After a record setting season, the Kelowna Rockets are grounded until the fall. Despite losing to the Portland Winterhawks in 5 games, the Rockets will not hang their heads in shame; a handful of awards will keep the team motivated to better themselves next year.
Watching first hand how the Kelowna Rockets dismantled both the Tri City Americans and Seattle Thunderbirds, it sure was a humbling experience seeing the Portland Winterhawks make quick work of them. A thrilling game one contest looked to have set the tone for the series, but it turned out the Hawks were the ones that just needed to get comfortable.
Missing key forward Myles Bell to injury in the first round forced the Rockets to alter their game plan and rely on a few others to keep the powerplay legit and create a presence 5 on 5. It’s a shame Bell was in his final year of WHL play because he could be just as valuable next year.
As one door closed for Kelowna, another opened with the WHL Awards ceremony. Not really a surprise to anyone, goaltender Jordan Cooke in my mind, ran away with the WHL’s Top Goalie award. Kelowna scored in bunches this year, but it was the other worldly play of Cooke that kept them in games, stole them a few and some nights single handedly was the star. By far the Kelowna Rockets best goalie they have ever had, “Cookie” as he is also known earned every right to be that guy.
Not to be outdone, the WHL realized that it was fitting to name a true rookie, 16 years old, as the top freshman. My man crush was validated when the WHL named forward Nick “Pillow hands” Merkley as the leagues top rookie. @merkdaddy4 put up 58 points in 66 regular season games and also was the Rockets top scorer in the post season. He’s 16 folks! I’m guessing a few more years in the Dub will only help his future NHL career.
So it’s over now. The Rockets will have quite a different look next year with 5 players leaving the team because of age and NHL status: Jordan Cooke, Myles Bell, Marek Tvrdon, Ryan Olsen and Damon Severson are all heading to the next stage. Key players for sure, but the beauty of the WHL is there is always someone new to take their spot and prove their worth.
What a great season it was in Kelowna; hopefully it will have a better ending in 2015. No one is disappointed, just hungry for the next faceoff.
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