When the Kelowna Rockets open the WHL regular season this weekend, an off-season trade will begin to be measured with the Rockets playing Kamloops in a home-and-home series and two former players from each team making their regular season debuts.
The Rockets will open the regular season on Friday night in Kamloops before hosting its home opener on Saturday at Prospera Place in Kelowna.
The games will mark the first regular season game for Jake Kryski in a Rockets uniform after the 18-year-old Vancouver native was acquired from Kamloops in a summer trade that saw Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby sent to the Blazers along with his brother, prospect Danny Gatenby.
Kryski led the Rockets in scoring in the WHL preseason, with four goals and four assists in five preseason games. The skilled forward spent his first two seasons in the WHL with the Blazers and says it’s going to be an interesting start to the season to play his old team right away.
“It’ll be a little weird for sure. Even through the short preseason I’ve developed a kind of hate for that team so to speak,” Kryski said. “Even though these guys are all still my buddies I still feel that rivalry.”
During his tenure with Kamloops Kryski amassed 65 points in 136 games played including 23 goals and 42 assists. He also knows what type of team the Blazers have.
“Kamloops is a hard team to play against; I’ve kind of realized that since coming over to Kelowna,” said Kryski. “Obviously in the playoffs last year getting knocked out by Kelowna set a fire under some guys in their room so these first two games everyone will be coming out hard. It’s definitely going to be a good battle.”
On the other bench will be Joe Gatenby, the Kelowna native who spent three full seasons with the Rockets before the trade.
The 19-year-old Gatenby admits it will be different hitting the ice in Kelowna as a member of the opposition.
“It’s going to be different,” said Gatenby. “I didn’t play in the exhibition game so I can’t say what it’s going to be like. I’m sure its going to be exciting. I’m just going to try to keep my focus on doing what I can on the ice and not let those external things get in the way. I think it’s just a matter of getting better every day. I’m liking the situation here and get along with my teammates and I just want to build on that and have a really good year.”
As for Kryski, who was brought in to provide offence, he thinks the key for the Rockets this weekend against his old club is to come out hard, and fast.
“I think we need to establish our identity as a fast, good battling team early. Through the preseason we played pretty well through most of the games,” Kryski said. “But at times we had some lulls and we weren’t playing our best, but that’s preseason so now we look forward to just having a good year.”
Kryski, much like his teammates, is just eager to get the regular season started.
“It’s nice to finally get preseason over with and get regular season started. My first regular season game with the Kelowna Rockets is going to be really exciting for me,” he said.
The regular season begins on Friday in Kamloops at 7:00 p.m., and the Rockets home opener is on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.