Last Weekend: The Rockets returned home from the league showcase in Richmond to take on the Vancouver NW Giants. After sweeping their first two weekends of the year, the Giants continued the trend, beating the Rockets 6-4 on Saturday and 5-1 on Sunday.
Head-to-Head: The Rockets and Royals are meeting for the first time since last February, when the two teams played at the CNC. The Rockets won those games 3-1 and 4-0. That completed a sweep of the season series, after the Rockets had pulled off 7-1 and 4-3 wins in November.
Historically Speaking: Dating back to the 2006/07 season (when the Royals were the T-Birds), the Rockets have a 26-7-11 all-time record against them. 16 of those 26 wins have come on home ice.
Slump Buster: After a season-opening sweep of the NE Chiefs, the Rockets have lost their last four games played, counting the exhibition weekend against Everett, and a winning weekend could help cure some of the things that ailed them. Last weekend, the Rockets got a good look at a team that they’ll be trying to emulate in many ways going forward. The Giants utilized their size well, skated at a great pace, kept their transition game tight, and buried chances when they got them. And you can’t forget solid goaltending in both matches either. Those are all things the Rockets are completely capable of, and some more wins under their belt might speed up that process of playing at a consistent level.
Players To Watch: Veteran ’00 Matt Berryman is back on the Royals roster, after appearing in the Vancouver Island Junior B circuit with Victoria. He had 20 points in 39 games as a bright spot with South Island last year. Another returnee up front is Hunter Gruben, who had 8 points in 34 games last season. This year, he’s tied with 17-year-old rookie Tyler Stinchcombe and 16-year-old import Rowan Miller with four points over the first six games. On defence, Ethan Brandwood is in his first full year with the team, after being drafted by Kamloops in the 7th round of this year’s WHL Bantam draft. It’s a young back end, with four of six defenders born in 2002, including current Cariboo Cougar Hunter Floris’ younger brother Ethan. For the Rockets, Ray Bassi’s return helped the offence, with two goals last weekend. Another Rockets veteran with a solid performance was Will Reimer. He scored the Rockets lone goal on Sunday, and looked good after being held out of opening week with an injury.
Between The Pipes: Despite a couple losses last weekend, it wasn’t Rockets goaltending that was a letdown, as both Cole Schwebius and Roman Basran were called upon to make plenty of big saves. Both gave their team a chance to win, and both are expected back in action this weekend. For the Royals, 17-year-old Connor Cheyne returns as a second-year starter, after posting a 5.58 GAA through 25 games last season. He’s also started four of six games so far this season. Backup Connor Svienson is in his first full-time season with the Royals.
Lineup News: The biggest news this weekend is the absence of three Rockets rookies, as Jack Finley, Ben King, and Tanner Brown were all selected by Team BC to play at the U-16 WHL Cup for the next couple weekends…Other players out of the lineup for the Rockets will be Brandon Della Paolera and Nolan Corrado, who are both injured…Three APs will suit up for the Rockets this weekend, as Tyson Ludba and Logan Keating are up from the Midget Tier 2’s, and Lucas Wood gets the call from the North Zone Tier 1 squad…Also a hearty congratulations to Mitchell Gove, who was named Rockets captain this week…his alternates will be Palmer Jenkins, Rayman Bassi, Will Reimer, and Brandon Della Paolera.