With three of its top five point getters coming back for another season, the roster for the Okanagan Rockets major midget hockey team is set with a week to go before the 2011-12 B.C. Major Midget League season.
Kelowna players Josh Ellis, who returns as captain, and Mitch Cook are back with the Rockets as is Harlan Orr of Vernon. The trio will be looked upon to lead the Rockets offensively with the team’s top two point producers off to junior hockey.
“For me I think we did our job,” said Rockets manager David Michaud. “We graduated our top two point getters (Vernon players Alex Gillies and Jedd Soleway) and our next three guys are back with us so that’s good success for our program.”
The Rockets named its 2011-12 roster at this past Wednesday’s deadline and will keep 20 players as it looks to return to the BCMML playoffs after missing the post season last year.
A few players remain on temporary B.C. Hockey cards as goalie Jackson Whistle is still with the Vancouver Giants while Luke Harrison remains with Victoria’s WHL club. Both players could still be back with the Okanagan Rockets or could stick in junior.
Regardless, the team heads into its final two BCMML exhibition contests this weekend with the majority of the players that will compete in the 11 team regional league.
“I strongly think we will contend,” said Michaud. “My optimism from August has carried over. After watching our returning guys settle in and seeing how skilled some of our younger guys are, I think we are a team that will compete. I think we are a playoff team for sure, we just have to put things together.”
Michaud and new head coach James Eccles have put together a team that features seven players that played with the Rockets last season. Along with Ellis, Cooke and Orr, Kelowna’s Alex Gran and Vernon players Jordan Burns and Mat Lambert will look to build on their rookie seasons.
Kelowna’s Morgan Johnston, 16, is back from Portland’s WHL camp after playing last season with the Kelowna midget Tier 1 team while a trio of West Kelowna players have made the team as 15-year-olds. Michael McEachern, Brett Minear and Justin Marek of West Kelowna are joined by Kelowna Minor Hockey product Gen Bryshun as first year players.
The Rockets went 3-1 last weekend in a series of exhibition games held in Kelowna, playing mainly its younger players. This weekend against the Thompson Blazers the Rockets will hit the ice with the majority of its team that will compete this year.
“I think we’re in a position to challenge which is good because no one is happy with how we did last year,” said Michaud of missing the BCMML playoffs last season. “The players have bought in and are ready to go.”
The Rockets host the Thompson Blazers at 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Capital News Centre in exhibition play. They open the BCMML season Sept. 24 and 25 at home against the Greater Vancouver Canadians.