- BC Games
Rockets trio gets international exposure
An injury depleted Kelowna Rockets roster could probably use them but a trio of Rockets players are getting some valuable experience as they play in the World Under-17 Challenge hockey tournament that kicked off Thursday in Windsor, ON.
Defenceman Jesse Lees and forward Tyson Baillie are members of Team Pacific while blueliner Madison Bowey will skate with Team West in the 10 team tournament that features the top 16-year-old hockey players from Canada, the USA, Sweden, Russia, the Czech Republic and Germany.
"All three players have been important parts of our team this year," said Rockets assistant coach Dan Lambert. "We will miss them but I'm excited for them because they are going to come back to us as better players. It will be a tremendous experience for them."
Lambert said while sometimes a 16-year-old player can see limited ice time depending on the situation in the WHL, the World Under-17 tournament provides a chance for them to play against their peers.
"They get to be the go-to guy in this tournament and play in all the important situations," said Lambert.
While Lees, Baillie and Bowey are gaining experience and playing in a high level tournament, it comes at a time when the Rockets are suffering through a bout of injuries. Veterans Damon Severson, Tyrell Goulbourne, Colton Heffley and Spencer Main are all sidelined with various injuries meaning the Rockets returned from their Christmas break to play without seven regulars in the lineup.
That meant fans got a look at a few Rockets prospects including 15-year-old Justin Kirkland, who earned his first ever Western Hockey League point in the Rockets 4-1 loss to Spokane on Wednesday. Kirkland was a fifth round selection in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. The Rockets also have a pair of 16-year-old affiliate players with the team as defenceman Stewart Coyle has been called up from Sicamous and 2010 draft pick Cole Linaker also saw action Wednesday.
2011 5th round pick Ryan Donaldson is with the team but hasn't played due to injury.
The World Under-17 Hockey Challenge began on Thursday and continues until the medal games on Wednesday Jan. 4.
The Rockets meanwhile were on the road on Thursday in Tri-City and are returning to Kelowna on Jan. 1 for a special New Year's Day game that starts at 2 p.m. against Calgary.