Defenceman Dustin Watt will be among the players that head coach Ty Davidson will be counting on to replace the loss of several veteran blueliners.

Rockets look to rebound from disappointing year as camp opens

The Rockets fell short of expectations last year, but remain optimistic they can return to the playoffs this season.

It’s fair to say that last season didn’t go exactly as planned for the Golden Rockets. Coming off a franchise-best playoff effort in 2012, expectations were at an all-time high for the team. A 15-32-1-4 record and a last place finish in the Eddie Mountain Division fell woefully short of those lofty expectations, but as is always the case with a new season, there is plenty of optimism as the Rockets open camp.

New rules that no longer treat out-of-province Canadian players like imports have provided head coach Ty Davidson with more wiggle room during the recruiting season, and he’s taken full advantage.

“We got a very good jump on things recruiting wise. We’ve committed to several kids from Alberta,” said Davidson. “I think we’ve upgraded in almost every position.”

For the second year in a row, Davidson has gone to California to fill the team’s goaltending needs, this time with Los Angeles native Mitchell Privett. Goaltending was hardly the only reason the Rockets missed the playoffs last year, but it also wasn’t a strength, something the team hopes to change this season.

“(Privett) was going to play Junior A last year until a knee injury sidelined him until Christmas,” Davidson explained. “In my opinion we are getting a very good Junior B goalie that was capable of playing Junior A.”

This time last season, the Rockets boasted a veteran defence core that included stalwarts Brett DeFrias, Coltin Berard, Michael Anderson and Matt McMath. With none of those four returning, the Rockets will rely on remaining veterans Dustin Watt and Daniel Dahlin to hold down the fort alongside several new recruits.

Dahlin will be counted on for more than just steady defensive play, as the local product has already been named the Rockets’ captain.

“The biggest thing I’ll say about Daniel is that he’s such a reliable person. When I tell him something needs to get done, it gets done. He’s a very reliable, responsible kid and he isn’t afraid to step up in the dressing room and say things,” Davidson said. “I think he’s going to be an excellent captain.”

Some questions remain as to who will be back for Davidson’s club up front, as many would-be returnees are participating in Junior A camps at the moment. Those who are cut will be returned to the Rockets.

With training camp getting underway on Aug. 29 and the season right around the corner, the team is still looking for more billets.

Those who are interested in becoming a billet should contact Rockets president Curt Thorne at 250-344-8924.

The Rockets will host the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Sept. 2 in the club’s first exhibition game. They’ll open the regular season on Sept. 12 on the road against the Princeton Posse.