Higson joins Rockets

Kelowna Rockets defenceman Schael Higson, acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday, passes the puck in front of Rockets goaltender James Porter while under pressure from Reece Vitelli of the Everett Silvertips during last night’s WHL game at Prospera Place. The Rockets lost 4-2.

Connor Dewar scored once and added two assists as the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips earned a 4-2 victory over the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on Wednesday night.

Kelowna has dropped three in a row and remains third in the B.C. Division at 17-19-3-1 on the season. Everett (32-8-1-1) has won 17 of its last 20.

“They’re not going to stop, they’re relentless, an older team that understands the details of the game,” said Rockets head coach Adam Foote. “They don’t get beat back to their net and they beat you to your net.

“We felt we did some good things, but we did get outplayed. It’s a good measuring stick for us.”

The Silvertips controlled the territorial play throughout the first frame, but the Rockets opened the scoring.

On an early power play, Lassi Thomson drilled a slapper that trickled through the pads of ’Tips goaltender Dustin Wolf at 2:57.

Everett forced the play in the attacking zone but could not solve Rockets starter James Porter until Bryce Kindopp snuck a shot through with 10.5 seconds to play.

Connor Dewar scored a power-play tally to put the Silvertips ahead 2-1 midway through the second stanza, but it was Porter who continued to steal the show — stopping 29-of-31 shots through 40 minutes.

With 1.6 seconds remaining, Thomson netted his second of the game and ninth of the season when his point shot deflected past Wolf off the stick of an Everett defender.

Kindopp scored the game-winner at 11:56 of the third period, deflecting a point shot past Porter for his 21st of the campaign and second of the night.

Gianni Fairbrother sealed the win, potting an empty-netter with 9.5 seconds left.

Porter, the first star with 41 saves, was so good on the night that one veteran media wag suggested his catching glove and goal pads could have been the second and third stars.

“Our goalies have been doing that all year,” Foote said.

Earlier in the day, the Rockets traded Braydyn Chizen and a 2019 fifth-round draft pick to the Brandon Wheat Kings in exchange for defenceman Schael Higson.

Trade deadline deals can be a gamble. However, it would seem general manager Bruce Hamilton was able to stare down the Wheaties, who anted up the 20-year-old Higson.

Whether or not Hamilton hit the jackpot remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, the Rockets were at least in need of some upgrading. Fittingly, after the GM played his cards, Higson was sporting jersey number 21.

Appearing in his 299th career WHL game including playoffs, Higson landed at Kelowna International Airport at about 4:15 p.m.

For his efforts, the Rockets’ coaching staff placed Higson in the starting lineup.

“He competes,” Foote said of Higson. “He flew all day. He was excited and wanted to play. He’s a competitor. Those are hard games to jump into when you haven’t skated in a while. He’ll be good for our club.”

Foote has expressed some frustration of late, speaking at length about decisions being made at the blue lines.

“We have to recognize when we make a play, what type of breakout we’re doing,” Foote said. “It’s not just our defence clearing, our forwards clearing, it’s managing the puck at their blue line, not leaving their zone before the puck’s out.

“The little plays, the winger picking the puck off the boards and learning how to take a hit to make a play. It’s something we have to get better at because if you can’t do it, you’re going to spend more time than you want in your own end.

“When that’s happening, you’re playing hard minutes and the percentages go up that the other team is going to score or you’re going to take a penalty,” added the coach who replaced Jason Smith on Oct. 23.

ICE CHIPS: Three stars were Porter, Dewar and Thomson. . . . Everett outshot Kelowna 44-24. . . . The Rockets are 6-13-2-1 when outshot. . . . Rockets scratched RW Lane Zablocki, LW Erik Gardiner and D Cayde Augustine. . . . Both teams went 1-5 on the power play. . . . Attendance was 5,025. Through 18 home dates so far, average attendance is 4,711 per game — seventh best in the WHL. . . . The Rockets travel to Prince George for games on Friday and Saturday. Next home game is Wednesday, Jan. 16 against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Rockets’ Nolan Foote to face teammates Thomson, Korczak at Top Prospects Game

The Canadian Hockey League in association with NHL Central Scouting announced the rosters for the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which takes place on Wednesday, Jan. 23 in Red Deer, Alta.

The 40 players from across the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League selected by NHL clubs to compete in the 24th annual showcase of draft-eligible talent have been divided into Team Cherry and Team Orr by NHL Central Scouting.

Team Cherry will be coached by Ron MacLean alongside Dave Hunter and Brent Sutter, with Team Orr to be coached by Kelly Hrudey with Robyn Regehr and Marc Habscheid.

NHL Central Scouting A-rated prospects Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets), Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants), Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes), Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs), Peyton Krebs (Kootenay Ice), Raphael Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads), Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke Phoenix), and Matthew Robertson (Edmonton Oil Kings) headline the Team Cherry roster. That group also includes two World Junior Championship talents in goalie Mads Sogaard (Medicine Hat Tigers) from Denmark, and forward Valentin Nussbaumer (Shawinigan Cataractes) from Switzerland.

A total of 20 different CHL teams are represented on Team Cherry, including eight WHL, six OHL and six QMJHL clubs. The home team will feature the host Rebels with forward Oleg Zaytsev.

Team Orr’s A-rated prospects include Kirby Dach (Saskatoon Blades), Vladislav Kolyachonok (Flint Firebirds) and Ryan Suzuki (Barrie Colts). The group also includes Brett Leason (Prince Albert Raiders), who was a member of Canada’s national junior team. Kelowna Rockets defencemen Kaedan Korczak and Lassi Thomson will compete together, as will London Knights forwards Matvey Guskov and Connor McMichael, and teammates Nikita Okhotyuk and Graeme Clarke of the Ottawa 67’s. The Rockets’ pair will play opposite Foote.

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