Looking back on the first half
The Kelowna Rockets started off their season rocky, but at the halfway point of the season are gaining confidence and wins.
The Western Hockey League moved from a 72 game schedule to 68 for this season. The Rockets played their 34th game of the season against the Calgary Hitmen before finishing up their road trip in Medicine Hat ahead of the Christmas break.
Looking at their 16-17-2-0 record now, you would’ve never guessed that the team started the season 2-9-0-0 through their first 11 games of the year.
President and General Manager, Bruce Hamilton brought in a couple veteran over-age players to help bolster the roster up front and on the back end. The Rockets acquired Detroit Red Wings prospect, Lane Zablocki from the Victoria Royals on September 29th in exchange for a seventh-round pick at the 2019 Bantam Draft and a fourth pick in the 2021 draft. Days later Kelowna swapped a tenth round pick at the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft for defenceman Dalton Gally from the Medicine Hat Tigers.
A day later on October 11th, the Rockets acquired Michael Farren from the Saskatoon Blades for a third-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
On October 23rd the Rockets made another switch, this time on the bench. Two time Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, Adam Foote was hired to replace Jason Smith as the head coach of the Rockets. He was victorious in his debut later that night, a 3-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos. Since stepping behind the bench, the Rockets are 12-6-2-0 under Foote.
Speaking of firsts, a few Rockets rookies have lit the lamp in the Western Hockey League for the first time. It took Finish import, Lassi Thomson just three games to score his first goal on September 26th against Prince George. Kyle Crosby scored his first WHL goal on October 10th against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Two nights later Dallon Wilton potted his first against the Tri-City Americans. Sixteen-year-old Ethan Ernst put home his first in Victoria on October 20th. Meanwhile, Mark Liwiski put one through the five-hole of the Portland Winterhawks on November 11th.
A pair of Rockets prospects made their WHL debuts in the first half of the season. Rockets 18th overall at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, Trevor Wong signed and hit the ice with the Rockets on October 27th against the Prince George Cougars. Jackson DeSouza hit the road with the Rockets on their Christmas road trip; he skated in his first WHL game on December 15th against the Medicine Hat Tigers.
A major organization milestone was hit on November 9th against the Seattle Thunderbirds, Nolan Foote scored the 6000th goal in Kelowna Rockets history, not including Tacoma.
Plenty of personal milestones were hit as well. Leif Mattson scored his 100th WHL point on November 23rd against Victoria. Erik Gardiner played in his 100th game on November 23rd. The November 30th against the Tri-City Americans was filled with a couple; over-ager, Braydyn Chizen skated in his 200th WHL game while Nolan Foote hit the century mark for career points in the league. Defencemen Libor Zabransky and Kaedan Korczak also suited up for their 100th games in early December.
On Tuesday the Rockets signed local product, Alex Swetlikoff to a standard Western Hockey League (WHL) Player Agreement. The 17-year-old was originally drafted 62nd overall in the third round of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds. Kelowna acquired Swetlikoff’s rights from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on December 6th. In return, the Hurricanes received a 4th round draft pick in the 2022 WHL Bantam Draft.
Swetlikoff is projected to make his debut following the Christmas break when the team returns to action with a home and home series against the rival Kamloops Blazers on Friday, December 28th on the road.
You can see Swetlikoff and the rest of the Rockets kick off the rest of the season on Saturday, December 29th, when they host the Kamloops Blazers at Prospera Place. Tickets are on sale at selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office or by phone at 250762-5050.
Season ticket prices have been slashed in half! Season ticket holders will have first right of refusal on 2020 Memorial Cup presented by KIA ticket packages. Click here for pricing and more information.