A year ago, the Kelowna Fripp Warehousing Rockets were on a roll as the Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament got under way.
Four days later, Eric Blais’ team was in a state of disbelief after posting a 0-5 record.
Thanks to both experience and skill, the Rockets’ head coach doesn’t expect a repeat of those results from his squad in 2013.
“We were on a pretty good run last year when we came into this tournament, then we just absolutely hit the wall,” said Blais. “Of course I’m hoping we’ll do better and I think we will. I’d say we have a better team, we’re more experienced and the guys who played in it last year know exactly what to expect. I really think they’re ready for the challenge.”
The host Rockets will open up the 34th edition of the annual midget tournament Wednesday night against Compete Hockey Academy from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Face off at 7:15 p.m. follows the opening ceremonies at Memorial Arena.
The Rockets have been masters of the tournament format this season, winning all four weekend events in which they’ve played. Kelowna’s latest tournament victory came just two weeks ago at the Richmond International Midget Tournament.
Still, as always, Blais acknowledges the next four to five days at KIMMT will provide the most intense opposition his team will see all season long.
The Notre Dame Hounds and Burlington Eagles, perennial contenders at the Kelowna tournament, are among five teams in the Rockets’ pool.
“Let’s face it, if you don’t show up ready to play, you’re not going to do very well at this tournament,” he said. “Every game has the potential to be tough. If we can get off to a decent start, win at least three of the games in our pool, then you never know. Anything can happen in a five-day tournament. Hopefully we can make the most of playing at home.”
Like Eric Blais’ team, Ryan Wade’s Pursuit of Excellence U18 squad hopes home ice will translate into some positive results over the course of the week.
As members of the North American Prospects Hockey League, POE plays the large majority of its games on the road.
POE has already been to Minnesota twice, San Jose and Dallas, with two trips to Detroit yet to come.
With eleven players on the POE roster from the Central Okanagan, Wade expects local support to benefit his club.
“This is a huge tournament for our local kids, they don’t often get a chance to play at home in front of family and friends,” said Wade, POE’s head coach. “We take great pride in not only showcasing our kids but showcasing our program as well. We want to show we can do well at an elite level and we expect to do well.”
POE opens the tournament Wednesday at 4 p.m. against the Surrey Thunder at Rutland East.
The championship game will be played on Sunday, 12:30 p.m. at Memorial Arena and will be broadcast live on Shaw T.V.
For more information on the tournament, visit kimmt.com