Rockets ready to open season with a clean slate
The Kelowna Rockets will open their season tomorrow night against the Spokane Chiefs, the lone game of Opening Week for the Rockets.
It's the first time in eight campaigns that Kelowna has not faced heated rival Kamloops in the opener. They have previously opened the season against the Chiefs, back in 1996 at Memorial Arena.
The Rockets season came to a heartbreaking end last year in a single tie-breaker game against the Blazers at the Sandman Centre. The two teams were tied after 40 minutes, but Kamloops scored four times in the final period to advance to the postseason with a 5-1 victory. Head Coach Adam Foote says that they're moving forward and don't look back at that game.
"We don't even talk about last year with our group," said Foote. "We have quite a few new faces, we've instilled a new culture for this season. It was a long break, and we have a fresh start, it's going to be a long season. We talk about developing and moving forward."
Trevor Wong, Pavel Novak, Dillon Hamaliuk, Jake Poole, Deegan Mofford, Sean Comrie, Carson Sass, Elias Carmichael, Jake Lee, and Cole Schwebius are all new faces heading into this season.
May 2, 2019: Rockets acquire Comrie's playing rights from Brandon Wheat Kings at 2019 WHL Bantam Draft
May 2, 2019: Rockets pick up Hamaliuk, Lee, and Schwebius in trade with Seattle Thunderbirds at 2019 WHL Bantam Draft
May 14, 2019: Comrie signs with Rockets
June 27, 2019: Rockets select Novak 13th overall during 2019 CHL Import Draft
August 24, 2019: Novak signs with Rockets
September 11, 2019: Rockets acquire Sass
The Rockets went 2-3-0-1 in the preseason with a roster that often didn't feature their big guns. Kyle Topping, Leif Mattson, and Lee all made their preseason debuts in the final game against the Blazers, while Kaedan Korczak, Nolan Foote, Hamaliuk, and Comrie did not suit up.
Kyle Crosbie lead the way in scoring for the Rockets during the preseason with five points (4G,1A), three of his points came while on the powerplay. Liam Kindree, Alex Swetlikoff, and Jake Poole each had four points.
"Training camp is an interesting dynamic where you have younger lineups to start. For us we had a young lineup, we had seven guys away at NHL camps. Some of them we're gone for a while, and we haven't had our full lineup yet, it's nice to have almost everyone back. What was good about having guys away is that you can put players in different situations to see how they can handle it," said Foote.
"We have our full lineup for tomorrow, aside from Foote still being away. The good part is the players that have returned this week from camps (Hamaliuk, Korczak, Comrie) have had some time to rest ahead of the game. Our heads are clear, and we're ready for that game, we want to get going."
Last season the Chiefs edged the Rockets in their season series. Spokane advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the WHL playoffs against the Vancouver Giants.
During the preseason Spokane had a record of 1-4-0-1 but had nine players away at NHL camps.
2018-2019 Season Series vs. Spokane Chiefs: 1-1-1-0
Feb. 1, 2019: Kelowna 0 - Spokane 4 @ Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
Feb. 6, 2019: Spokane 5 - Kelowna 4 @ Prospera Place (Leif Mattson had four assists)
Feb. 22, 2019: Shootout Kelowna 4 - Spokane 3 @ Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena (Mattson had a goal and an assist)
Mar. 13, 2019: Overtime Spokane 6 - Kelowna 5 @ Prospera Place (Nolan Foote had four points)
Hamaliuk was sidelined with a season-ending injury at the end of December, that didn't stop the San Jose Sharks from drafting the winger during the second round (No. 55) of the 2019 NHL Draft. He suited up for the Sharks rookie team at the 2019 Anaheim Rookie Tournament but is looking forward to making his debut with the Rockets tomorrow night against a team that he is familiar with.
"Playing with the Rockets has been a long time coming, I've been waiting for this moment since May," said Hamaliuk. "I've found that everyone here is super accepting, it has helped me get adjusted. Spokane is a hard-working team, I think we should be able to dominate them if we play our game."
Before the game tomorrow the Rockets will host a Memorial Cup Season Kick Off Tail Gate Party from 4:00pm to 7:00pm beside the Rotary Centre for the Arts. There will be beer gardens, food trucks, live music and dancing, door prizes, and the 2004 Memorial Cup Championship Game will be shown on a big-screen TV. The entry fee is $5 at the gate, kids are free with an adult. 2019-2020 season ticket holders can get in for free when they show their opening night ticket at the gate.
The Rockets home opener will also double as their 10th annual Canadian Cancer Society Pink in the Rink game.
Kelowna will wear pink jerseys that feature a special ten-year shoulder patch that will be up for auction with the money raised going to the CIBC Run for the Cure. Pink glow wristbands will be handed out to fans in attendance and are also encouraged to wear pink to the game. Prizes will be up for grabs for people sporting pink. Tickets are on sale at selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office or by phone at 250-762-5050.
Images from this story
Kelowna Rockets vs. the Spokane Chiefs
(Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets)
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