Rockets get boost from Baillie's return
When Tyson Baillie suffered a lower leg injury Feb. 10 against Seattle, the Kelowna Rockets' centre feared he may not be ready for the start of the WHL playoffs.
The original diagnosis called for the 18-year-old Fort Saskatchewan native to miss as much as eight weeks of action.
But with his rehab and recovery having gone even better than expected, Baillie has been pronounced fit and ready to go for the Rockets' playoff opener Saturday against Tri-City.
"It's great," said Baillie, who returned to full contact this week in practise. "I was kind of nervous whether I was going to be ready for the playoffs or not. I was back on the ice in three weeks, practising in four and contact in five, so it couldn't have gone better. I'm excited, happy to be back, fully rested and ready to go."
Without Baillie in the lineup, the Rockets found a way to cope without their top centreman, winning 13 of their last 16 regular season games.
Still, head coach Ryan Huska said Baillie's return will be a boost both to the Rockets' offense and to the club's overall confidence level.
"His offensive ability is something that is really going to help us," Huska said of Baillie, who had 55 points in 56 games this season.
"But I think more important is the excitement he has right now, in particular. Our room has been lifted a little bit with his return because he is such a passionate guy, he's over-the-moon excited to be back and the whole room feels that."
A year ago, Baillie thrived in a playoff setting, leading the Rockets in scoring with eight goals and 14 points in nine games.
With captain Colton Sissons sidelined with an injury, Baillie pushed his game to a new level, including scoring the series winner in Game 7 against Seattle.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward can't wait for the puck to drop on the 2014 postseason. "I've always loved to play in playoffs, you have to step up your game big and play with more urgency, more desperation at all times," he said. "I'm excited for this playoff run we're going to have."
Game 1 against the American goes Saturday at 7 p.m. at Prospera Place, with Game 2 set for Sunday at 5 p.m. The third game in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal goes Tuesday in Kennewick, Wash.
Tailgate party Saturday…
The Rockets will host a tailgate party at Prospera Place prior to Saturday's WHL playoff game vs Tri-City. The first 1,000 fans will receive a hot dog, beverage and bag of chips, while 500 mini sticks will be handed out.
Rockets finish No. 1…
The Rockets ended up on top in the Canadian Hockey League's weekly rankings.
Kelowna, which set franchise record 57 victories in 2013-14, occupied the No. 1 position for the last 12 weeks of the season. The OHL's Guelph Storm is second, while the WHL's Portland Winterhawks are third.