Head coach Tom Watters knows his team will be “in tough” at the 36th edition Kelowna International Elite Midget Hockey Tournament.
On the upside, the overall quality of teams and level of play at this year’s tourney should only benefit his Kelowna Fripp Warehouse Rockets in the long run.
Included in Kelowna’s pool are the Yale Lions (U18), the top-ranked prep team in Canada, Okanagan Academy Red, which has lost only twice in the Canadian Sport School League, and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the top teams from Alberta’s midget AAA league.
Following tonight’s opening ceremony at Rutland Arena, the host Rockets will take on Kelowna’s Pursuit of Excellence, the 2013 finalists, at 7 p.m.
“This year for us is a building process all year long,” said Watters, “so if we can prepare ourselves for playoffs and provincials hopefully by playing in this tournament, we’ll take the losses, gain experience and take that with us.”
Among the top teams on the other side of the draw are the defending champion Okanagan Rockets, Okanagan Academy White, Saskatoon Contacts and the Kitchener junior Rangers.
The Okanagan Rockets will open the tournament 4:30 p.m. today at Rutland against South Delta Academy.
With the turnover of all but one player from last year’s BCMML championship team, the Rockets are a young squad that relies on work ethic and structure to be successful.
“We’re just a hardworking team where everyone is working together, we look to create offense out of puck possession in the other team’s zone, and we like to get on the body,” said Rockets coach Simon Ferguson. “Just a hardworking team…”
Tournament games will be played at Memorial and Rutland Arenas, with the final set for Rutland at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 11.
The following is a brief look at the 12 competing teams:
• Kelowna Fripp Warehouse Rockets—defending B.C. midget tier 1 champs
• Okanagan Rockets—defending BCMML and KIMMT champs, and national bronze medalists
• Pursuit of Excellence—reached the KIMMT final in 2013
• Okanagan Academy White—10-1-0 record in Canadian Sport School league
• Okanagan Academy Red—11-2-1 record in Canadian Sport School league
• Moose Jaw Generals—hosts of last year’s Telus Cup
• Lethbridge Hurricanes—9-7-9 record in Alberta midget AAA league
• Yale U18 Lions—No. 1 ranked prep team in Canada, 15-0-1 in league play
• Saskatoon Contacts—first appearance since 1997, 2005 Telus Cup champs
• Kitchener Rangers—14-12-0 in Ontario midget AAA league
• Compete Academy—6-9-1 record in Canadian Sport School league
• South Delta Academy—11-5-0 record in Canadian Sport School league
For more information and the schedule, visit kimmt.com