Posts Tagged ‘Keowna Rockets’

This past week the Kelowna Rockets held their annual awards night. This was an unusual year for the Rockets for a  number of reasons. First of all, they were missing some key players from last year. The Rockets said goodbye to Jamie Benn, Tyler Myers, Mikael Backlund and Cody Almond. All four of these players have since made the jump to the NHL. It’s probably not a record anyone keeps track of but I’m sure you’d be hard pressed to find another junior team that has four players go to the NHL their first year after junior. Add to this Colin Long, Ryley Grantham, Ian Duval, Tysen Dowzak and you had a total of eight players move on from last year.

With eight players moving on this meant lots of new faces in training camp and the opportunity for the returning players to step up and establish themselves as leaders. Tyson Barrie was one of these players to step up and was a key player for the Rockets this year not only by logging countless minutes but also with his point production. Barrie seemed to be a better job of picking his spots to attack this year and always seems to be in control of his emotions.

The other interesting feature of this year’s Rockets team was the number of injuries they faced.  It all began with Evan Bloodoff who suffered a knee injury at the 2009 Memorial Cup and wouldn’t play again until March 2010. Add to that returning 20 year old goalie Mark Guggenberger who started the year on the IR. From there it seemed as though every Rocket player took a turn being sidelined with injury.

But rather than focus on the players they were missing or how young they were the Rockets continued to develop. Getting top forward Brandon McMillan back from the world junior tournament and some time on the injured reserve definitely helped. And it definitely helps with the mindset that exists within this organization. There is no such thing as rebuilding. There are no excuses for injuries. There is no room for individual play. As graduating captain Lucas Bloodoff passed on to the returning players he urged them to know what their game is and to play as hard as possible within their game. By listening to his coaches over the years and through his own maturation process he has learned what his game is and has had success playing his role as well as possible.

One of the award winners Monday night was forward Mitchell Callahan. Callahan is a second year player out of Whittier, CA and a 3rd round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings (2009). With winning the ‘Unsung Hero’ award Callahan also won a complete off-season training and nutritional package with Okanagan Peak Performance.

The Rockets have just opened their first round of the play-offs against the Everett Silvertips. The first game went 5-4 to Everett in overtime and sets the stage for a close, competitive and entertaining first round.