Mac’s tourney a learning experience for OK Rockets

B.C. Major Midget League team prepares for Giants after one tie in four games at Calgary tournament

Isaac Dutka and the Okanagan Rockets will open 2017 this weekend in Squamish with two BCMML games against the Vancouver Northwest Giants.

Head coach Eric Blais didn’t get the desired results from his club at the Mac’s international midget hockey tournament.

But if the lessons learned mean the Okanagan Rockets are a better team for the rest of the season, then Blais will consider every moment spent last week in Calgary to be well worth the effort.

“I hope we learned how we need to play and what we need to do to win against the very best teams out there,” said Blais. “We have to play hard on every shift and show better discipline, because that’s what it takes to compete with the best.”

In one of the world’s best and largest tournaments of its kind, the Rockets went winless (0-3-1) at Mac’s over the Christmas break, but Blais felt his team had a legitimate chance to come out on top in every game.

Okanagan lost 4-2 to the Calgary Royals, 5-2 to the Saskatoon Contacts, tied the Austrian national team 3-3, and fell 6-1 to Sherwood Park in a penalty-filled affair in their last game of the week.

The Contacts went on to make the championship game, before losing to the Belarus U18 nationals.

Blais said his team showed flashes of promise at Mac’s, but simply not enough consistency over the four-game span.

“I saw lots of good things, there were probably a couple of games where I thought we deserved a better fate,” he said. “The last four periods, I thought we forechecked hard, we battled hard (against Sherwood Park) and the boys stood up for each other in what was a greasy game.

“Some things were encouraging, but we’re just not putting full games together and discipline has been a problem, too.”

The Rockets (17-5-0-2) have a busy stretch ahead as they return to B.C. Major Midget League action this weekend with two games in Squamish against the Vancouver Northwest Giants. Then the Rockets will play a minimum of five games next week at the Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament.

Blais expects the next handful of games will reveal his team’s true colours.

“I think (Mac’s) was the low point of our season,” he said. “Every team goes through it, now I’m interested to see how we react. If we want to accomplish anything, we have to be hard on the puck on every shift. I’m going to demand a lot of the boys the next while and we’ll find out how they respond.”


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