Hope for new Rocket season

The sting of the end of last season is the furthest thing from the minds of the Kelowna Rockets as they embark on a new season with new hope and a fresh start.

The Rockets season ended with a 5-1 blowout in a tie-breaker game in Kamloops. That game in the distant past, the Rockets are looking ahead to a season which is guaranteed to end with an appearance in the Memorial Cup.

The season will also begin with a new attitude and new culture, a promise from head coach Adam Foote, who made strides in changing the attitude and culture of the team after taking over part-way through last season.

While he hasn't had a lot of time with the entire squad with seven players missing at NHL camps through much of his training camp and pre-season, Foote likes what he sees with the changes he is trying to instill.

"There is buy in, I can feel it," said Foote prior to Saturday's regular season opener.

"I think the guys are going to get it faster if they know they are not going to feel shame, or get in trouble for not getting done. We always say you're going to get it eventually...whether it's one week, or two, or four."

Foote says he wants everyone on the roster to embrace their role, whether they're a first-line goal scorer or fourth line checker, a starter or a back-up.

"We have to help them recognize how important their position is and their role. I think sometimes as coaches, we forget to do that.

"In our society, we care too much about the goals and assists, instead of focusing on how we got them, or how we problem solved, how we strategized."

The Rockets will enter the new season with 10 new faces including defencemen Jake Lee, Sean Comrie and Carson Sass, forward Dillon Hamaliuk and goaltender Cole Schwebius all obtained through trade.

Pavel Novak was selected in the import draft while forwards Trevor Wong, Jake Poole and Deegan Mofford and defenceman Elias Carmichael were bantam selections who have made the roster as rookies.

The Rockets open the season against the Spokane Chiefs tonight, their only game on opening weekend.


Rockets set, minus a Foote

It looks as though the Kelowna Rockets will be one player short of their full squad when they open up a new Western Hockey League season, Saturday.

Forward Nolan Foote is the only player not back from NHL camp.

Foote, a first round selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning in June, impressed the coaching staff in Tampa after making his professional debut Wednesday.

He may have earned a second game. But, with the Rockets season opener just a day away, Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton says waiting is frustrating.

"I know Nolan Foote isn't going to play for the Tampa Bay Lightning this year, and it would be nice to have him back to start the season," said Hamilton.

"Especially this year. This is a significant year for the organization with the Memorial Cup. It's just having our entire team here so our coaching staff is settled in. It lets us get down to our numbers."

Six other players who were at NHL camps have all come back to the team. The last, defenceman Kaedan Korczak, returned Wednesday from the Vegas Golden Knights camp.

The Rockets will head into the regular season with 25 players on the roster, including Foote. That includes 15 forwards, seven defencemen and three goaltenders.

At some point, the Rockets will have to make a decision on their goaltending situation. Teams never like carrying three netminders for too long because there is not enough work for any of them at practice or in games.

However, Hamilton says he is not in an immediate rush to make a decision.

"I think all three played OK. I thought (Roman) Basran played real good the last game, and (James) Porter was good for two periods, then they got to him. And, (Cole) Schwebius has been real good," said Hamilton.

"We have a slow start because we only play once the first weekend, then we have three in a row the next weekend, so they are probably all going to get some work to see who's doing what."

As for any moves as the Rockets head into a Memorial Cup year, Hamilton says he needs to see what he has once the entire roster get a chance to play a few games.

The club has added five players via trade, and Hamilton says he needs to see how they mesh with the roster.

The Rockets host Spokane Saturday to kick off the regular season.

Korczak on his way back

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.

More good news for the Kelowna Rockets.

Defenceman Kaeden Korczak is on his way back to town.

Korczak, who has spent the past few weeks in the training camp of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, was re-assigned to the Rockets Wednesday afternoon.

He'll be available for the Rockets when they open the regular season against Spokane Saturday.

The return of Korczak leaves only forward Nolan Foote absent from the team.

Foote remains with the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.

He made his pre-season debut tonight against Carolina.

ORIGINAL: 1:25 p.m.

