Rockets host Royals in final home game before Christmas break
Tonight is the last chance to watch the Kelowna Rockets play at home until after the Christmas break.
They’re set to faceoff against the Victoria Royals in a 7:05 p.m. puck-drop at Prospera Place.
Kelowna is closing out a three-game homestand that started with a 5-4 overtime loss to Saskatoon last Saturday before rebounding to defeat the Tri-City Americans in a shootout on Wednesday.
Forward, Kyle Topping says the team is excited to play at home one last time before the break.
“We just need to come out and play our game plan,” said Topping. “It’s our last home game before the break, so we’re trying to end it on a high note. It’s going be fun playing against Victoria, they’re a good team, and it’s always exciting games. Hopefully, we can come out strong and on top.” Tonight marks the fifth meeting between the Rockets and Royals this season, with Kelowna winning three of the four games to date.
The division rivals last saw each other on Nov. 23 when the Rockets defeated the Royals 3-1 at home, with Leif Mattson recording his 100th career WHL point on an empty-net goal.
The Rockets previously swept a two-game set in Victoria, prevailing 8-2 and 5-1 on Oct. 19-20 — when the Royals were without starting goaltender Griffen Outhouse — while Victoria won the initial encounter 4-3 on Oct. 5 at Prospera Place.
Kelowna and Victoria will play three more times in 2019 — Jan. 25 in Kelowna, then back-to-back games in Victoria on Feb. 18-19 to conclude their eight-game season series.
The Rockets (13-15-2-0) are in second place in the B.C. Division with 28 points — two points ahead of the third-place Royals (13-11-0-0), who have six games in hand on Kelowna, as well as the fourth-place Kamloops Blazers (12-11-1-1), who have five games in hand. The Vancouver Giants (20-6-2-0) are in first place with 42 points, while the Prince George Cougars (11-14-1-2) are bringing up the rear in fifth place with 25 points — albeit just three points back of the Rockets with two games in hand on Kelowna.
Tonight is the Rockets’ lone game of the weekend before embarking on a four-game road trip next week prior to the holiday break. Kelowna will be in Cranbrook on Tuesday to face the Kootenay Ice, then make stops in Lethbridge on Wednesday, Calgary on Friday and Medicine Hat on Saturday, Dec. 15.
Following the break, the Rockets will resume play with a home-and-home series against the Blazers in Kamloops on Friday, Dec. 28 and Kelowna on Saturday, Dec. 29.
Rockets trade for rights to Vipers’ forward, Swetlikoff
The Rockets acquired Alex Swetlikoff’s rights from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Thursday. In return, the Hurricanes receive a fourth-round draft pick in the 2022 WHL Bantam Draft.
“We had an opportunity to pick up the rights to a quality player,” said Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton. “He’s a very talented player that would bring depth to our organization.”
Swetlikoff is a Kelowna product who is playing in his second season with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. In 27 games this season, Swetlikoff has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) and 20 penalty minutes.
He was originally selected 62nd overall in the third round of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds. NHL Central Scouting has listed Swetlikoff as a C prospect on their Players to Watch for the 2019 NHL draft, meaning he’s a candidate to be drafted in the fourth round or later in June in Vancouver.
The 6-foot-2, 179-pound forward will suit up for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta., starting this weekend. It will be his second time representing Canada, having played for Canada White last season at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge.
Rockets prospects to represent B.C. at Canada Winter Games in 2019
Three of the Rockets’ top prospects — Trevor Wong, Elias Carmichael and Steel Quiring — have been named to Team BC for the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., from Feb. 15 to March 3, 2019.
All three players were selected by the Rockets at the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft this past May.
“We’re very pleased, they’re good players,” said Lorne Frey, the Rockets’ assistant GM and director of player personnel. “We’re happy with the years that they’ve had so far, we’re very excited for them.
“Wong has faced a little adversity this season. It’s good for him to face some of that, we think it will help him grow,” added Frey. “Carmichael is having a great season, he’s a big young man that skates well with offensive ability. Steel has had a very good year, he was leading the team in scoring until he suffered an injury, but he is back now and looking good.”
Wong was drafted in the first round, 18th overall, after putting up 64 goals and 77 assists for 141 points in just 30 games with St. George’s School Bantam Varsity (CSSBVHL).
Wong also added five goals and 18 assists for 23 points in five playoff games during his dominant draft year.
This season, the 5-foot-8, 135-pound centre, has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) and 21 penalty minutes in 20 games played with the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the B.C. Major Midget League.
Wong is a signed prospect and made his WHL debut with the Rockets on Oct. 27 against the Prince George Cougars at Prospera Place.
Carmichael, a 6-foot-1, 181-pound defenceman, was a second-round pick, 40th overall, for the Rockets.
Last season, he had 19 points (2G, 17A) and 38 penalty minutes in 30 games with the Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Prep (CSSBHL). This season, Carmichael has 13 points (3G, 10A) and 10 penalty minutes in 19 games with Burnaby Winter Club Prep (CSSHL).
Quiring was taken in the fifth round, 89th overall, by the Rockets.
Last season, he had 40 points (17G, 23A) in 30 games played with the Okanagan Hockey Academy Bantam Prep team (CSSBHL). This season, the 6-foot-1, 181-pound blueliner has continued his offensive production, putting up 24 points (9G, 15A) and 14 penalty minutes in 17 games with the Okanagan Rockets (BCMML).
Team BC will begin their quest for gold at the 2019 Canada Winter Games on Feb. 16 against Manitoba.