The Kelowna Rockets celebrate a goal in Friday night’s win over Seattle. (From left) Sean Comrie, Dillon Hamaliuk, Nolan Foote and Leif Mattson. (Photo: Brain Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

Kelowna Rockets Mid-Season Review

A look at how the first half of the season has unfolded heading into the new year

As the Kelowna Rockets approach the mid-way point in their season they sit second in the B.C. division with 39 points (18-11-1-2).

The Rockets, who host the Memorial Cup In May have had a solid first half, living up to the expectations set before the season began. While the Rockets started the season without their captain, Nolan Foote, the team was able to put together a (6-3-0-1) record out of the gate.

They have since carried that momentum through the rest of the season, boasting a winning percentage of 0.609. Their current record has them sitting 13th in the league and they are (6-3-0-1) in their last 10 games.

Foote has led the charge for most of the season. The Tampa Bay Lightning first-round pick in 2019 has 15 goals and 18 assists through 25 games this season, good enough to earn him a spot on Canada’s World Junior roster. He was recognized as the best player in the Canada-Russia Junior Series earlier this year. He scored the shootout winner and stood out in both games after previously making a positive impression at the WJC Summer Showcase and even going back to last year’s Canada-Russia Series.

Rookie Pavel Novak has also turned heads this season. The Rockets acquired Novak in the first round of the WHL’s import draft in 2019. While small Novak is dynamic and is an explosive skater with the puck. He is fourth in rookie scoring with 13 goals and 26 points through 24 games. Novak is a player that may be a quiet difference-maker as the Rockets push for a Memorial Cup Championship.

On the back end, Kaeden Korczak has been the big talk this season. The 6 foot 4 defenseman has 5 goals and 23 points through 32 games played. He is a steady force on the Rockets blue line and was most recently rewarded by signing an entry-level contract with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Rockets will surely need him to continue his level of production into the new year.

READ MORE: Rockets’ defenceman inks NHL rookie deal

READ MORE:Rockets’ Foote officially makes World Juniors roster

Goaltender Roman Basran has been steady between the pipes this season. The 6 foot 2 Vancouver native has the fifth-most wins in the WHL this year with 14 and owns a respectable save percentage at 0.914. The Rockets will need him to stay healthy and continue playing consistent hockey if they want to have a fighting shot at competing with the best in May.

In terms of special teams, the Rockets have the 13th best-ranked powerplay, converting at 19.7 per cent. Kelowna’s powerplay is below the league average. If they wish to make some noise in the playoffs, this is an area they will surely like to improve on.

Kelowna’s penalty kill has been a bit stronger than their powerplay, ranking 9th in the league at 80.6 per cent. While this area of their game has been good enough to win hockey games, they will want to have it perfected by the time they face the CHL’s best at the Memorial Cup.

After 32 games played the Rockets can be happy with the way their first half has unfolded but will surely looking to keep improving in the new year. The Rockets will be faced with the task of competing with the CHL’s best in May, while not exactly being a top team as of yet. An improvement in the special teams and consistent goaltending should propel them into the top tier of the league.

The Rockets will be without their captain for the next few weeks as Nolan Foote joins Team Canada’s World Junior team in Prague, Czech Republic.

Their next game is on Friday, Dec. 27. when they take on the Kamloops Blazers at home.

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