Rockets’ Nolan Foote trades verbal jabs with a Kamloops Blazers player. Kamloops beat Kelowna in a tiebreaking game Wednesday night in Kamloops and will head to the playoffs. Kelowna’ season is over. (Marissa Baecker – Kelowna Rockets Images)

Season wraps for Kelowna Rockets

The Rockets came close to a playoff berth, but were bounced out by Kamloops in tiebreaker

The Kelowna Rockets’ season ended Wednesday with a 5-1 loss in a tiebreaker game against the Kamloops Blazers.

If Kelowna had won, they would have advanced to the WHL playoffs. But the Rockets fell short in what was a tough overall season.

“You never go into the year not planning to get into the playoffs,” said Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton.

“It’s disappointing for our fan base.”

But with the off-season now in full swing for the Rockets, management’s attention will turn to the next season, when the Rockets will host the Memorial Cup for the first time since 2004.

The tournament includes the top three teams of the Canadian Hockey League and the host team. So the Rockets will look to compete against the league’s best in 2020.

“We’re switching into Memorial Cup mode and building our team for next year,” said Hamilton. “We’ll do what we need to do to upgrade our team, have our high-end talent back and go into the season (ready).”

The returning talent includes a majority of the Rockets’ 2018/19 core. Forwards Kyle Topping, Leif Mattson, and Nolan Foote led the Rockets in points this season, and are expected to return. Defenceman Kaedan Korczak and Lassi Thomson, both coming off great years for the Rockets, are also slated to return to the line-up next season. Seventeen-year-old goalie Roman Basran, though shaky at the end, was solid for most of the season, and will also return with a full year of experience under his belt.

The Rockets’ core had ups and downs throughout the season, and some players will be drafted at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver.

Hamilton knows the team will need to come back with improvements.

“All of them have to work on fitness and certain parts of their games. They’ll get bigger and stronger,” he said.

“They’re all young men turning into men.”

Kelowna drew the fifth overall draft pick in the 2019 WHL bantam draft, their highest pick since 2007, and will use it to upgrade the team.

Fifteen-year-old Trevor Wong, the Rockets 2018 draft pick, rounds out the younger players looking to make an impact on next season’s roster alongside Alex Swetlikoff, Mark Liwiski, Michael Farren, and six other rookie prospects.

“Wong will be someone the fans will enjoy watching play as he progresses, and he’ll get every opportunity,” said Hamilton.

With rookies and draft picks coming onto the roster, the Rockets will lose their three overage players. Dalton Gally, Schael Higson and Matt Barberis, all defenceman are moving on to pursue hockey on the East Coast or at university.

Gally, who played 59 games for the Rockets after being traded from Medicine Hat at the beginning of the season, said he enjoyed every minute with Kelowna.

“I think overall it was really positive,” he said. “I came in and felt they really wanted me, and I learned a lot from coach (Adam) Foote. It was a great time, and (Kelowna) will always be in the back of my mind and in my heart for sure.”

Hamilton said the overage players carry teams, and it was one of the reasons the Rockets struggled at the beginning of the season, with no veterans like Gally stepping in.

“Adversity plagued us all-year round,” said Gally. “But I felt we got better throughout the season, especially the young guys. They learned a lot, as I did.”

Rockets fans may now have to wait through the summer until the start of next season, but with new players coming in, a year of experience under the Rockets’ core’s skates and the team ready to compete in 2020’s Memorial Cup, they can prepare for a pivotal upcoming season.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Suspected social media accounts of accused Kelowna hamster torturer emerge

Leighton Allen Labute, 20, is facing six charges related to his alleged torture of a hamster

North Westside residents shocked at fire chief’s suspension

Communities association president said they don’t know why the suspension happened

Trafficking investigation results in several firearms seized in Kelowna

Police seized both restricted and non-restricted firearms from a Kelowna residence

Paid parking in Kelowna to resume in stages

Paid parking back June 1 around Kelowna General Hospital and some downtown parking, further restrictions lifted June 15

COVID-19 closes Okanagan College summer camps

Popular Camp OC put on shelf from Salmon Arm to Penticton, and Revelstoke, until 2021

Dr. Bonnie Henry given new name in B.C. First Nation ceremony: ‘one who is calm among us’

The provincial health officer was honoured in a May 22 ceremony at elementary school in Hazelton

28 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in ong-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

Horoscopes for the week of May 26

Weekly horoscopes by Morgan Fava

Camper explodes near Princeton along Similkameen River

One man was sent to Princeton Hospital May 23 after a camper… Continue reading

Ruling change scuttles Okanagan-Shuswap grad plans

Number of secondary schools had planned to use Enderby’s Starlight Drive-In venue for ceremonies

Public asked to leave Okanagan bear and cubs alone

Sow and babes spent the day up a tree Saturday in a busy area

B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some out-of-province people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

B.C. drive-in theatre appeals COVID-19 concession rules, 50-car limit

With 50 cars and the removal of concession sales, drive-in owner says theatre might have to close

Most Read