The Okanagan Rockets are in the throes of assessing their 2016-17 season after an early and unwelcome exit from the B.C. Major Midget League playoffs.
The hometown Rockets were the victims of a two-game, first-round sweep at the hands of the underdog Vancouver Northwest Giants, who went 0-4 against Okanagan during the regular season.
On Friday night at the Capital News Centre, the Rockets rallied back from an early 5-o deficit before falling just short 5-4 to the Giants. Captain Coleton Bilodeau scored twice for the home side who outshot Vancouver 52-25 but couldn’t get the equalizer past Jesse Makaj in the Giants’ net.
“We fought back, but just couldn’t get that last one we needed,” said Rockets head coach Eric Blais. “I thought they got a couple of lucky breaks, but we shot ourselves in the foot, too. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
On Saturday, the Rockets again fell behind early but this time there would be no rally in a 5-1 loss to the Giants to end the best-of-three series.
Between too many penalties and a lack of execution, Blais said his club simply didn’t play the brand of hockey necessary to advance in the postseason.
“Give (the Giants) credit, they came in and played hard,” said Blais. “We took some undisciplined penalties and that was our downfall all year. Our players didn’t execute the game plan as we hoped, either.”
Blais and the Rockets had to deal with a number of key roster changes during the season, including the promotion of Eli Zummack and Jameson Murray to Western Hockey League teams, and Chase Stevenson to the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors.