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Draft: Rockets look forward

The Kelowna Rockets found help up front during Thursday's Western Hockey League bantam draft.

The Rockets selected forwards with their first three picks.

After trading their first round pick to the Prince Albert Raiders as part of the Reid Gardiner deal, the Rockets had to wait until late in the second round before making their first pick.

They used the 39th overall pick to grab Ethan Bowan out of the Yale Hockey Academy.

The 5-11, 157-pounder out of Chilliwack, scored 33 goals and 29 assists in just 29 games this past season.

Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton, says Bowan fell into their lap.

"We're thrilled that we got to draft this player. We had him ranked much higher than where we picked him," said Hamilton.

"We're excited to introduce him to our coaching staff and to our players. He could be a strong player for our organization for years to come."

The Rockets continued to restock up front with their next two selections, taking forwards Ethan Ernst from Note Dame in the third round (61st overall), and Cole Carrier from the Sherwood Park Flyers with their first of two selections in the fourth round (71st).

That selection was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades.

Ernst had 19 goals and 33 points in 33 games this past season, while Carrier chipped in the 21 goals and 34 points in 35 games.

The rest of the Rockets draft class includes:

  • Round 4 (from Saskatoon) - Cole Carrier, centre
  • Round 4 - Rylan Donald, defenceman
  • Round 5 (from PG) - Kaeden Watkins, defenceman
  • Round 6 - Jake Poole, winger
  • Round 7 - James Bohn, defenceman
  • Round 8 (from Prince Albert) - Cole Tisdale, goalie
  • Round 9 (from Spokane) - Stephen Klesslering, forward
  • Round 9 - Robert Kincaid, defenceman
  • Round 10 (from Kootenay) - Brody Wilson, centre




Rockets get pro look

A couple of Kelowna Rockets won't be hanging up their skates just yet.

Forward Dillon Dube and defenceman Lucas Johansen are heading to the American Hockey League on amateur tryout contracts.

Dube, 18,  has been added to the roster of the AHL's Stockton Heat, while the 19-year-old Johansen is off to Hershey.

The Heat are the AHL affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames, who selected Dube in the second round of last year's entry draft.

Dube will be reunited with former Rocket head coach Ryan Huska, in his third season behind the Heat bench. Huska coached Dube briefly during training camp and the pre-season of the 2013-2014 season.

Dube, 15 at the time, was sent back to midget following the pre-season.

The Heat are in the midst of the Calder Cup playoffs. They are deadlocked at two-games apiece with the San Jose Barracuda in the best-of-five Pacific Division semi-final.

The fifth and deciding game is tonight in San Jose.

Dube will have a chance to renew acquaintances, albeit briefly, with former teammate Rourke Chartier, a member of the Barracuda.

Dube notched seven goals and 14 assists during the playoff run with the Rockets.

Johansen, meantime, joins the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals, a team which drafted him in the first round a year ago.

He'll join a team which will begin its second round playoff series against the Providence Bruins on the weekend. He'll also be reunited with former teammate Madison Bowey, in his second full season with the Bears.



Rockets season ends

The Seattle Thunderbirds placed a defensive blanket over the Kelowna Rockets Sunday.

It was enough to stifle the vaunted Rockets offence and send the T Birds to a second straight Western Hockey League final.

Three unanswered goals in the second period was all Seattle needed in a 3-1 victory and a 4-2 series win.

"It's obviously disappointing. We didn't play well enough to win the game," said Rockets rookie head coach Jason Smith.

"They play hard, they compete, they block shots. They make it hard for you to get to the net. In stretches we did things well, but we didn't do it quite well enough to win. Obviously the results in the series show that."

The Rockets got the start they wanted when Nolan Foote scored his second of the playoffs on the power play. His shot from the left faceoff circle beat Carl Stankowski to the far side.

It was the only shot the Rockets managed on three first period power plays. A period in which they managed just four shots, while holding Seattle to a single.

Kelowna had a great chance to stretch the lead when Keegan Kolesar was assessed a major penalty for a check -from-behind and a game misconduct. The power play, which extended into the second period, managed no shots and very little time within the Seattle end.

It also spelled the end of the night for defenceman Devante Stephens, whose head was slammed into the glass on Kolesar's check. He left the ice with the help of teammates and laying on the ice for several minutes.

The injury, and loss of momentum, turned the game in Seattle's favour for good.

"The biggest thing was, we didn't win many battles. We talk all year about creating momentum, not necessarily scoring on the power play, but getting momentum and positive energy.

We really struggled to execute the break-out, and execute in zoning with passing, moving the puck around and dealing with their pressure. When you don't generate any momentum on the power play, it's tough to score goals."

Shortly after the major expired, Austin Strand floated a wrist shot from the right point which appeared to hit something and drop over the shoulder of a screened Michael Herringer.

Alexander True gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the night five minutes later when he banged home a loose puck at the tail end of a five-on-three advantage. The goal came after Herringer had made three or four spectacular saves to  keep the game knotted at 1-1.

The Rockets appeared to get the equalizer on a power play later in the period. Calvin Thurkauf found a loose puck during a wild scramble in front of Stankowski.

He drew the puck out of the pile, but his shot bounced off referee Steve Papp and deflected in. The goal was waived off because, according the rule book, a goal cannot be scored if the puck deflects directly off an official and into the net.

Just 45 seconds later, Mathew Barzal buried the insurance goal.

The Rockets managed just nine shots over the first 40 minutes, and were held to just one over the first eight minutes of the third before they were finally able to put some pressure on Stankowski.

The rookie netminder robbed Reid Gardiner on a deflection from in close and turned away Tomas Soustal with about five minutes left. Kelowna got more pressure on a late power play, but, despite pulling Herringer for an extra attacker, were unable to get a puck past Stankowski.

Sunday's game marked the end of the junior careers of captain Rodney Southam, forward Reid Gardiner and goaltender Michael Herringer.

Nick Merkley, Soustal, Thurkauf, Stephens and Lucas Johansen may also have played their final games of junior hockey.

Seattle will meet the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League final.

The Pats closed out the Eastern final Sunday, also in six games.

That series will begin Friday in Regina.



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Must-win for Rockets

It's do or die for the Kelowna Rockets tonight.

The Seattle Thunderbirds could put an end to the Rockets' playoff run when they face off at Prospera Place. Seattle has a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference Championship series.

Kelowna is coming off a 5-3 loss in Seattle Friday night.

"The focus is on winning one game at home in our building," says head coach Jason Smith. "We need to trust that the work we've put in all year has prepared us for this situation.

"We have to be better on the forecheck. No pause, no hesitation," Smith said. "We also need to be harder around their net and focus more on discipline."

Discipline, indeed. Friday night's penalty-filled game saw Seattle on the power play eight times, leading to three goals. Seattle penalties put the Rockets on the power play 10 times.

Puck drop is at 5:05 p.m. at Prospera Place.

Should the Rockets win, the series shifts back to Seattle for the deciding game seven on Tuesday.



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