Welcome to Quick Shift, which provides a preview of each of the 20 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League teams, with insights from their respective general managers/head coach heading into the regular season. Next is the Golden Rockets in the Eddie Mountain division. The Rockets placed third in their division with a record of 25-16-2-1 and lost in the opening round of the KIJHL Teck Cup playoffs. Rockets Head Coach-GM Chuck Wight answered questions about his team.
Did you have a good off-season of recruiting?
Recruiting is always ongoing for us and this past off-season we found some quality prospects. We definitely had more interest from skilled players and it has continued to improve over the past two years.
What do you like about the group of players returning who will play a big part on your team?
We have a solid core, plus we made a few trades for some experienced players. Leadership is key to having the team bond and that will be a big part of their role.
Among the players the Rockets acquired is 2004-born defenceman Jacob Vanlerberg from the Castlegar Rebels and 2005-born forward Prezton Stewart from the Summerland Steam. In 27 games between the Rebels and Fernie Ghostriders, Vanlerberg had five points and eight penalty minutes. Stewart returns to the KIJHL from the Junior Prospect Hockey League, where he had 29 points in 22 games with Okanagan HC U18. Stewart had seven points in 34 games with the Steam two seasons ago.
Note: Goalie Levi Hall has returned for his third season after he posted 20 wins in 34 games last season. He was the lone KIJHL goalie to record 20 wins.
What were some key areas of success achieved last season that the organization wants to build on?
Last season we took some steps towards being more consistent with our play and saw a much improved team culture. This will be a big focus as we continue to build up the program.
Who are players that you will be counting on to provide offence this season?
Evan Tsadilas, Hayden Barr, Dominic Fiorentino and Cade Cochlan are back. Tsadilas (24 points in 38 games – he played for Team KIJHL in the BCHC Prospects Game) and Barr (26 points in 34 games) had pretty good offensive years. Fiorentino was able to score (16 goals, 28 points in 42 games) and Cochlan had his best season (27 points in 37 games).
Some of the recruits brought in have shown that they have got some upside. Draeden Bear is a very tenacious player who is strong on the puck and has done quite well (three goals in five games). Bear was in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League trying out for the Weyburn Red Wings.