The Okanagan Rockets (6-6) will try to avoid falling below the .500 mark, when they host the second-place Valley West Hawks (11-1) at the Capital News Centre.
Last Weekend: The Rockets were beaten in back-to-back two-goal games by the Greater Vancouver Canadians, while the Hawks dusted off the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds by scores of 7-3 and 11-3.
Head-to-Head: The Rockets and Hawks have met multiple times in the playoffs over the years, but last season did not see such a matchup. The last weekend doubleheader came last February at the Capital News Centre, where the Rockets squeaked out wins of 2-1 and 3-1. Max Kryski led the Rockets with goals in both those games.
Historically Speaking: Since the 2006/07 season, the Rockets have good numbers against Valley West, and come into the weekend with a mark of 30-11-3. Of those 30 wins, 19 have come for the Rockets on home ice.
Gut check time: Coming into this weekend, the Rockets have dropped their last three games in a row, and four of the last six. With two games against some of the league’s top competition, the Rockets will have an opportunity to make a name for themselves with a solid performance over the weekend. An encouraging thing was actually last weekend’s games against GVC, which saw the team show flashes of rock solid play. Okanagan put up 40+ shots on goal in both games, and battled back from three goals down on Saturday, while controlling the pace of the play for long stretches of both games. On the Hawks side, it’s not often that a team with only one loss over a dozen games isn’t at the top of the standings. The reason Valley West is #2 is that Cariboo has played two more games, with a tie in one of them pushing them into first. While the Rockets have had trouble consistently scoring at times, team D is going to be thrust into the spotlight against the Hawks. They’re a team that pumped 12 past Thompson in Week 2, 11 past the T-Birds last weekend, and has scored five or more goals in 8 of their 12 games this season. But don’t count the Rockets out just yet – the only team to beat Valley West this year was Kootenay back in Week 5 – a team who the Rockets picked up a win over a couple weeks ago.
Hawks To Watch: The Hawks have five returning players this year, with 00’s Kabir Gill , Trevor Isaksson, and Brayden Wick on the blueline, along with Josh Pederson (’00) and Nolan Krogfoss (’01) up front. Last year’s leading scorer Tyler Ho has stuck with the Vancouver Giants this season, along with fellow Hawk Aidan Barfoot. Another Hawk-turned-WHLer is Justyn Gurney, who’s suiting up for the Calgary Hitmen. But the nucleus of last year’s team is somewhat intact, with Valley West’s #2 and #3 scorers returning in the way of Krogfoss and Gill. With 30 points last year, Krogfoss already has 26 to his name through a dozen games this season, while Gill has 8 points in his 7 games played. A major addition this year came in the way of Arshdeep Bains, who spent his rookie season with the NE Chiefs last year. The 16-year-old had 23 points in 26 games last year, and already has 31 this season – a pace of more than 2.5 points per game. And after an 18-point campaign last year, Isaksson has also showed vast improvement, with 5 goals and 14 points this year. As far as rookies go, watch for ’02 Justin Sourdif, who torched his way to 66 points in 29 games with Delta Academy’s Bantam Prep team a year ago. He’s got 19 points through 8 games this year.
Between The Pipes: Rockets goaltender Roman Basran remains away at Team Canada’s U17 tournament, which will give way to another couple starts for Cole Schwebius. On the Hawks side, last year’s AP Josh Dias has turned into this year’s starter, with a perfect 8-0 record to go along with a 2.48 GAA. The second half of that tandem is a 15-year-old – a rarity between the pipes in the MML this year – in Jayden Shull. The North Van native is 3-1 with a 3.13 GAA through five games.
Lineup News: Unfortunately no new injury news to report on the Rockets end, with Brandon Della Paolera and Nolan Corrado still on the shelf…As mentioned, Basran remains with Canada Black at the U17s…He opened his tournament with a 5-0 shutout of the Czech Republic, and got the start against Team Sweden on Friday…To replace his roster spot, the Rockets will dress a couple goaltenders from the Bantam Tier 1 team, for a game apiece…Xander Stone and Zach Yousif will get the big call up this weekend…After losing Jack Finley, Ben King, and Tanner Brown to the WHL Cup a few weeks ago, the Rockets will be in a similar predicament without them this weekend…For Brown, it’s a call up to the Vancouver Giants, who play in Kelowna on Friday, before hosting Victoria and Edmonton on Saturday and Sunday…For King and Finley, they’ll each make their BCHL debuts this weekend, and face off against each other – King for the Vernon Vipers, and Finley for the Penticton Vees…Those games open the door, though it’s not confirmed, for both to return to the Rockets lineup on Sunday morning…Only one confirmed AP for the Rockets right now will be Lucas Wood, who’s picked up an assist through two previous games for the team this year…Expect to see another Affiliate or two added to the roster by the time Saturday rolls around…Hot for the Rockets right now? Rayman Bassi has two goals in two games, and three in his last five…Ben King also added a goal in each game over the weekend…Ethan Schaeffer had a four-game goal/point streak snapped on Sunday, look for him to get right back on the scoresheet, as he had had five points over the previous four games…Finally, big ups to defenceman Palmer Jenkins, who added an assist Sunday for his first point on the year…With that, all Rockets skaters have gotten on the scoresheet this year.