Last Weekend: The Rockets knocked off the visiting North Island Silvertips in consecutive 5-3 finals, to extend their winning streak to eight games. Meanwhile the Hawks took back-to-back losses against the Vancouver NW Giants, putting Valley West on a three game losing streak.
Head-to-Head: The Rockets and Hawks are meeting for the first time since last March, when the Hawks eliminated the Rockets from the best-of-three semifinal with a win in Game 3. Their last regular season meeting came last February in the Lower Mainland, with Valley West winning both games.
Historically Speaking: Since the 2006/07 season, the Rockets still hold the all-time advantage, with a mark of 26-11-3. Things have been closer on the road, with the Rockets going 9-7-2 away from Kelowna.
Climbing the Standings: Last weekend’s results allowed the Rockets to climb up the standings, where they now sit in second place behind the Cariboo Cougars. The Rockets are four points back of first place, which makes sense considering they’ve played two fewer games than the Cougars this season. With Cariboo running into their bye week this weekend, the Rockets could be in a tie for first place if things go well in the Valley this weekend. Over their eight game winning streak, the Rockets have only trailed in three of those games, and never by more than one goal.
Hawks To Watch: The Hawks are lead by 16-year-olds Tyler Ho and Justyn Gurney, who are also 1-2 in league scoring. Ho has notched 21 points in 12 games, and comes to the team after playing last season with the Cariboo Cougars. Ho was also picked by the Prince George Cougars in the third round of the 2015 bantam draft. Gurney was also selected in that bantam draft, in the sixth round by the Calgary Hitmen. He’s in his second season with the Hawks, where he had 39 points in 40 games. This season, he’s managed 19 points in nine games. On the blueline, Seattle Thunderbirds draft pick Kabir Gill is a big presence, as he’s put up 18 points over 11 games. He’s joined by fellow returnee Bobby Russell, who’s also a pick of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice.
Between The Pipes: Rockets’ tenders Owen Partrick and Nik Bregeda each added a win to their records last weekend. Head Coach Eric Blais talked goaltending before last Sunday’s game, and said with it being early in the year, he had to be fair with playing time to both, and that we’d have to wait and see what happens going forward. As for this weekend, it will be Partrick getting the initial start. For the Hawks, 17-year-old Reece Klassen has come into the season as the starter, with a 4-1-1 record and a 1.56 GAA that’s good for second-best in the league. His backup is Dorrin Luding, who’s appeared in four game this year, and sports a 3.88 GAA.
Lineup News: Rockets captain Eli Zummack has impressed at Hockey Canada’s World U-17 Hockey Challenge, as he helped lead Team Canada Black advance to the semifinals, where they play Russia on Friday. The Rockets will still miss his presence in the lineup this weekend, but he’s scheduled to be back from Sault Ste. Marie next weekend against the Vancouver NE Chiefs.
Meanwhile, the Rockets will be without forward Jordan Robinson and defenceman Wyatt Head. They’re playing up in the BCHL with the West Kelowna Warriors, who are home to Trail and Prince George this weekend. With that in mind, the Rockets have called up AP Palmer Jenkins from the Midget Tier 1 squad – he’ll play defence this weekend.