The day has finally come. The Kelowna Rockets will open the 2018-2019 WHL regular season tonight in Kamloops taking on the Blazers at the Sandman Centre.
Following the Friday night matchup, the Rockets and Blazers head back to Kelowna for the Rockets 2018-2019 home opener.
Assistant Coach Kris Mallette says the time off between the preseason and the regular season has given the coaching staff the opportunity to spend time on educating the players on the systems they would like in place on Friday night.
“The biggest thing for us being able to practice for 11 days between games leading into the regular season has been a lot of time teaching,” said Mallette. “There was a lot for these guys to take in over the last little while so as a staff we want them to try and put that to use in the games coming up this weekend. Another thing these guys need to do is to harness their emotions. It’ll be fun for the new guys that haven’t been in the league and the guys that are returning are aware of the importance of getting off to a good start. As a staff it’s fun to finally get into a game mode where we have competition other than amongst ourselves. We are able to teach from the video, and we have video to see what some of our opponents tendencies might be. But right now it’s about keeping our guys excited to play and implementing the systems we’ve brought forward so far. We’ve got things that we want to do as a team and those are the things we’ve worked on more recently. We’re going to make sure that we’re doing those things each and every shift and getting better and better as the game goes on.”
Coaches and players alike, Mallette says everyone just wants to get things started.
“They’re just as anxious as we are. Practicing against your teammates can only get you so far before you’d like to see some new blood. We’ve got a good mix of young and old, so guys are going to be excited regardless if they’ve been there or not. The banner hanging is going to be pretty special too,” Mallette said.
The Rockets and Blazers faced off against each other a total of eight times during the 2017-2018 season. Kelowna swept the season series winning all eight games. Most recently the Rockets shutout the Blazers 4-0 on March 10th, 2018 at Prospera Place.
Following the opening weekend these two teams won’t meet again until after the Christmas break on December 28th and 29th when the two once again have a home-and-home weekend starting in Kamloops.
Puck drop on Friday night is at 7:00pm in Kamloops.
Fans will get to enjoy a banner ceremony on Saturday at Kelowna’s home opener as the Rockets raise their 7th B.C. Division title banner into the rafters prior to the 7:05pm puck drop.