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WHL  

Rockets honour their best

Nolan Foote doesn't mind (pardon the pun), following in his older brother's 'Foote' steps.

It's something little brothers get used to.

Big brother Cal was a second round bantam draft choice of the Kelowna Rockets in 2013. Two years later, Nolan came to the Rockets in the second round.

Sunday, at the annual awards ceremony at the Kelowna Community Theatre, Nolan was named the Rockets most valuable player - an honour bestowed on Cal a year ago.

He said he's happy to follow in his brother's footsteps.

"It's definitely special being next to his name bar," said Nolan.

"We didn't know what we were getting into, we didn't even know about Kelowna when Cal got drafted. I learned about the league quickly, learned about the teams, and figured out how great Kelowna was.

"Bruce and Lornie (Lorne Frey) took a chance at drafting me the same round and same pick as Cal. We were fortunate to play here together, and it was awesome."

Foote led the Rockets in goals (36), power play goals (17), shorthanded goals (3), and was second with 63 points.

Sunday's ceremony was the perfect distraction for a team that has been scratching and clawing for a playoff spot for a number of weeks.

They let a seven point lead slip away over the final week of the regular season, but secured a tiebreaker in Kamloops Tuesday with an emotional 3-2 overtime win over the Vancouver Giants Saturday.

Forward Erik Gardiner, who was forced to retire from the game in early January, made the trip back to Kelowna for Saturday's important game and Sunday's ceremony.

Both head coach Adam Foote and president/GM Bruce Hamilton spoke of trials and tribulations the team went through to get to this point.

Foote talked about the divide in the locker room when he took over from Jason Smith on Oct. 23. He said he challenged the players out of the gate and, eventually, they figured it out.

Hamilton said he hasn't gone through a year like this before, but promised the team's best days are ahead of it.

"The last couple of year we had a lot of skill, and a lot of great forwards," said Nolan Foote.

"We had skill this year, but didn't put the puck in the net as much as last year. I think when we won in Everett 2-0...we came back the next night against (Prince Albert), and just believed in each other. I thought from there everyone bought in."

Kyle Topping walked away Sunday with two awards, both based on regular season statistics. Topping was the team's leading scorer with 23 goals and 69 points and the leader in plus/minus at plus 10.

Other winners announced Sunday include:

  • Scholastic player - Kyle Crosbie
  • Most improved - Mark Liwiski
  • Unsung hero - Dallon Gally
  • Humanitarian - Leif Mattson
  • Top defenceman Kaeden Korczak
  • Top defensive forward - Connor Bruggen-Cate
  • Most sportsmanlike - Devin Steffler
  • Top rookie - Lassie Thomson

The Rockets will skate tomorrow before traveling to Kamloops for Tuesday's tie-breaker.

The winner will move on to face Victoria in the opening round of the playoffs. That series will begin Friday in Victoria.

 

 



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