The Kelowna Rockets 2020-21 regular season begins tonight in Victoria, almost a week after some teams hit the ice.
The Rockets are the last WHL team to open their season, taking on the Royals in Victora at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena both tonight and tomorrow (Oct. 8 and 9). Head coach Kris Mallette said the downtime between the pre-season and regular season is a boon headed into game one.
“It was a training camp all over again for us to some degree,” he said. “The layoff has given us the opportunity to go over the structure and style of play that we’d like to have, we were also utilizing this time to rest and recover. We’ve been working hard and planning our days accordingly, we’re just working hard to get everything dialled in before Friday.”
The Rockets fared well against the Royals during the hub season earlier this year, winning all four contests between the two teams. The Rockets also took the ‘W’ in both pre-season matches against the Royals last month.
While things are looking up for the Rockets heading into tonight’s match-up, the team will be without its biggest off-season addition. Forward Colton Dach, acquired from the Saskatoon Blades last week, remains at the Chicago Blackhawks training camp. He’s expected to join the Rockets after the camp concludes.
The game does, however, mark the return of one of the Rockets’ most prominent scorers. Pavel Novak is back in action with the team for the first time since the 2019-2020 season.
The Minnesota Wild prospect was the Rockets’ top scorer that season with 58 points in 58 games (25G, 33A). Novak spent last season in Europe after he was unable to get a visa due to COVID-19.
Three rookies are set to make their WHL debuts with the Rockets tonight, Gabriel Szturc, Marcus Pacheco and Caden Price, and Tyson Feist will play his first game as the Rockets’ new captain.
The Rockets are set for their first home game of the season on Oct. 15 against the Kamloops Blazers. Tickets are available at kelownarockets.com/ticket-info.