Rock­ets host Roy­als in fi­nal home game be­fore Christ­mas break

The Daily Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By PAIGE BEDNORZ

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.

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