March to Moose Jaw

Katie Brickman
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Rockets still searching for more

The Okanagan Rockets are a confident bunch — and they have every reason to be.

The Okanagan Rockets celebrate their Pacific regional championship banner after defeating the Red Deer Chiefs on the road. Submitted photo

Not only did they beat the five-time defending British Columbia Major Midget League (BCMML) champions, but they also defeated the two-time defending Telus Cup champs, Red Deer, on the road.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge to get to the Telus Cup. It doesn’t matter which way you go, it is not an easy task to get there, we just happened to have a couple reigning champions to get through to get there,” stated Mack O’Rourke, head coach of the Rockets.

The Rockets battled the Vancouver NW Giants throughout the BCMML standings, as the two teams were tied entering the final weekend. The Giants finished first, but the Rockets were just getting hot as they swept the Giants.

They defeated the Red Deer Chiefs in overtime in the deciding game at the Pacific regional as the stated underdog.

At Telus Cup, they probably won’t be seen in that underdog role.

“We have a lot of skill and we are very gifted offensively, but when it comes to playing in our own end, we sacrifice a lot … we block a lot of shots, we keep pucks and shots to the outside,” stated O’Rourke. “We just don’t give up many odd-man rushes or chances. I would say we have elements of both sides and we can play with any teams when it comes down to it.”

The Rockets have a veteran core, as well as seven returnees from last season.

“We have a lot of 17 year olds, which I think has been a big help to us,” said O’Rourke. “We have two very good rookies in Tyson Jost and Jake Kryski. It is a well-rounded bunch, but we have over 50 per cent of our team that is 17 years old. We have the age and the experience.”

This week, the team is focused on keeping the players refreshed on the systems already in place, as the coaches don’t want to bring in anything new at this point.

“We just want to keep everything as it has been all year and just go over the same things that we’ve had success with,” he said.

At the beginning of the season, all the players unanimously stated the goal for the season was reaching the Telus Cup, which is where the hashtag on Twitter #MarchtoMooseJaw came to fruition.

“The goal was the Telus Cup and anything short of that would be a disappointment. So, we came up with it,” explained O’Rourke. “When we got a unanimous decision like that, we had to continue with some kind of motto to keep their eyes set on something. It has been successful in getting there, but the job is not done yet.”

The key to the success for the Rockets is a combination, but the biggest would be keeping their emotions in check throughout the tournament.

“We just have to stay composed and continue to play smart hockey,” said O’Rourke. “We are a team that shows that as soon as the puck drops, we are ready to play and have a consistent effort.”

The Rockets open the Telus Cup against Châteauguay (4 p.m., Mosaic Place) on Monday.

Follow me on Twitter @katiebrickman.

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