Rookie fowards lift Rockets’ offense

Nolan Foote, Kyle Topping and Jack Cowell comibed for six goals in Kelowna's three-game WHL winning streak

Kyle Topping had three of the six goals scored by Rockets rookie forwards in the last week of WHL action.

In the last week, Nolan Foote, Kyle Topping and Jack Cowell have all scored their first Western Hockey League goals.

For a Kelowna Rockets offense that had been struggling to find its rhythm, the emergence of the three rookie forwards was a most welcome sight.

With a combined six goals, Foote, Topping and Cowell helped convert a three-game Rockets’ slide into a three-game winning streak.

Topping, 16, made a particularly memorable impact, connecting for a hat trick in Kelowna’s 5-1 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton said the Salt Spring Island product is starting to get his feet under him after making the step up from the BCHL last season.

“I’m really happy for Kyle, that he’s having success,” Hamilton said of Topping, who has seven points in 11 WHL games. “He’s had a bit of a tough adjustment coming from junior A, but he’s learning what he needs to do here. I think he’s going to be a real good player for us.”

Cowell also connected for his goal against the T-Birds. The 17-year-old from Winnipeg, who was passed over in the WHL bantam draft two years ago, is making the transition after playing last season with the Winfield-based Pursuit of Excellence.

“(Cowell) is making the biggest jump of anyone, the learning curve has been huge from high school hockey, and he’s making good progress,” Hamilton said. “As a new, younger guy, he’s had to sit out some games so that makes it a challenge, too.

“It’ll be interesting to see what he’s going to look like at 18 and 19.”

As for Foote, the younger brother of Rockets defenceman, Cal, he is wasting little time in living up to expectations.

After sitting out both preseason and the first two weeks of the regular campaign to fully recover from a bout of mono, the 6-foot-3 forward from Englewood, CO has two goals and four points in his first seven WHL games.

“We’re happy that he got a couple of goals to get going, he was pretty hungry to get back after missing so much time,” Hamilton said of Foote, who turns 16 next month. “We’re starting to see what we knew we’d get from (Nolan). It’s great to have him in the lineup and contributing.”

However, the Rockets will have to do without Foote for at least the next five games. The Rockets’ first pick in the 2015 bantam draft, Foote left this week for Sault Ste, Marie, ON where he’ll play for one of Canada’s entries at the World Under-17 Challenge.

The Rockets (6-7-0) return to action tonight when they take on the Victoria Royals. Face off at Royal LePage Place is 7:05 p.m.

Herringer top goalie…

Three wins in three starts has earned Michael Herringer the WHL’s goalie of the week award.

The 20-year-old stopper from Comox went 3-0-0 for the Rockets, posting a 1.99 goals against average and a save ratio of .924.

Herringer led Kelowna to victores over Everett last Wednesday and Tri-City Friday, before stopping 36 shots in a 5-1 win over Seattle Saturday in Kent, WA.

Dube getting closer…

Centre Dillon Dube is expected back in the Rockets’ lineup within the next week.

The 18-year-old Cochrane, AB native hasn’t played this season after suffering a knee injury at Calgary Flames rookie camp.

Dube, who had 66 points in 65 games for Kelowna last season, was a second round pick of the Flames in the 2016 NHL entry draft.