Prior to this season, only three teams in Canadian Hockey League history had ever compiled three consecutive 50-win seasons.
With Saturday’s 5-2 home-ice victory over the Spokane Chiefs, the Kelowna Rockets became the fourth member of a rather elite club.
The Rockets won 52 games in 2012-13, then set a franchise record last season with 57 victories. With 50 more this season, Kelowna has won a CHL-high 159 games in just under three years.
The only WHL teams ever to post three straight 50-win campaigns are the Kamloops Blazers (1989-92) and Edmonton Oil Kings (2011-14). The Quebec league’s Saint John Sea Dogs also performed the feat from 2010-2013.
“When you look at the teams that have achieved this, we’re in some pretty good company,” said Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton. “It’s a great accomplishment and it shows that over the years we’ve had some tremendous depth on this team.”
Hamilton said joining the elite group is a credit to the Rockets’ organization, from top to bottom.
“Our scouting has been a big part of it, but I’d say our coaches really deserve a lot of the credit for it,” said Hamilton. “They’ve been able to get the most out of so many players who have played for us.
“We’ve had some real good players, and a lot of character people, too,” he added. “We’ve had a lot of foot soldiers who have done the ground work and helped this happen.”
As has been proven in the past, successful regular seasons don’t necessarily translate into lengthy playoff runs. Hamilton clearly hopes this spring is a departure from the last two.
“Certainly you want to make sure you’re still playing in May,” he said. “The last two years have been a little frustrating, so hopefully this year will be different. You need to have a little good fortune along the way and stay healthy, so we’ll see what happens.”
It’s the fourth time in franchise history the Rockets have won 50 games, the first time was 2002-03 when the team won 51 and played in their first Memorial Cup in Quebec City.
The Rockets are expected to be without team goal-scoring leader Rourke Chartier (upper body) and defenceman Josh Morrissey (ankle) until at least next week.
Forwards Justin Kirkland (lower) and Gage Quinney (upper) are sidelined on a day-to-day basis.
“We’re not rushing anyone back,” Bruce Hamilton said. “We’d like to see Rourke get a shot a scoring 50 goals, but we’re not going to take any chances, risk losing anyone for longer.”
The Rockets have six games remaining in the regular season, including Wednesday’s matchup with the Victoria Royals, 7 p.m. at Prospera Place.
It’s the eighth and final meeting of the season between teams, with Kelowna leading the series 5-1-1-0…Kelowna will play a home-and-home against the Kamloops Blazers this weekend, Friday in Kamloops and Saturday at Prospera.