The Okanagan Rockets head into the 2013-14 B.C. Major Midget League campaign with one clear goal in mind—to improve on last season’s second-place showing.
With new head coach Mack O’Rourke at the controls, the Rockets will begin that journey this weekend with their Icebreaker Tournament at Royal LePage Place and Jim Lind Arena.
The eight-team tourney, which begins Friday morning, features five teams from the Canadian Sports School League—Pursuit of Excellence, Okanagan Hockey Academy, Burnaby Winter Club, South Delta Academy, and Compete Academy from Idaho.
Rounding out the field are the host Rockets, Cariboo Cougars and the Kootenay Ice.
The Rockets enter the weekend with only a handful of decisions left as the roster is taking shape.
“We have a couple of decisions to make on defence, and one forward spot left to fill,” said Rockets GM David Michaud. “These games should give us the answers we are looking for.”
As it stands, the Rockets will look to return 7 to 10 players from last year’s club, including
two of the top four leading scorers, in captain Branden Wagner and Liam Finlay.
The club has added two top WHL prospects and former first-round draft picks in Tyson Jost (Everett) and Jake Kryski (Prince Albert.)
Two 17-year-old players have joined the team in Linden Hora (POE) and Kobe Oishi who won a provincial tier 1 title with the Kelowna midget Rockets last season. Fellow Kelowna midget Tanner Campbell is also making the jump to major midget with the Okanagan club.
On defence, Gen Bryshun, who has returned from Powell River, will help form the core of the defence along Tanner Browne (Brandon) and Mark Krabben (Calgary).
In goal, Reid Kilburn will be back after going 13-3-2 with a 2.34 GAA last season as a 16-year -old. Brendan Barry and Gio Sambrielaz will battle for the second position.
Overall, Michaud likes the prognosis for the 2013-14 season, rating this year’s club the most talent-laden yet.
“We will be an older club with as many as seven 17-year-old players at forward, two on defence, and one in goal,” said Michaud.
“I really feel losing to the Giants in last years BCMML final was the best thing that could have happened to us. I’ve never been more motivated for a season to start, and I know our players feel the same way. The players who were with me last season are anxious to get started, and the new faces to our program know exactly what the goal going into this season is.
“Anything less than a provincial championship would be considered a disappointment with group we have been able to assemble,” he added. “That said, we know the rest of the BCMML isn’t going to roll over and give it to us. We have seven months of very hard work in front of us.”
The Rockets will open the BCMML regular season at home Sept. 21 and 22 against the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.