The Golden Rockets are keeping busy as the KIJHL team is ready to go when the league resumes games. (Claire Palmer photo)

The Golden Rockets are keeping busy as the KIJHL team is ready to go when the league resumes games. (Claire Palmer photo)

Rockets keeping busy during COVID pause

The team is still practicing, waiting for the go-ahead for games

With the extension of the public health orders through to Feb. 5, the KIJHL continues to postpone games, waiting for the go-ahead from the province with the league still projecting a February start.

In the meantime, the Golden Rockets are keeping busy, doing their best to be game-ready for when the KIJHL regular season resumes.

While the league is in phase 2, meaning no contact, head coach and GM Chuck Wight says it’s given the team the chance to develop individual skills and practice their skating, something he thinks will give them the edge once they resume play.

“I can see a lot of the players really working on their skills and getting themselves to higher levels. The silver lining of all this is we really get a chance to focus on skating and puck control and passing skills,” said Wight.

While the players have been enjoying the individual development focus, team captain Brett Benson says his teammates are ready to start playing games.

“Chuck’s been great, we’ve been doing lots of power skating which is really helping the fellas,” said Benson.

“We’re feeling ready for sure, we’ve been practicing for a while now and we’re staying positive, trying to get better every day and stay game ready.”

The Rockets got off to a tough start to the season, dropping a pair of games before the season was suspended, which Wight attributes to a short bench due to injury troubles and a whack of new recruits playing heavy minutes.

Wight says to expect a more disciplined team once play resumes, emphasizing speed and playing a full 60 minute game.

“We’re looking at those games as our extended pre-season and we’re going to have the real season coming up,” said Wight.

“We want to make sure that the discipline is there. Last year, we had issues with disciplined play and staying out of the box, this year we can expect a team that’s more composed and plays a fast and aggressive style.”

Benson says the goal for the team is to maintain a winning record.

The break has also given the Rockets a chance to round out the rest of their roster, which Wight believes will help relieve some of the heavy minutes some players were getting.

Outside of practices, the team has been doing some team building, with the leadership group, spearheaded by Jackson Wade and Benson, taking new players out and about the community.

“It’s really important to get to know each other before you get on the ice together for a game,” said Benson.

“It helps you get to know the individual and their play style,” he added.

“If you know a player well, it translates on the ice and you can start clicking on those plays.”

With only eight returning veterans and a dozen players who are new to the team, both Wight and Benson are looking forward to seeing the new recruits take that next step and how it reflects in the team’s progress.

Wight says the leadership group has been good throughout the lengthy lay-off, keeping the team together and motivated for their on-ice sessions and prepared as they wait out the pause.

“Brett’s been really good, in terms of being able to communicate with the guys and he’s definitely a fun character,” said Wight.

“The leadership group all together has a good personality.”

The team is also doing their best to stay active in the community when they can, in accordance with all the public health guidelines gathering restrictions

One example is the team hosting a fundraiser with Little Mittens on Saturday, Jan. 23.