have never opened a season with a shutout at home. Yep, last night's effort was a franchise first. The Rockets only had one home ice shutout last season. Roman Basran made 19 saves in a 6-0 win over visiting Seattle. The date was March 6, 2020.
- How good was 15 year-old Andrew Cristall last night? A two assist effort in his debut. Cristall had the luxury of playing with Swetlikoff and Dillon Hamaliuk. Insolating the smallish skilled forward was a great move by the coaching staff.
- While Cristall was terrific, so was 17 year-old Nolan Flamand. The second round bantam pick had a great game with several glorious chances including a breakaway, which he failed to score on. But hey, the failed attempt isn't the thing here. The fact he was in that position is the beautiful part. Flamand earned his first career assist on Elias Carmichael's second period goal. Before his season was shut down due to COVID-19, Flamand had 2+3=5 in four games with the Saskatoon Midget Blazers.
- It was nice to see Steel Quiring score. The 18 year-old from Vernon had success with the Okanagan Rockets with 21 goals in 25 games two seasons ago, but that doesn't necessary translate into success at this level. A 5th round pick in 2018, its really time for him to show he can play at this level. Last night, Quiring had two shots on net. He had 1 shot on net in his previous 15 games with the team, which included two stints - 12 games last season and in 2018-2019 when he dressed in three games.
- The two teams combined for just 9 shots in the third period. Some coaches would consider that strong defensive hockey, but the best two periods were clearly the opening 40 minutes. I get playing systematic hockey and it can't be fire wagon with zero structure, but allow these guys to create and blow off some steam by bringing a quick skating approach to the game.
- The Rockets now get set for a road game Sunday in Kamloops. This will be weird. The opponent is the Vancouver Giants, a 7-3 loser to the Kamloops Blazers Friday night. The Rockets had little to no success last season at Sandman Centre. Let's hope 'Hub Hockey' turns the tide in their favour with a solid effort. We will be on the air with the pre-game show at 5:45 pm with the drop of the puck at 6:00 pm.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
"With the type of system I would like to implement, you will see some more offence coming from the back end. I think it will be by committee".
Head Coach Kris Mallette will look down the bench and won't see Matthew Wedman, Nolan Foote, Kyle Topping or Pavel Novak.
Wedman, Foote and Topping are playing pro hockey while the team was unable to secure a visa for Novak.
"We want to see Dillon Hamaliuk come back the way he ended and started the season with renewed confidence," Mallette added.
The 20 year-old was excepted to play pro hockey this season after signing a three year entry level contract with the San Jose Sharks. But the NHL team typically doesn't like to rush their prospects and believe Hamaliuk's up and down season shows he needs more seasoning.
"Dave Kope, another player that we acquired, he can score goals. Big years are going to have to be had by a bunch of our 19 year-old's. Mark Liwiski, Alex Swetlikoff, you are hoping that these guys gain a lot of confidence early and ride it out for this shortened season."
How much fire power have the Rockets lost from a season ago?
Over 200 points, with 19 year-old d-man Kaedan Korczak the top returning player after racking up 49 points in 60 games.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Monday, March 15, 2021
Saturday, March 13, 2021
|Shoot the Breeze Photo|
It's huge for the draft eligible players who will be under a microscope with over 60 NHL scouts - per game - allowed into the building to watch.
It's also massive for players like Kelowna Rockets goaltender Cole Schwebius, who is undrafted and turns 20 in April.
The Kelowna born prospect may have lost a season of development when COVID-19 came crashing down, but the personable last line of defence, used the downtime to work on his game.
"I have had a lot of time to be able to go on the ice with the coaches and work on the technical aspects of my game. Even off the ice, I have had the time to work on my daily routine and mentally, so I think I will come back better than I ever have."
With no WHL season, Schwebius played an exhibition game with the BCHL's West Kelowna Warriors before spending a month with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
"It was just so much fun to go out there and play again. It was a nice reminder that this is what we are working for right now. Obviously this isn't going to last forever. You are going to be able to play hockey again. Just keep working. Just remember to have fun and go out there and play," Schwebius added.
With limited ice time playing behind Roman Basran, Schwebius picked up 7 wins in 2019-2020 -- 5 of them came on the road.