Slow out of the gate, the Okanagan Rockets finished with a flourish at the Mac's 3A midget hockey tournament in Calgary on Sunday.
A 5-3 victory over the UFA Bisons of Strathmore, Alta., evened the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League team's record at 2-2 in round-robin play. But despite the win, the Rockets weren't able to propel themselves into the tournament playoffs.
"I'm incredibly proud of the way our group came together today to finish this tournament the way we wanted," Rockets general manager David Michaud said. "It would have been awfully easy for us to pack it in and say it wasn't our week. We talked about playing with pride and going out on a good note. That's exactly what the guys did today."
The Kelowna-based Rockets, in second place in the BCMMHL with an 18-2-4 record, never really got on a roll at the Mac's.
An opening-day defeat at the hands of the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes was especially disappointing to Michaud and the team.
"That opening loss really seemed to set the tone for our week," said Michaud. "I said all along, the Mac's doesn't afford you the chance to slip up very much."
The GM and the Rockets, who also lost 4-3 to the Saskatoon Contacts but beat the Lethbridge Pronghorns 3-0, are left to wonder what could have been.
"Nobody in our pool seemed to take control. It's tough to realize that if we played the way we know we are capable, we likely would have won our pool," Michaud said.
Against the Bisons, the Rockets scored a pair of power-play goals - by Josh Blanchard and Spencer Hewson - in the final two minutes of the game to pull away.
The Rockets held a 2-1 lead after the first period on goals by Liam Finlay and Cortlan Procter, while Brett Mennear sandwiched a goal between two by the Bisons in the second period.
Brenden Mills stopped 17 of 20 shots in the Okanagan net to record the goaltending win. The Rockets fired 31 shots at Bisons goaltender David Rupp.
While the Rockets are on the outside looking in, three of their BCMMHL counterparts are represented in the Mac's tournament playoffs. The Cariboo Cougars, Vancouver Northwest Giants, and the Greater Vancouver Canadians all advanced.
"I think it's tremendous for our league that those three clubs were moving on. I'd love to see an all-B.C. final. It shows how deep and talented the BCMML really is," said Michaud, whose Rockets next host the North Island Silvertips this coming weekend at CNC.