The Okanagan Rockets will officially kick off their 2015/16 season this weekend when they host the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.
Last Weekend: The Rockets wrapped up their exhibition schedule with a 4-1 loss to Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence Academy. Defenceman Jameson Murray picked up the goal for the Rockets, while Nic Bregeda was solid between the pipes.
Head-to-Head: The Rockets and Thunderbirds are meeting for the first time since the Rockets sent the T-Birds packing from the first round of the playoffs last year, when Lucas Cullen scored game-winning third period goals in both games of the series. In four regular season matches last season, these two teams tied three times, with OK picking up the lone regular season win.
Historically Speaking: The Rockets are 21-10-8 against the Thunderbirds over the last decade, while also holding a 13-3-3 record against the T-Birds on home ice in that span.
Returnees: The Rockets will have five returnees in their lineup for this weekend series. Last year’s leading scorer Eli Zummack returns, having been at WHL Training Camp with the Spokane Chiefs. Coleton Bilodeau and last year’s mid-season acquisition Hayden Courtney also return up front for the Rockets. On the blueline, Cody Schiavon and Seth Barton will be back in action.
Key Departures: Starting between the pipes, 17-year-old goaltender Cole Demers has moved up to the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers, while Liam Hughes is up with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings. This year’s starter Nic Bregeda was an Affiliate Player for the Rockets last year. Defencemen Shawn Guison, Powell Connor, and Spencer Hora have moved on to the BCHL, playing with Nanaimo, Chilliwack, and Salmon Arm, respectively. Danny Gatenby is also joining his brother Joe this season, in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers. Up front, Lucas Cullen heads into the season with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, while Alec Zawatsky and Jordan Todd have made BCHL rosters in Cowichan Valley and West Kelowna, respectively.
Zummack is back: Along with returning to the Rockets, the team has named Eli Zummack as captain for the 2016/17 season. He replaces Shawn Guison from last season.
Lineup News: The Rockets will be without Vernon Vipers prospect Chase Stevenson, who’s still recovering from a broken collarbone. OK is closer to seeing defenceman Riley Lambert on the ice, who missed last weekend with a lower body injury.