There's still lots of hockey to be played this weekend, but the Fripp Warehousing Jr. Rockets are sitting pretty through two days of The Daily Courier 34th annual Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament.
With Thursday evening's 5-3 victory over the Penticton-based Okanagan Hockey Academy (0-3-0-0), the Rockets (3-0-0-0) remained undefeated in The Daily Courier sponsored showcase. That's much better than a year ago when the host club went winless and finished last overall in the 12-team field.
"It feels real good to be 3-0 compared to last year when we were
0-3, so we've got to be happy," said Rockets head coach Eric Blais, whose team still has to face the formidable Notre Dame Hounds today and Burlington, Ont., Eagles on Saturday. "I'm looking forward to them. . . . The challenge gets tougher every day, not only because it's our fourth game in three days, but the quality of competition is rising."
This year, with Blais back for his second season behind the bench, the Rockets hit the ground running by blanking the Compete Academy Rams of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, 3-0 in Wednesday's opener.
Riding that momentum into Thursday, the Rockets scored a 6-4 come-from-behind win over the Semiahmoo Ravens in the morning. In a matchup of 3A teams that could clash come provincials, the Rockets were still asleep to start the contest and trailed 4-1 after the first period before roaring back with five answered goals over the final 40 minutes.
Kelowna's best players came to the rescue, with Kobe Oishi and Tanner Campbell each scoring twice after also netting goals in Wednesday's win. Oishi enjoyed a three-point effort against Semiahmoo, adding an assist, while Steven Flust and Ryan Lawson also scored, and Braeden Cyra had two helpers.
Netminder Sam Bobyn had a tough tournament debut, allowing three goals on seven shots before being replaced by Chris Turner, who followed up his 11-save shutout by stopping 25 of 26 shots in relief.
Elsewhere on Thursday, Winfield-based Pursuit of Excellence (2-1-0-0) stayed in the playoff hunt by earning a split. POE beat the Calgary Edge Mountaineers 5-2 in the evening after falling to the Thunder Bay Kings by the same score earlier in the day.
Ironically, POE opened its KIMMT slate with another 5-2 decision, downing the defending tournament champion Wenatchee Wild on Wednesday.
It should be noted, though, that Wenatchee is icing a younger squad this year with an under-16 roster as opposed to U-17 last year when it defeated the Mountaineers 6-2 in the final.
Thunder Bay (2-0-0-1) is leading the Coast Capri Division with seven points, one better than POE and two more than the Mountaineers (1-1-1-0). Thunder Bay's only blemish through two days was a 3-2 overtime setback to the Mountaineers, the same team that eliminated the Kings with a 4-3 triumph in last year's KIMMT semifinal.
Thunder Bay is likely to finish atop that pool with remaining round-robin games against Wenatchee (1-2-0-0) and the Surrey Thunder (0-2-0-0), who suffered the tournament's worst defeat thus far, 11-2 at the hands of Wenatchee on Thursday.
In the Daily Courier Division, the Rockets are tied for first place with Burlington (3-0-0-0), while Notre Dame (2-1-0-0) is still in the semifinal mix. Notably, the Eagles hammered the Hounds 6-2 on Wednesday to serve notice as potential title contenders.