The Okanagan Rockets kick off the 2017 portion of their schedule with a weekend on the road in Squamish against the Vancouver NW Giants.
Last Weekend: The road trip is the first action for the team since they represented the league at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in Calgary over the Christmas break. The last league play for the Rockets came before Christmas, when they split a weekend set with the Greater Vancouver Canadians. The last Giants action came against the same Canadians team a week previous, with the Giants grabbing a win and a tie over the weekend.
Head-to-Head: The Rockets and Giants are meeting for the first time since early October at the Capital News Centre, when the Rockets skated off with consecutive 8-5 and 5-2 wins.
Historically Speaking: The two aforementioned wins helped the Rockets all-time record against the Vancouver NW squad, but the Giants still hold the edge over the years, with a record of 25-9-8 against the Okanagan squad, dating back to 06/07.
Welcome Back: It’ll be an interesting welcome back to league play for both teams, with the Rockets now a significantly different team than the one that played the Giants in early October. It’s been said before, but the Rockets first half of the season was really split into two different halves, which saw them win 11 of their first 12 games, and then play .500 hockey over the next dozen heading into the break. On the flip side, the Giants had a more consistent run, and sit seventh place in the league – only two points behind the Canadians and four points behind Fraser Valley. With the late bye, the Giants will be shaking off a little rust, having not played since December 11. With the Mac’s Tournament action, the Rockets will be fresher, but playing without the luxury of an extended break, for what should be a solid matchup.
Giants To Watch: Second-year forward Liam Kindree has been the talk of the team so far. The 17-year-old is second in league scoring, with his 39 points sitting just behind Rockets’ captain Coleton Bilodeau’s 42. Kindree is BCMML Player of the Month winner for November, after netting 15 points in a six game span. The Kelowna Rockets draft pick also spent time with the WHL squad during the month of December, and picked up a point over those seven games. Fellow ’00 Hudson Schandor has also been a big contributor, putting up 25 points in 22 games, as has fellow veteran Jack Graham. On the blueline, Trevor Longo and Mackenzie Gray continue to be the top two offensive contributors. Longo is a Medicine Hat Tigers pick who’s also AP’d with the Langley RIvermen in the BCHL, and has 15 points. Teammate Gray has notched 12 points in the same 22 game spread.
Between The Pipes: With the loss of Cole Demers only a couple weeks after his return, the Rockets will lean heavily on first-half star Owen Partrick in the next phase of the season. Partrick has a sparkling 10-2-0-1 record this year, with a 2.65 GAA. Both Jesse Makaj (5-4-1, 2.68) and Donovan Buskey (5-5-2, 3.55) faced Rockets shooters back in October, and likely will split this coming weekend, as they’ve done all season.
Lineup News: The Rockets one again saw changes to the lineup over Christmas, as the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors added Cole Demers to their squad. Demers is back in Jr. A for the second time this season, after starting this year with the Vernon Vipers. In his place, James Johnston will be promoted from the Tier One team to the Rockets, and it comes after he had a couple good starts in the Rockets cage before Christmas break. As well, ’00 forward Tanner Bahm decided to part ways with the Rockets, opening up another forward position. That’ll be filled by 17-year-old Jeremy Hite, who comes to the Rockets after a stint in Jr. B with the Summerland Steam. Hite also appeared in two games for the Rockets back in the 14/15 season.