As many coaches will tell you, the only thing more difficult than winning that first championship is successfully defending it.
Eric Blais’ Kelowna Fripp Warehousing Rockets accomplished just that this week, capturing the B.C. Hockey midget tier 1 title for the second straight year.
The Rockets, who finished the round robin with two wins and three ties, downed Prince George 4-1 in Wednesday night’s championship game in North Vancouver.
Braden Eliuk, with the game winner 12 minutes into the third period, Garrick Heathcote, Steven Fiust and Lathan McKinney scored for the Rockets, while Zach Erhardt added a pair of assists.
Sam Bobyn closed out his midget career with a solid effort in goal.
“The guys were hungry and they really wanted it,” said Blais, the Rockets head coach. “The boys had their ups and downs but never gave up. It was just a great effort.”
The Rockets very nearly didn’t get into the championship game, but got some help from an unexpected source in the round robin.
Semiamhoo scored with just 28 seconds left in regulation to earn a 5-5 tie with Prince George in the last round-robin game. The single point earned by Semiamhoo bumped Hollyburn out of the final, and put the Rockets in against P.G.
“We got some breaks along the way and that was one of them,” said Blais. “Somebody said the hockey Gods must be with us.”
Coincidentally, the Rockets sealed the final game with an empty net goal also with just 28 seconds remaining.
The Rockets had only three players back from last year’s team—Bobyn, captain Brandon Barnes and Steven Fiust—but managed to overcome any lack of big-game experience.
And with Bobyn and Brady Lenardon in goal, Blais believes the Rockets had the best netminding in all of tier 1 hockey in B.C. this season.
As for the success of the program the last two years, Blais couldn’t happier for the players.
“We always have great kids coming through here, but when you win it makes it really special,” he said. “They can savour the moment and be proud of what they’ve done. It’s just awesome.”