In early November it seemed an unlikely scenario—if not next to impossible.
Still, somehow, some way the Kelowna Rockets were able to eradicate a 15-point deficit to catch and pass the Kamloops Blazers for the 2012-13 B.C. Division crown.
The Rockets (49-16-3-1) sealed the title in dramatic fashion by beating the Blazers twice over the weekend—3-2 on Friday in Kamloops and 2-1 the following night at Prospera Place.
“The guys felt these were two games we could win, we went out and worked hard and got it done,” said Rockets captain Colton Sissons. “It feels great. I’m so proud of the guys for what we’ve accomplished.”
Other than a rough patch in mid-February which saw the Rockets lose five of seven games, there wasn’t much that got in the way of a team that appeared to be on a mission.
In a campaign which featured a club record 23-game home ice winning streak, captain Colton Sissons said his teammates were focused and relentless in their pursuit of a division crown.
“Before the season and even after the season began, I don’t think anyone would have had us winning the division,” said Rockets’ captain Colton Sissons. “But we always believed in ourselves and we never quit. Even when we slipped a bit, the guys worked hard, we focused on what we had to do and got our confidence back.
“The guys showed a lot of character and maturity to come from as far back as we did.”
Scoring depth from all four lines, a skilled defensive corps and solid goaltending were all key factors in the Rockets’ success this season.
Still, Sissons points to team unity as the most important ingredient of all.
“This is the closest-knit group I’ve ever played with and I think that’s been the biggest reason we’ve had the year we’ve had,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t happen very often. The guys like each other, we have fun and we work hard. It’s been pretty special.”
While the B.C. Division title has been sewed up, there’s still plenty of incentive for the Rockets to close out the WHL season with three more wins. With 49 victories, the current Rockets are two wins shy of the franchise record for victories in a campaign (51) set by the 2002-03 team.
“It’s great to still have something to push for over the last few games,” said Sissons. “That was a great team back then, so if we can tie or break that record that would be a huge accomplishment…another feather in our caps.”
The Rockets will host Prince George Thursday, then will wrap up the regular season with a home-and-home set against the Giants—Friday in Vancouver, then Saturday night at Prospera Place.
Along with the B.C. title, the Rockets have secured second in the Western Conference to earn home-ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the post-season.
The Rockets are headed for a first-round matchup with either the Seattle Thunderbirds or the Everett Silvertips beginning the weekend of March 22 and 23.
Kelowna handled both teams with relative ease during the regular season, winning three of four against Seattle and taking all four meetings from the Silvertips.