Having missed the playoffs a year after a thrilling post season run that saw them soar to the third round for the first time in franchise history, it’s safe to say that the Golden Rockets’ 2013/2014 season was a disappointment.
When analyzing what went wrong, it’s important to remember that this was a very young team that lost a multitude of key players from last year such as Keith Wake, Blake Roney, Carter Cochrane and star goaltender James Leonard.
Expecting the team to replicate the success from the previous year’s group turned out to be an unrealistic goal.
With just one returning player from the team’s top two lines last season, it was up to the Rockets’ younger forwards to step up and take on the bulk of the scoring duties. Head coach Ty Davidson feels that Braeden Allkins, Tanner Watt and Cole Mckechney, the team’s top three scorers, were the players who really stepped up and improved throughout the 2013/2014 season.
“That top line, if we get all three of those guys back, I expect big things from those three players,” he said.
Nevertheless, Davidson will not stand pat with his current roster and will be looking to make some moves in the offseason to improve in all areas.
“If we can improve any of our positions, we want to do that. If we brought in a big time top 6 guy to be our best forward, that just puts everybody else down a notch and makes us a deeper team,” he said. “But the one position we really have to focus on is our defence core.”
It’s not a surprise that Davidson plans to focus on recruiting defencemen. The Rockets will be losing veteran leaders Michael Anderson and Coltin Berard, as well as Matt McMath, who is foregoing his final year of junior eligibility in favour of attending school.
Help could come as a result of a pair of mid-season trades. The Rockets will receive a yet to be named player from each of the Kamloops Storm and the Castlegar Rebels as compensation for both the Brett DeFrias and Connor Beauchemin deals respectively. Those players will be revealed at the conclusion of the KIJHL playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Columbia Valley Rockies, who knocked the Rockets out of the playoffs in the final game of the regular season, have already been eliminated from the post-season after losing four straight games to the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
Davidson sees the Thunder Cats as a threat to win the championship this year, but believes the top contender for the KIJHL title belongs to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“They have, in my opinion, every component. They have size, toughness, speed, skill, a great back-end, solid goaltending and they are well-coached,” he said.