If the Kelowna Rockets go on a long and prosperous playoff run this spring, most of the journey—if not all—will be without the on-ice services of captain Colton Sissons.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound North Vancouver native will be sidelined for the next eight to 12 weeks after suffering an undisclosed upper body injury last Friday night in Vancouver against the Giants.
The only way Sissons might see action again this season is if the Rockets advance as far as the Western Hockey League final or the Memorial Cup in May.
It was a bittersweet weekend for Sissons who, on Sunday afternoon, was named both the Rockets’ MVP and top defensive forward at the club’s annual awards banquet.
Sissons, who also missed 10 games in December due to injury is, understandably, disappointed with the latest turn in his junior career.
“It’s devastating,” said Sissons, who scored 28 goals and 67 points in 61 games this season. “I thought the worst timing for an injury was around Christmas, but I think this one takes the cake because I believe so much in our team. We have something special in there, a team that could go all the way.”
Still, thanks to the club’s depth and leadership group, Sissons believes the Rockets—who won a franchise record 52 games this season—have what it takes to compete for a WHL title.
“I trust everybody on our team and we’re lucky that we have that depth,” Sissons said. “We have great leadership beyond myself, they’re going take over and do a great job I know that, and everybody’s going to step their game up to a whole new level, and they’re capable of doing that.”
Rockets’ GM Bruce Hamilton says while losing Sissons is a significant blow to his team, the club has proven before it can win in the face of adversity, even in the absence of a key player.
“Anytime you lose a guy like that it’s tough, you’re losing one of your best players,” Hamilton said. “But if you go back to the Christmas period when we lost him for about a month, we only lost one game.
“So I think the guys who are healthy have to band together. This is where our three over-age guys have to come to the front, and guys like Myles Bell, Zach Franko and Ryan Olsen will need to be the difference in games,” added Hamilton, “not like when it was just Colton.”
Even though he won’t be on the ice with his teammates through most of the playoffs, Sissons vows he’ll still be providing support and leadership.
“I’m still going to be very much a part of the leadership group, I’m going to be around and be supportive for the guys, but at the same time I’m not going to be a distraction,” he said. “Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’ll do it…any way I can help this team.”
Rockets vs Seattle
With one of the most impressive regular seasons in franchise history in the books, the Rockets begin their post-season trek this weekend at Prospera Place.
The seventh-seeded Seattle Thunderbirds will take on the second-place Rockets Friday and Saturday in the first two games of the Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Face off both nights is 7:05 p.m.
The Rockets took three of four regular season meetings from the Thunderbirds, outscoring them 18-8 in the process.
After a record-setting 2012-13 campaign, which included 52 victories, a 23-game home ice winning streak and a B.C. Division crown, veteran forward Myles Bell counts himself among the many Rockets who are anxious to get the playoffs under way.
“It’s tough to describe the feeling in our room, but we’ve got something really special going this year and we want to keep it going,” said Bell, 19, who led the team in scoring with 38 goals and 93 points. “I think everyone’s really excited for the next step, the push into playoffs. We feel like we’ve got the team to accomplish a lot, so I think we’re ready and excited for this.”
Games 3 and 4 will be played Tuesday and Wednesday in Kent, Wash., with a fifth game, if needed, back in Kelowna on Saturday, March 30.