Well-matched, Rockets vs Ams in round 1

Well-matched, Rockets vs Ams in round 1

Kelowna and Tri-City split four meetings during the WHL’s regular season

If the games were played strictly on paper, the Kelowna Rockets and Tri-City Americans couldn’t be any better matched heading into the Western Hockey League playoffs.

The clubs split four regular season meetings right down the middle, each winning twice, with two of the games ending in overtime. On the scoreboard, the Rockets and Americans were also dead even with 13 goals apiece.

Throw in a season where both teams battled multiple key injuries and still finished third and fifth, respectively, in the Western Conference, and Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton expects a long, hard-fought series.

“I think it’s going to be a real good matchup,” Hamilton said. “They’re a team similar to us, that had a lot of injuries through the regular season and they’re getting healthy now, too.

“I think you’ve got the makings of a long series,” he added. “There’ll probably be a physical side to it, too, I think we’re going to have to play that way. It’s the playoffs, so as usual it will likely come down to who defends the best and whose goaltender has the best series.”

The Ams (38-25-8-1) are led into the series by high-scoring forwards Michael Rasmussen (first-round draft, Detroit), Morgan Geekie (84 points) and Jordan Topping, who are supported by an active and mobile defence, featuring Dylan Coghlan, Juuso Välimäki and Canadian junior team defenceman Jake Bean, who Tri-City acquired prior to the trade deadline from the Calgary Hitmen.

The Rockets (43-22-5-2) counter with their share end of high-end talent, including Kole Lind (95 points), Dillon Dube, Carsen Twarynski (45 goals), and blueline anchor, captain Cal Foote (70 points).

Rockets rookie James Porter and Americans’ 20-year-old Patrick Dea will head into the series as their team’s No. 1 netminders.

“It’s going to be a fun series, I know the (Americans) play a fast game, they strike quick and they have a few weapons we need to watch out for,” said Cal Foote, the Rockets team MVP. “Both teams played pretty well towards the end of the season, so it should be fast, exciting hockey.”

Much like the Americans, who won six of seven down the stretch, the Rockets also closed out the regular season on a high, with five straight victories.

Forward Dillon Dube expects the Americans to present a formidable challenge for the Rockets, not unlike any other playoff team would in the Western Conference.

“We’re going to have to play a team like this at some point, so it’s nice to play them right away and have home ice advantage,” said Dube, the WHL’s player of the week with seven points in two games.

“I think the split for the weekend, Thursday and Saturday games, is good to get the full rest and be 100 per cent for each game. Hopefully we get to where we want to be and we’ve got the team to do it.

“So let’s hope we stay healthy, that’s the thing about playoffs,” Dube added, “you never know what will happen, but I think we’re a pretty resilient team and we can do it.”

Series schedule:

Game 1: Tri-City @ Kelowna—Thursday, March 22 7:05

Game 2: Tri-City @ Kelowna—Saturday, March 24 7:05

Game 3: Kelowna @ Tri-City—Wednesday, March 28 7:05

Game 4: Kelowna @ Tri-City—Thursday, March 29 7:05

Game 5 *: Tri-City @ Kelowna—Saturday, March 31 7:05

Game 6 *: Kelowna @ Tri-City—Sunday, April 1 5:05

Game 7 *: Tri-City @ Kelowna—Tuesday, April 3 7:05

* If necessary

Rockets Awards

Not an overly vocal captain, Cal Foote led more by example for the Kelowna Rockets’ during the 2017-18 WHL season.

On Sunday, the 19-year-old blueliner’s impact on the Western Hockey League club couldn’t have been more clear during the Rockets’ annual awards ceremony at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

Following on the heels of a stellar regular season, Foote was named both the Rockets’ MVP and, for the second straight year, the club’s top defenceman.

Humbled by the MVP honour, Foote said the recognition could have just as easily gone to Dillon Dube, Kole Lind or Carsen Twarynski.

“I was surprised when I got it because we have so many great players, we have three other guys that are in the running for it,” said Foote, who had 19 goals and 70 points this season. “They all had a great seasons, credit to them they played well this year.”

Forward Dillon Dube won the first ever President’s Award, a new honour designed to recognize outstanding and significant accomplishments by a member of the team.

Dube was the first Kelowna Rockets player ever to earn a spot on the Canada’s world junior team roster in back-to-back seasons. The Cochrane, AB native served as team captain and helped Canada win gold at the 2018 championship in Buffalo.

Defenceman Gordie Ballhorn left the ceremony with three awards in his possession. The 20-year-old from Wetaskiwin, AB won the Unsung Hero and Plus-Minus Awards, and shared the Hamilton Humanitarian Award with fellow over-ager, Carsen Twarynski.

Twarynski, who led Kelowna with 45 goals this season, was also named the Rockets’ most improved player.

Other award winners:

• Top scorer—Kole Lind (95 points).

• Rookie of the Year—Kaedan Korczak

• Top defensive forward—Conner Bruggen-Cate

• Most sportsmanlike—Leif Mattson

• Scholastic Award—Wil Kushniryk

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


@capnewsports

whenderson@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Kelowna Rockets

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

Just Posted

Kelowna International Airport. (Contributed)
Contactless parking payment available at YLW

Kelowna International Airport parking now compatible with the PayByPhone application

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
Outbreak at Kelowna long term care home declared over

Penticton, Kelowna long term care home outbreaks declared over Jan. 20

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES)
Overdose calls spike in 2020 across the Okanagan – Shuswap

Stats show every major community in Okanagan - Shuswap increased in calls for potential overdoses

The Regional District of North Okanagan is cautioning residents to watch for rock slides along the Okanagan Rail Trail during freeze-thaw season. (RDNO photo)
Residents urged to watch for rockfalls on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO reminds rail trail travellers to heed rockfall warning signs during freeze-thaw season

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Charlotte is one of the resident pigs at Star's Piggly Wiggly's Sanctuary near Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-area pig sanctuary needs a new home

Star’s Piggly Wiggly’s Sanctuary is looking for properties in Vernon, Coldstream, and Enderby

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
One in five tests in Fernie area coming back positive: doctor

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Public provoking blamed for moose chasing Okanagan residents

‘The problem is people are bugging it’ conservation officer

Most Read