In his first full season in the Western Hockey League

No fear in Goulbourne’s game

Kelowna Rockets forward not afraid to mix it up, but has more skills to offer to the WHL team

Fear is a word that has no place in Tyrell Goulbourne’s vocabulary—particularly when the Kelowna Rockets’ forward is in his hockey gear.

Regardless of the size, age or toughness of his adversary, backing down from a physical challenge is a foreign concept to the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Edmonton native.

In addition to delivering his share bone-jarring checks, Goulbourne has engaged in a team-high 16 fights during the 2011-12 Western Hockey League season, many of them against  bigger opponents.

“He obviously plays very hard, and he’s not scared of anybody,” Rockets’ assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert said of Goulbourne, a fifth-round bantam draft pick of the Rockets in 2009.

“He’s fearless, he’s not afraid to take on bigger guys, so he’s comfortable dropping the gloves at any time.”

From Goulbourne’s perspective, taking one for his teammates—or in many cases handing out a few to his opponents—is just part of his hockey DNA.

“I’ve always played like that, I was a bigger guy growing up, I got into a few battles and I’ve never really changed that part of my game,” said Goulbourne, 18, who has six goals, 14 points and 102 penalty minutes in 56 games this season. “Some of the guys are bigger than me now, but you know what they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall…and it’s better to give than receive. It’s a role I don’t mind playing.”

Despite his penchant for physical play and more than 100 minutes in the penalty box this season, Cuthbert said Goulbourne has much more to offer than a prototypical grinding forward.

“He plays with energy, he’s a smart player and he’s one of the fastest skaters on our team,” said Cuthbert. “He’s a good penalty killer, too, so does a lot more than play physical and fight.”

For Goulbourne’s part, he would like to be a little more productive on the score sheet but believes, with persistence, the offense will come.

“Goals haven’t come easy,” said Goulbourne, “but I know they will with hard work.”

Still, Cuthbert and the coaching staff don’t underestimate the value of Goulbourne’s greasy, on-ice demeanor to the Rockets.

His ability to generate energy and excitement amongst his teammates was evident again last week in Edmonton when Goulbourne dropped his mitts in the opening period and laid a few licks on Klarc Wilson, a 6-foot, 200-pound forward with the Oil Kings

Kelowna went on to beat the Eastern Conference leaders 6-4.

“That fight in Edmonton was a great example of how fearless he is and how that can pick up the guys,” said Cuthbert. “Wilson’s a tough kid and (Goulby) did great. It gave our bench that extra boost, they said ‘Well, Goulby’s ready to go,’ and the guys really fed off that.”

Rocket Shots…The Rockets (26-29-3-5) will play the Kamloops Blazers in a home-and-home set this weekend, Friday at the Interior Savings Centre in Kelowna, and Saturday at Prospera Place…Kelowna has eight games remaining the regular season, five at home and three on the road.