Kelowna Rockets defenceman Riley Stadel is off to a hot start this season.

Kelowna Rockets defenceman Riley Stadel is off to a hot start this season.

Rockets defense coming up big offensively so far this season

Rockets blueliners firing the puck and getting results

When Madison Bowey and Damon Severson each scored Friday night against the Seattle Thunderbirds, it was the continuation of an early season trend for the Western Hockey League’s Rockets.

Through just eight games, the Rockets blueliners lead the WHL in offensive contributions.

The trio of Bowey (4), Severson (3) and Riley Stadel (4), have been responsible for all eleven of the rearguard goals, with all four of Stadel’s coming on the man advantage. His four powerplay markers actually put him second in the entire WHL, regardless of position.

“It’s nice to see the defense contribute offensively,” said Rockets assistant coach Dan Lambert. “Part of that is when we have been shooting from the point our forwards have done a good job creating screens to make life harder on opposition goalies.”

There has been 100 goals scored by defensemen in the WHL this season, for an average of 4.5 per the 22 teams in the league. This Wednesday’s opponent, the Lethbridge Hurricanes, have managed just two goals from the back end thus far. The fact that Jesse Lees, who scored 12 goals from the point last year, is yet to score is all the more encouraging for the Rockets when considering the chances of continuing this trend. Defensive stalwart Mitchell Wheaton is also expected to return from injury soon, which could free up the likes of Bowey and Severson for more offensive creativity.

The Rockets have long been known for their defensive core, producing a number of tremendous NHLers. The defensive corps of the 2003 WHL Championship winning team is often regarded as the golden standard, and rightfully so. That blueline had Duncan Keith, Josh Gorges, Shea Weber, Brett Palin, Mike Card, and Tomas Slovak, who scored 18 times that season. They totalled 53 goals, the highest total output of any defense in Rockets history.  This year’s group is on pace for 99.

The defense of this edition of the Rockets will be leaned on heavily throughout the season to not only contribute offensively, but also take care of the defensive zone in front of goaltenders Jordan Cooke and Jackson Whistle. Through eight games, the Rockets have allowed 26 goals; good for fourth in the WHL Western Conference.

The Rockets are back in action on Wednesday as they continue a four game home stand that began on Friday night with a 4-3 shoot-out loss at the hands of Seattle.

Kelowna plays Lethbridge on Wednesday, Prince George on Saturday and Calgary on Oct. 22 before heading out on a four game road trip.

Kelowna Capital News