Kelowna Minor Hockey product Carter Hikichi isn’t used to sitting on the sidelines nursing injuries.
But the 16-year-old skilled forward for the Okanagan Rockets major midget team has had his fair share of just that this year, after suffering a broken collar-bone not once, but twice.
“It’s my first year being a band-aid,” joked Hikichi this week, referring to the injury he suffered, first in the Kelowna Chiefs training camp and then in an Okanagan Rockets’ practice. “But I’m feeling good now, back to 100 per cent.”
And that’s good news for the Rockets, who are in the midst of an excellent season. With Hikichi back and healthy, the offensive forward makes the Rockets deeper and better.
“We knew Carter had tremendous puck skills,” said Rockets manager David Michaud. “He’s been a pretty versatile player for us. He can handle all situations, he’s very skilled and smart.”
Hikichi has been limited to a dozen games this year due to injury but has been able to produce nearly a point per game in his rookie season in the B.C. Major Midget League. After lighting it up through minor hockey and last year with the Kelowna midget tier 1 team, Hikichi is enjoying his first season in the BCMML this year.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s way more professional and the speed and skill is way above the midget hockey that I have seen. It prepares you for junior hockey and shows you what the higher leagues are going to be like.”
The Rockets are 20-3-5 this year and in a tie for second place in the BCMML. But they are coming off what might have been their worst weekend of the season with a loss and a tie in Fraser Valley.
Hikichi says the team just needs to keep working toward its goal of having success in the playoffs after taking a step back last weekend.
“I think we just need to battle through the adversity,” he said. “Every team goes through it. We just need to battle back and we will be fine. Everyone has to buy into the system.”
The Rockets will play a home and home set with the Thompson Blazers this weekend before a stretch of six straight games on the road, including a pair of game in Prince George against the Cariboo Cougars, the team they sit tied with for second place. Getting out on the road will bring the team closer together as it heads down the stretch run towards the BCMML playoffs.
“I don’t mind the road at all,” said Hikichi. “You get to bond with your team, you’re in close quarters and it just makes you gel on and off the ice.”
The Rockets host Thompson this Saturday at the Capital News Centre at 3 p.m. before traveling to Kamloops on Sunday.