Rockets victorious in pre-season opener
Aug 31, 2013 / 5:00 am
A young Kelowna Rockets line-up got the better of a rookie laden Kamloops Blazers squad in the Western Hockey League pre-season for both clubs.
But, while the Rockets dressed 10 players with less than a full year of WHL experience under their belts, it was a pair of veterans who led the way.
Tyson Baillie and Henrik Nyberg each had a goal and an assist while Baillie provided the hit of the game in the Rockets 4-3 win over the Blazers Friday night at Prospera Place.
It's the first of four exhibition contests for the Rockets.
Rookie Ryan Donaldson, playing on a line with Baillie and Ryan Olsen, Cole Linaker also scored for the Rockets.
Sixteen year old Jake Morrissey and starter Jordon Cooke split the netminding chores.
Morrissey allowed one goal on seven shots over the first half of the game before giving way to Cooke who allowed two goals on 10 shots as the Rockets outshot the Blazers 35-17.
Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said after the game he felt there was good pace and energy over the first 40 minutes, however, said his club faded as the third period wore on.
"There were a lot of good things out there and a lot of things to build off of," said Huska who said the veterans that did dress wanted to show they had improved over the summer.
"In Tyson's case he spent the whole summer here learning how to work out and take care of himself and we noticed it very significantly in his foot speed and the way he's playing," said Huska.
"This is a good time of year for a lot of guys to maybe show off the work they put in over the summer."
Many of the younger players also showed they deserve to battle for additional ice time to start the season.
Rookie 16-year-old Nick Merkley didn't look out of place and neither did 17-year-old Swiss import Kris Schmidli who was getting his first taste of WHL competition.
"He (Schmidli) works very hard. I think that's what we expected when we got him - what people told us he would be," said Huska.
"I thought he worked hard tonight and we'll look for him to continue that."
For his part Schmidli says the first time out against live North American competition was tough.
"For me it was hard because the game here there are a lot of hits and you have to have your head up, but for the first game I thought it was a very good game," said Schmidli.
Schmidli said he enjoys the physical game.
"I must play this game here in Canada and not the game in Switzerland."
Prior to Friday's game the Rockets released several players from their training camp roster, leaving them with 27 players.
Further roster moves are expected to be made following the weekend.
The Rockets play their second of four pre-season games Saturday night in Vancouver.
They conclude the exhibition season next weekend playing Friday in Kamloops before returning home to host the Vancouver Giants Saturday.
The regular season opens up in three weeks when the Rockets entertain the same Blazers Saturday, Sept. 21.
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