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WHL  

Rockets fire head coach

UPDATE: 5 p.m.

Kelowna Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton says Monday's firing of head coach Jason Smith wasn't something he did on the spur of the moment.

Hamilton, speaking at a news conference outside the team's dressing room, says he has been contemplating the move for a few weeks.

"I didn't just make my mind up Friday night. I made my mind up a while ago, but it's working to find somebody that's going to be the replacement," said Hamilton.

"There's all kind of guys out there that want the job, but it's whether it's the quality of person that we want to come in. Obviously that has something to do with some of the timing."

Hamilton says he's still working on that replacement, but says by tomorrow, or before the weekend, a new coach will be in place.

Assistant coaches Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard are expected to run the bench during Tuesday's game with the Swift Current Broncos at Prospera Place. Both assistants have been retained, however, Hamilton says any decision going forward will be the new head coaches.

Hamilton didn't get into specifics in terms of why he fired Smith just 14 games into the season, but he did hint at looking for someone with more bite, and a coach who will play a more up-tempo game.

He also brought up discipline.

"I'm a real believer that discipline needs to be a big part of it. This team has been penalized regularly too much.

"And, I think that's going to be a big part of whoever comes in. A mandate to get back to staying on the ice and playing."

The Rockets lead the league in penalty minutes this season, and, over Smith's two previous years, they were number one in penalty minutes in 2016-17, and seventh last season.

Hamilton said he doesn't think the team is going where it needs to go, but didn't put all the blame on Smith.

He took a lot of the blame himself.

"It's my job to get the players here, and this is the year where we didn't have a real good group of players to start, and we're working hard at that now.

"I want to be fair to Jason, but the talent was part of it. He was doing the best he could with what we had.

"For years this team has been made up of some pretty dynamic skilled players, and we don't have a whole group of those right now. This all comes back to the trades for Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey, when we gave up picks, and eventually you pay for that."


ORIGINAL STORY: 11:10 a.m.

The Kelowna Rockets have fired their head coach.

The WHL team posted the news on its website Monday morning.

General manager Bruce Hamilton said in the post that Jason Smith has been relieved of his duties.

“Any time you let someone go that is the quality of Jason Smith, it’s very tough," said Hamilton.

"However, the success of our hockey club ultimately falls with myself, and I feel at this time we need to go in a different direction. Jason is just a wonderful person, and we want to thank him for his time here."

Smith was hired by the Rockets in 2016 and completed two full seasons as head coach. In 2016-17, the team had a 45-22-5-0 record, while last season saw the Rockets go 43-22-5-2.

This year, the club is off to a slow 4-10-0-0 start.

Hamilton will offer more information at a press conference this afternoon.





Rockets run out of steam

The Kelowna Rockets were unable to successfully run the gauntlet.

After back-to-back wins over the number two team in the BC Division, the Victoria Royals, the Rockets were unable to complete the road trifecta against division leading Vancouver Sunday afternoon.

The Giants, who were reeling slightly after losses to Portland Friday and Saturday, beat the Rockets 3-1 to close out a busy weekend for both clubs.

Owen Hardy opened the scoring, tapping home a centering pass late in the opening period. Justin Sourdif doubled the lead just 70 seconds in the second, beating Roman Basran from in tight.

Kyle Topping got one back on a power play seven minutes into the third, with a one-timer from the right circle off a feed from Liam Kindree.

Hardy restored the two-goal lead four minutes later deflecting home a point shot for his second of the night.

Topping's goal extended his personal point streak to eight games. He has three goals and 10 assists over that span.

Basran, who played all three games on the three-game road trip, turned away 26 of the 29 shots he faced.

The Rockets, 4-10 on the season, return home to face the 1-11 Swift Current Broncos Tuesday.

 



Rockets sweep Royals

For the first time this season, the Kelowna Rockets are riding a winning streak.

The Rockets completed a weekend sweep of the Victoria Royals Saturday, winning 5-1 in the provincial capital.

Kelowna exploded for 13 goals in the two games.

Liam Kindree led the way with a goal and an assist.

Nolan Foote, Connor Bruggen-Cate, Ted Brennan and Ethan Ernstmwith his first career goal into an empty net also scored for the Rockets.

Newly acquired defenceman Dalton Gally picked up a pair of assists.

Foote opened the scoring, banging home a rebound for his third goal in two games just four minutes into the contest.

After the Royals tied it, Bruggen-Cate blew past a defender just inside the Victoria line, and beat Brock Gould with a wrist shot to the far corner.

Brennan back-handed his first of the season to add some insurance in the second.

Kindree deflected home his third midway through the final period and Ernst hit the empty net from a sharp angle to close out the scoring.

Roman Basran turned away 24 shots to earn back-to-back victories.

The Rockets, winners of three of their last four, conclude the weekend in Vancouver Sunday afternoon.

They return home to host the Swift Current Broncos Tuesday.



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Rockets lay 8 on Royals

The Kelowna Rockets made life miserable for rookie goaltender Brock Gould.

The Rockets exploded for a season-high eight goals, six on the 17-year-old rookie, in an 8-2 victory.

Lassie Thomson led the Rockets with two goals and a pair of assists. Liam Kindree had a goal and three assists.

Nolan Foote also scored twice with singles going to Kaeden Korczak, Dallen Wilton and Erik Gardiner with his first goal since March 7 of last season.

Special teams, which have been the Rockets Achilles Heel  were a plus for the Rockets Friday. They scored four times on six chances with the man advantage while holding the Royals without a goal on their six opportunities.

Kelowna's first four goals came with the man advantage.

Trailing 1-0 after one, the Royals grabbed their only lead of the night with back-to-back goal in the opening half of the second. Dante Hannoun scored the go-ahead goal, but was also assessed a goaltender interference call at the same time.

The Rockets capitalized just 16 seconds later, then took the lead for good 1:15 after the tying goal.

Two goals in the opening minute of the third chased Gould from the Victoria net.

Joel Grzybowski went the rest of the way, allowing the final two goals.

Roman Basran turned away 18 shots for the victory.

The same two teams meet Saturday in Victoria.

The Rockets conclude a busy weekend in Vancouver Sunday.

They're back home Tuesday when Swift Current comes to town.



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