Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Adversity nothing new for Rockets in quest for glory

Losing Colton Sissons for the majority of the 2013 playoffs is a tough pill to swallow. The team will be without its captain, most valuable player, top face-off man and arguably its hardest worker. But should we be surprised at the Kelowna Rockets run of bad luck when they are positioned at winning a Western Hockey League championship?
If you follow this team closely, an injury or loss of a high end or character player has been common place for this franchise dating back to 2002.
For whatever reason, the Rockets take the road less traveled before rising to the top.
Strange, but true.  
Kiel McLeod
Let me take you back to the spring of 2002 when the Kelowna Rockets were making their first appearance in the Western Conference final. In a series against the eventual Memorial Cup champion Kootenay Ice, Rockets 19 year-old forward Travis Moen would lose his father Brian to a heart attack after game three. Moen was shattered by the loss as were his teammates. Moen attended his fathers funeral in Saskatchewan and never returned, missing the final three games of that series, which the Ice eventually won in five games.
Fast forward to the spring of 2003 and the wonderful season 19 year-old centreman Kyle McLeod was enjoying. The second round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets had 39 goals and 90 points in 68 games that season. The big, strong McLeod would play in the first eight games of the playoffs before suffering an appendectomy. McLeod would watch from the sidelines as his team won a WHL championship over the Red Deer Rebels before eventually playing late in the 2003 Memorial Cup in Quebec City.
It wouldn't end there.
In the teams Memorial Cup hosting year (2004), captain Josh Gorges suffers a ligament tear in his knee, and instead of undergoing surgery to end his season, he wears a brace and competes and wins junior hockey's ultimate prize. 
Derek Yeomans
In 2005, on their way to a second WHL title, again the injury bug bit hard on the Kelowna Rockets. This time starting goaltender Derek Yeomans went down to a playoff ending knee injury after colliding with Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Steven Later in game one. Yeomans, who finished the game with a 28 save shutout performance, wouldn't return for the remainder of the series, nor the Memorial Cup. Back up Kristofer Westblom would win games two through five before raising the Ed Chynoweth trophy over his head as league champions.
Even in 2009, the Rockets last title, adversity came in the form of their most dynamic player going down in the championship final against the high powered Calgary Hitmen. Jamie Benn, who put opposing goaltenders into a cold sweat in their sleep, was knocked out of game two after a hard hit. Benn would miss games three, four and five before coming back in game six and promptly assisting on the game winning goal in overtime leading the Rockets to a game six series win and a third WHL championship.
Jamie Benn
So in review, the Kelowna Rockets have faced adversity of some sort in all three league titles they have won. In each case, other players have stepped up when common sense would suggest the Rockets were in a heap of trouble. Instead of succumbing to what fate had handed them, they fought back with grit, heart and determination before finding themselves in the winners circle.
Now, before the 2013 playoffs have even started the team has again been delivered with another dose of tough luck with the loss of Colton Sissons.
Again things won't come easy.
But if you are a Kelowna Rockets player and you want to win a championship, its just the way it goes down in these parts.

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