It’s been six years since the Okanagan Rockets won their first and only B.C. Major Midget League championship.
From where current general manager Dave Michaud sits, the latest edition of the Rockets could be a legitimate contender to go the distance in 2012-13.
“I think the guys sense there’s a real opportunity here this year,” said Michaud. “They bought in right from training camp in August and there’s a real belief in what this team is capable of. The guys really mean business, so we’re excited to get it going.”
Head coach James Eccles and the Rockets will raise the curtain on the new BCMML season this weekend at home to the Northeast Chiefs. The clubs will face off Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the Capital News Centre, then again Sunday at 10 a.m.
Michaud points to experience and maturity as two of the Rockets biggest assets heading into the new campaign.
“It’s been five years since we’ve had a team this old, we have only three 15-year-old players,” said Michaud. “Their maturity shows in the way they carry themselves, there hasn’t been a lot of fooling around. They know what they want and they’re serious about getting it.”
Michaud likes the Rockets’ depth all across the board, starting with 17-year-old netminder Brenden Mills.
“He’s a big, athletic kid and he really solidifies our goaltending,” Michaud said of Mills, a West Kelowna product. “We encouraged him to stay and we’re glad he accepted.”
Anchoring the defensive corps is Alex Gran, 17, back for his third year with the club.
“We can’t stress enough how important a guy like Alex is with his experience. We expect him to take on a leadership role.”
Michaud said the club is also excited to oversee the development of 15-year-old blue liner Joe Gatenby, a second round pick of the Kelowna Rockets this spring.
Up front, the midget Rockets are generally small, quick and skilled, but do have a pair of returning forwards with both size and talent—6-foot-3 Justin Marreck and 6-foot-2 Cortlan Procter.
And along with the likes of fellow returnees Brett Mennear and new captain Branden Wagner, and newcomers Carter Hikichi and Josh Blanchard, Michaud expects ample offense to come from the forward lines.
That much seems likely after the Rockets scored 40 times while going 5-0-1 in the pre-season.
“We think we’re going to score goals,” Michaud predicted. “We’re real comfortable with our speed and skill and we really like our depth. We’ll be comfortable rolling four lines.”
Last season, the Rockets finished fourth in the BCMML and were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs.