The Kelowna Rockets celebrated the organization's fourth WHL title in the spring of 2015.

The Kelowna Rockets celebrated the organization's fourth WHL title in the spring of 2015.

Year in Review: Rockets rule WHL

Kelowna wins fourth league title, falls one goal short at Memorial Cup

One of major junior hockey’s most successful franchises of the last decade, the Kelowna Rockets were back on top in 2015.

With a deep corps of returning veterans and acquisitions of players like Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey, the Rockets were virtually unstoppable on their way to winning the Western Hockey League title.

The Rockets went 16-3 in the playoffs en route to claiming the Ed Chynoweth Cup, sweeping the Brandon Wheat Kings in four straight games in the final.

The clincher came on home ice as Kelowna won its fourth WHL title in the last 12 years and first since 2009.

“You don’t forget these,” Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton said of his team’s fourth league championship.

“It’s a great feeling and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”

As well as the WHL season ended, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Rockets, who

had to search for chemistry after making a number of significant trades.

“Our team has come a long way from probably February when we hit a few bumps along the road,” said Rockets head coach Dan Lambert. “We weren’t sure if this was all going to come together, it took a little time but the key thing is that the players in the room believed, and that was the difference.”

The Rockets advanced to the team’s fifth Memorial Cup, but fell just one goal short of a perfect season.

The Oshawa Generals defeated the Rockets 2-1 in overtime in the championship final in Quebec City.

“It was a helluva year for us,” said  Rockets captain Madison Bowey. “I’m proud of the guys, we battled hard right to the end. It’s just tough to go out like that.”

Draisiatl was named the Memorial Cup MVP.

Following the season, Lambert stepped down as the team’s head coach to accept a position with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

The Rockets hired Brad Ralph as Lambert’s replacement in August.

Early in the year, three members of the club had a hand in Canada’s gold medal win at the world junior hockey championship in Montreal and Toronto.

Defencemen Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey played on the Canadian squad, while GM Bruce Hamilton was a member of the management team.

 

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