Last season, the Okanagan Rockets knew their pool would be a test. Little did they know, by the time the 2013-2014 season came to an end, 3 members of their pool had won their respective leagues. Along with the Rockets winning BC, the Notre Dame Argos won the Saskatchewan Midget League, the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs won Alberta for a 5th consecutive season. Little did the Rockets and Chiefs know, but their round robin game at the Mac's would prove to be a preview of the Pacific Regional final.
This year, the Okanagan Rockets were given no free pass through the round robin portion of the annual event.
The Rockets will face the Alberta leading Calgary Buffaloes, California's Ontario Avalanche, the always tough Regina Pat Canadians who also earned a playoff birth a year ago at the Mac's, and finally the Rockets will close out against the Grand Prairie Storm.
"Their aren't any night's off at the Mac's" said general manager David Michaud who is making his 5th straight appearance in Calgary. "The pools are always challenging and this year once again is no exception. I called us the group of death last year with some really tough teams, and this year it isn't a whole lot better. The Buffaloes are always strong and this year they are leading the Alberta League's Chrysler Division, and Regina is proving to be a very good club in a tough Saskatchewan league, we virtually have identical records right now. Grand Prairie and Ontario will be solid challenges as well."
The Rockets have only qualified for the playoffs once in their 8 consecutive tournament appearances, that of course coming in last year's run that took them all the way to the Semi-Finals before finally being knocked off by the eventual champions from Finland.
With just one returning member of that squad, Michaud said he will lean heavily on captain Mark Krabben to help the players understand the magnitude of the event.
"Krabben will play a huge role in making sure the players know what sort of challenge lies ahead of them. It's an exciting event, but it can get away from you quickly if you aren't ready to go."
A few years back, the Rockets lost just 1 round robin game, yet missed the playoffs.
The Rockets will open the tournament on Boxing Day against the host Calgary Buffaloes.