The Kelowna Rockets could have two fresh faces in the lineup when they open the regular season Saturday.

Forward Dillon Hamaliuk and defenceman Sean Comrie have both been returned to the Rockets following stints in NHL camps.

Hamaliuk was reassigned Tuesday by the San Jose Sharks, while Comrie was informed Wednesday he would be returning after a tryout with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Both players were acquired by the Rockets during the annual bantam draft.

Hamaliuk was part of a multi-player deal that saw Kelowna also also acquire defenceman Jake Lee and goaltender Cole Schwebius from the Seattle Thunderbirds.

He had 26 points in 31 games before being sidelined with a season-ending injury.

Comrie was dealt to the Rockets by the Brandon Wheat Kings. He spent last season at the University of Denver, where he had an assist in 18 games.

At the same time, the Rockets reassigned Noah Dorey. The 16-year-old defenceman was selected during the fourth round during the 2018 WHL bantam draft. In six preseason contests, Dorey had two assists.

Two Rockets, Nolan Foote (Tampa Bay) and Kaedan Korczak (Vegas) remain at NHL camps.

The Rockets kick off the regular season Saturday, when they host the Spokane Chiefs.

The home opener will also be the Rockets 10th annual Canadian Cancer Society Pink in the Rink game. Kelowna will wear pink jerseys that feature a special 10-year shoulder patch.

The jerseys will be up for auction, with the money raised going to the CIBC Run for the Cure. 

Pink glow wristbands will be handed out to fans, who are also encouraged to wear pink to the game. Prizes will be up for grabs for people sporting the colour.


Rockets fall in ex. finale

Next up, the regular season.

The Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers drew the curtain on the two-week exhibition season Saturday night at Prospera Place. They play for keeps starting next weekend.

With a more veteran line-up, the Rockets bounced back from a 6-1 thumping in Kamloops the previous night.

They hung with the Blazers, who dressed most of their opening night roster, the entire night, before falling 3-2 in a marathon nine-player shootout.

Veteran Brodi Stuart put an end to the proceedings, beating Roman Basran low to the glove side. Kyle Topping for the Rockets and Blazers' Logan Stankoven had earlier scored during the second round of the shootout.

The Rockets went down 2-0 early, but battled back to eventually tie it, and, despite being outshot, had the better of the chances in the final period.

"We were down 2-0 early...I didn't like the way we were down 2-0, but I really like the way (Roman) Basran stayed in it. He didn't lose his focus, and he played hard," said Rockets head coach Adam Foote.

"Our players didn't get discouraged. We kept going, we chipped back. It was a good game."

Trailing 2-0 late in the period, Kyle Crosbie, using Jake Poole as a decoy on a two-on-one, wired a wrist shot past Kamloops starter Rayce Ramsay in the final minute of the period.

The Rockets had numerous chances to tie it, but were unable to beat Ramsay until Czech rookie Pavel Novak netted his first in a Kelowna uniform.

With the Rockets buzzing in the Kamloops end, Novak took a pass in the left circle and sent a shot that appeared to deflect off something and beat Ramsay high to the glove side.

The goal came just moments before Ramsay was knocked hard to the ice when his own defenceman Trevor Thurston rammed Kelowna's Mark Liwiski into the rookie netminder.

Ramsay finished the period, but gave way to Dylan Garand in the third. Ramsay remained in the dressing room for the first half of the third period before finally joining his teammates on the bench.

The Rockets finished pre-season 2-3-0-1, but Foot said pre-season was about more than just wins and losses.

"We've got a long season ahead of us and we have a lot of things we have to look at.

"I thought it was a real good pre-season for our young guys to get into key situations, and some of our players from last year who didn't play big minutes or in key situations to get an opportunity as well."

The Rockets are also without four players expected to play key roles on the team this season.

Forwards Nolan Foote and Dillon Hamaliuk, along with defenceman Kaeden Korczak and Sean Comrie remain at NHL training camps.

It's not certain when the four will rejoin the team.

The Rockets will open up the regular season at home next Saturday night when the Spokane Chiefs come to town.

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