Chance Braid (right) is one of five new players to join the Kelowna Rockets since early November.

Building chemistry key for revamped Rockets

With familiar faces gone and five new faces in the lineup, the WHL's top team is working on team unity

Chemistry may sound like an overused cliché in sports, but ask any coach about its importance to a team’s success and all will agree—it’s crucial.

With a spate of changes to their roster over the last six weeks, the Kelowna Rockets’ coaching staff will be focused, at least in the immediate future, on building team unity.

Six players who started the season with the club are no longer here, while five new name plates have gone up in the Rockets’ dressing room since Nov. 4.

Leon Draisiatl now has three games under his belt, while Josh Morrissey and Chance Braid each made their Rocket debuts on Saturday night.

And even though the Rockets remain comfortably atop the Western Hockey League, head coach Dan Lambert this week has been a little like beginning from square one.

“You almost have to start as if its training camp all over again,” said Lambert, who club dropped a 5-3 decision to Medicine Hat on Saturday. “Everybody’s got to get on the same page.”

As much as communication between the players on the ice is critical, Lambert said how the Rockets respond to each other away from the ice is of equal importance.

“I think it’s very important that they get to know each other and like each other,” said Lambert. “That’s something we’ve had here the last couple of years where our players have wanted to play for each other and that really showed on the ice.

“With the new players we have, I feel they will adapt to that and we’ll come together as a group.”

With star newcomers like Draisaitl and Morrissey logging plenty of ice time and taking on prominent roles, Lambert said other players on the Rockets will be asked to perform duties they may not be accustomed to.

“It’s going to take a little time, some guys who were in certain roles may have to change a little bit,” he said. “Some guys may become a penalty killer, some will be asked to block more shots than they’re used to…some may be asked to drop from the second to the third line, those sorts of things.

“We’re going to ask guys to buy in and take pride in whatever their role is,” Lambert added, “and buy into what the coaches are saying.”

Captain Madison Bowey, who will be relied on to help form bonds within the team, is confident the Rockets won’t be long finding their comfort zone.

“We’re definitely bringing the boys together and we’ll do team bonding if we need to,” said Bowey. “We have a great team and we’re going to fight for one another every night.”

Josh Morrissey agrees.

“Once we get some practises, some team building and more game action, I just think things will just take off from there,” Morrissey said.

The Rockets (33-7-3-0) return to action Wednesday night when they host the Tri-City Americans. The Seattle Thunderbirds will visit Prospera Place on Friday. @capnewsports


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