Every year each club must say goodbye to their overage players as they age-out of the Western Hockey League, and move onto life after junior hockey. For some that means continuing the chase their hockey dreams, for others it means cashing in on their WHL Scholarship at post secondary education, and some may even begin working full-time and begin their lives.
This year is no different as the Kelowna Rockets bid farewell to overage defenceman and Assistant Captain Gordie Ballhorn, overage defenceman and Assistant Captain James Hilsendager, and overage forward and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Carsen Twarynski.
#4 – Gordie Ballhorn
Gordie just completed his third full season with the Rockets. Over his three seasons beginning back in the 2015-2016 season, Ballhorn played in 175 regular season games in the WHL, all for Kelowna. In those 175 games he recorded 11 goals and 49 assists for an even 60 points. The steady D-man added 181 penalty minutes and an astounding +71 career +/- rating. He also added four assists in 39 playoff games. Ballhorn wore an ‘A’ as an Assistant Captain for the Rockets for both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons in Kelowna. His final season as a Rocket was a career year in all categories. The Wetaskiwin, AB. native was one of only two players on the Rockets roster to play all 72 games this season. In that time he scored a career high 6 goals, and added a career high 36 assists for a new career high in points at 42. Gordie also won the teams Plus/Minus award as he had the top +/- rating on the team this season at +37. The 6′ tall, 195lb defender was also named as a co-winner of the teams Humanitarian award this season for being an outstanding character on the ice and in the community.
#2 – James Hilsendager
James just completed his second season with the Kelowna Rockets and fourth in the Western Hockey League. Hilsendager began his junior hockey career in Regina playing for the Pats. In 135 games with the Pats, Hilsendager recorded one goal and 17 assists for 18 points. His offensive numbers exploded once he arrived in Kelowna via trade during the 2016-2017 season. In his 100 games played in Kelowna he notched 12 goals and 36 assists for 48 points to finish his WHL career with 13 goals, 53 assists, and 66 points in 235 games played. Hilsendager also added 258 career penalty minutes. The Lloydminster, SK. native also added one goal and six assists for seven points in 36 playoff games split between the two clubs. Hilsendager wore an ‘A’ as an Assistant Captain during the 2017-2018 season.
Twarynski finished his fourth WHL season and second season with the Kelowna Rockets. Beginning with the Calgary Hitmen during the 2014-2015 season, the Calgary, AB. native recorded 36 goals and 52 assists for 88 points in 161 games in Calgary. After being acquired via trade by the Rockets during the 2016-2017 regular season Twarynski found a new stride in his offense. In his first portion of a season Twarynski notched seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 28 games. Then he became an overage on the Rockets roster. He took over in elder role, leading Kelowna in goals with 45 while adding 27 assists for 72 points in 68 games. Adding it all together Twarynski notched 88 goals, 94 assists, and 182 points in 257 games played. Twarynski was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the third round, 82nd overall. He signed his first pro contract, a three-year entry-level contract earlier this month. Twarynski was a co-winner of the Humanitarian award at the Kelowna Rockets Awards Ceremony earlier in March for demonstrating fantastic character on the ice and in the community.
The Kelowna Rockets organization wishes these three fine young gentleman nothing but the best in their future endeavours.
Photo credit: Marissa Baecker