With rookie camp complete the Kelowna Rockets set to chase for the Memorial Cup. They last won the CHL championship in 2004 with a team that featured the likes of Shea Weber, Josh Gorges and Blake Comeau. They were lucky enough to be the host city that year, and soon became only the second host city to win the coveted trophy. In 2018, they still have hoisted the cup once in five appearances, with their last chance coming in 2014 when they lost 2-1 in the championship game. Oshawa General’s Anthony Cirelli sealed the deal with the OT winner on former Rockets’ goaltender Jackson Whistle.
The road back will be tougher this year. The team will be losing key players as captain Cal Foote, and top two leader scorers Dillon Dube and Kole Lind are set to turn pro.
Although this leaves an obvious gap in their roster, it will also prove to be a huge opportunity for returning players to step up.
Rockets’ goaltender Roman Basran looks to players like Kyle Topping to take increase roles with the team, “he played good last year, he’s going to play good again this year.”
Topping faced criticism last season even after putting up 65 points in 66 games. He was labelled as a feeder player who benefited heavily playing on a line with the Canucks’ 2nd round pick Kole Lind. Ryan Beich suggests “Topping was riding the Lind wave”, while Ryan Pike said, “Kyle Topping is a very easy player to like, but given that he’s playing on a very strong team stacked with NHL-drafted players it’s difficult to judge if he’s driving the team’s success or just along for the ride.”
With Lind and other elite players out of the lineup it’s a huge opportunity for Topping to step up and prove himself to his critics and to NHL scouts.
Basran’s mindset hasn’t change this season, “going into every practice and every game and try to play as hard as you can and compete. Its just like every year, we want to win a championship, its what its all about [in Kelowna].”
Although the team announce their bid to host the Memorial Cup in 2020. Basran and his team don’t want to get back to the CHL championship the easy way, “It would be great to host, but at the end off the day we’re not going to take our foot off the gas pedal just because we may be hosting it, we want to win it because we earned it.”
The WHL preseason starts August 31st when the Rockets take on the Victoria Royals at Prospera Place. The team’s regular season home opener is on September 22nd when their divisional rivals, the Kamloops Blazers come to town. For the full schedule, click here.
After tearing his ACL in January, it has been a tough road to recovery for Basran. This summer alone he’s lost both his Uncle, former NHL goaltender Ray Emery, and his mom, Roop Johal.
In honour of his mother, the Roop Johal Memorial Scholarship was founded.
“This scholarship has been created to assist children in pursuit of youth hockey across Canada. It has been named after Roop Johal, an enthusiastic hockey mom. Her belief was every child deserved the same opportunity to excel regardless of their circumstance. She has volunteered countless hours through different hockey organizations to support youth hockey.”
The donations of the scholarship will go towards new equipment for kids and support that will help advance their hockey careers.
To learn more and to make donations you can click here for the GoFundMe page.
Featured photo: Roman Basran focuses before home game against the Seattle Thunderbirds. (Image Source: ShootTheBreeze.ca)