The Rockets will be on Golden ice for the first time since last year’s playoffs and the new face behind the bench will be making important decisions in the near future.
Jason Stephens, entering his first season as head coach and general manager, will have a mixture of returning veterans and new recruits to choose from as he begins to put together this season’s roster.
Among the key returnees are locals Ian Desrosier and Travis Kelley, as well as Cole Mckechney, Riley Barnes and goaltender Mark Becica.
Braeden Allkins, Tanner Watt, Nic Noseworthy and Austin Pultz will be absent from this year’s club, all of them having committed to play Junior A hockey. Golden native Allkins has committed to play for the Dryden Ice Dogs of the Superior International Junior Hockey League out of Ontario.
Those losses and the loss of overaged defenceman Daniel Dahlin will leave plenty of openings in the lineup, both up front and on defence.
New recruits and a few players with previous KIJHL experience on other teams will fill those positions.
Big 6’2” defenceman Bobby Jo Love, formerly of the 100 Mile House Wranglers, will look to fill a role on the blueline while Calgarian and former Creston Valley Thunder Cat Ryley Bosman should fill a spot up front.
“Bosman is one that I’m excited about this year…he’s a big body that skates quite well,” Stephens said. “I think he’s a guy that could come in and be an impact guy this year as a 19 year-old in our league.”
“From what I’ve seen of (Love)…he skates pretty well, he’s not a real dynamic player but very solid and a good steady defenceman…you can never have enough of that,” he added.
The goaltending battle will be especially intense, as Stephens will have six goalies in addition to Becica vying for just a pair of roster spots. Other than in net, Stephens opted to keep the camp smaller, preferring to get a good look at a few players rather than a quick study of many.
“I tried to recruit players that I feel can play in this league and help us. I felt keeping the camp a bit smaller and just sort of getting to work right away (was best) because our league does start so quickly, it would be nice to sort of hit the ground running and get to work,” Stephens said.
For both goalies and skaters, it will be paramount to make a good early impression on Stephens as he cuts the roster down to a final tally of 23: 14 forwards, seven defenceman and two goalies.
“For me, what I’m looking for is guys that are going to come in and they’re going to compete every time they hit the ice they’re going to be willing to work as hard as they possibly can,” Stephens said.
“Being a good person is first and foremost and the second one is a good work ethic…that first impression is everything.”
Stephens will take the players through a variety of drills and scrimmages over the course of the camp before the exhibition season kicks off on Aug. 30 when the Rockets host the Columbia Valley Rockies at the Golden Arena.
The Rockets will play five more exhibition games, including a Sept. 1 date at home against former coach Ty Davidson’s Sicamous Eagles.
The games will start to count on September 11 when the Kamloops Storm visit Golden for the Rockets’ home opener.