After the Rockets complete a two game series against the Giants in Vancouver this weekend, the team will have played 30 games out of its 40 game schedule. As of this week, the team is tied with the Greater Vancouver Canadians for fifth place in the league, with two games in hand on GVC. Time to take a look at how we got to where we’re at.
First Quarter – September/October:
As was a constant theme in the first half of the season, the team struggled to find consistency out of the gate. After sweeping the Vancouver NE Chiefs to start the season, the Rockets were hit with a Week 2 bye, which was marked by a couple losses to Everett in exhibition action at the Richmond showcase. Over the next four weeks, the Rockets played .500 hockey, thanks to being swept by the NW Giants, sweeping the South Island Royals, and splitting back-to-back weekends against North Island and Kootenay. The Kootenay weekend also marked the final time the Rockets would have goaltender Roman Basran available – after leaving for Hockey Canada’s U17 tournament, Basran would get permanently called up to the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets – the second straight year an Okanagan Rocket would make a mid-season jump to the Western Hockey League. At the quarter mark of the season, the Rockets were lead in scoring by first-year forward Brendan Boyle’s 13 points. Captain Mitchell Gove registered 11 points over the first 10, while 15-year-old Ben King had 9 points, appearing in just six of the first ten games.
Second Quarter – November (+ December 2/3):
The Rockets kicked off the second quarter of the season with one of the more frustrating weekends of the year, losing back-to-back games on home ice to the Greater Vancouver Canadians. After a spirited win and a tie against Valley West the next week, Okanagan was swept again at the hands of the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds in Abbotsford. After a 2-1 OT loss to the Thompson Blazers on November 25, the team bused home with its tail between its legs. But a gutsy 4-1 win the next day to split the series helped, as the team prepared to open up December on the road in Prince George against the Cougars. A week after the Thompson loss, the team was once again tense with a 6-1 loss to Cariboo. But in one of the season’s defining victories, the Rockets returned the favour the next morning, and took a 6-1 win of their own back home to Kelowna. After starting the season with 5 goals in 8 games, Boyle entered the weekend finale in PG without a goal in his last 11. But a two goal performance stripped the monkey off his back, and helped elevate him to 21 points over the season’s first half. That would leave him tied with Gove, while King’s 19 came in six fewer games played. After scoring 40 goals in the first ten games, the Rockets had just 29 in the next 10. Despite that, contributions from Jack Finley, Rayman Bassi, Ethan Schaeffer, and Will Reimer led to double digit points from those four. In goal, the Rockets started Cole Schwebius in all ten games through that stretch, getting solid performances throughout.
Third Quarter – December 9-February 4
Spread over an extended three week holiday break, the third quarter has hit multiple phases. After taking three of four points against the Silvertips at home, the Rockets wrapped up 2017 against the Royals on the road. After a 6-0 win in the opener, Okanagan was licking its chops heading into Christmas. But despite taking a point in the finale, the 2-2 tie to South Island was a deflating way for the team to head into Christmas – a quieter year than in the past, after the team didn’t secure an invite to the Macs tournament in Calgary. But since the calendar flipped to 2018, the team has looked like a different group of players. Coming off the break, the Rockets hosted the league showcase in Kelowna, and skated circles around the NE Chiefs, beating them 6-3 and 10-2 in consecutive games. The Rockets’ ten-spot included a hat trick from Jack Finley, in easily his most dominant-looking game of the season. The weekend also featured three goals from defenceman Tanner Brown, and two from Boyle and Gove. With Basran’s departure official, the team also welcomed Darby Tipton into the fold, after he’d played the first half of the season at the tier one level. With more rest coming during the team’s only true bye week of the year, the Rockets rattled off back-to-back wins against the Ice. As mentioned, the upcoming road games against the Giants will wrap up the season’s third quarter. The Rockets continue to be led by the Boyle/Gove combo, who have 32 and 31 points respectively, going into the Giants games. Four points from Rayman Bassi against Kootenay have him up to 26 points, ahead of fellow veteran Will Reimer’s 21. With a 3.02 GAA in 22 games, Schwebius is good for fifth-best in the goaltending race, with only Cariboo’s Marcus Allen (24) and Thompson’s Ethan Langenegger (23) having appeared in more games.
Fourth Quarter – February 9/March 11
Based on the time of year and the gravity of the games at hand, it’s really common sense to point out that the toughest part of the Rockets schedule is coming up. But it’s really highlighted by the fact that the team has games against first-place Valley West and GVC on the road, along with matchups against the always tough Fraser Valley and Cariboo, to finish out the regular season. With Fraser Valley six points ahead of the Rockets and GVC for third place in the league, it’s a position that’s definitely within striking distance as we head into the final stretch.