Beat the five-time defending B.C. Major Midget League champions, on the road? Check.
Beat the two-time defending TELUS Cup champions, on the road? Check.
Become just the second B.C. team to win Canada’s National Midget Championship? Why not.
The Okanagan Rockets head to Moose Jaw with a reputation as giant-killers in the postseason, knocking off undoubtedly the region’s two most successful teams of the last decade, and winning both series away from home.
“We’re two banners deep and going for that third one, and now we have that opportunity to compete for what we set as our goal to win,” Rockets head coach Mack O’Rourke told the Kelowna Daily Courier after his team clinched its TELUS Cup berth with a regional win over the Red Deer Chiefs.
Okanagan kept pace with the powerhouse Vancouver NW Giants atop the BCMML standings during the regular season, entering the final weekend tied with the Giants before settling for second place.
The Rockets rolled past the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds by a combined 17-2 in a two-game first round sweep, and outlasted the Valley West Hawks 7-6 in a wild Game 3 to win their semifinal, setting up a showdown with Vancouver NW, which was looking for a sixth straight league title.
On the road at the Burnaby Winter Club, where Vancouver NW had posted a remarkable 18-0-2 home-ice record during the regular season, Okanagan drew first blood with a 2-1 win in Game 1, with Liam Finlay scoring the winner late in the second period.
The Rockets finished the sweep in Game 2, with Jake Kryski’s goal 4:58 into the third period standing up as the game-winner in a 4-3 victory that sent Okanagan to Red Deer for the Pacific Regional.
Playing on the road as an underdog for the second series in a row, the Rockets again earned the all-important first victory, jumping out to a three-goal lead in a 3-1 win, only to see the Chiefs even the series in a big way with a 7-1 victory in Game 2.
Down 2-1 just past the midway point of the final period in the third and deciding game, Okanagan pulled even on a Tanner Browne goal at 11:56, silencing the jam-packed crowd at Red Deer Arena and forcing overtime.
In the extra frame, it took just 5:40 for Finlay to be the hero; he one-timed a back-door pass from Carter Hikichi, sending the Rockets to the TELUS Cup for the first time in franchise history.
“Before the game, I guaranteed them that this would be the happiest day of their careers up until this point,” O’Rourke said. “Every guy, when you look up and down the depth chart, all 20 guys bought in and took roles they wouldn’t usually accept. There were guys that had to sit on the bench and that’s the toughest feeling in the world, but that sacrifice of being a good teammate is ultimately what’s letting us go to Moose Jaw now.”
HOW THEY GOT TO MOOSE JAW
British Columbia Major Midget League
Quarter-final: defeated Fraser Valley 2-0 (7-0, 10-2)
Semifinal: defeated Valley West 2-1 (5-4, 3-6, 7-6)
BCMML championship: defeated Vancouver NW 2-0 (2-1, 4-3)
Championship: defeated Red Deer 2-1 (3-1, 1-7, 3-2 OT)
Record: 32-5-3 (2nd in BCMML)
Goals For: 225 (2nd in BCMML)
Goals Against: 108 (2nd in BCMML)
Longest Winning Streak: 7 (Dec. 7-Jan. 18)
Top 3 Scorers:
Goals For: 45
Goals Against: 32
Top 3 Scorers:
NATIONAL MIDGET CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
PLAYERS TO WATCH
two-way defenceman … strong skater … powerful strides … solid frame … likes to finish checks … uses size well … heavy and accurate point shot … excellent hockey sense … smart
loves to have the puck on his stick … always a threat to score … very focused … plays with energy … great use of his edges … quick feet … creates scoring opportunities … highly skilled
dominating offensive talent … exciting to watch … explosive speed … stays a step ahead of opposition … excellent hockey IQ … creates his own space with the puck … very good puck skills
WHL DRAFTED PLAYERS
Tyson Jost – Everett 2013 (1st round, 7th overall)
Jake Kryski – Prince Albert 2013 (1st round, 13th overall)
Tanner Browne – Brandon 2012 (2nd round, 35th overall)