With the exception of surrendering a couple of late goals, the Kelowna Rockets couldn’t have asked for much more in their Western Hockey League season opener.
The Rockets scored the game’s first six goals, then cruised to a 6-2 victory over the Kamloops Blazers Friday night at Prospera Place.
Kyle Topping scored twice and added and assist, while Kole Lind, who just returned Thursday from the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, scored a goal and added a pair of assists in the Rockets’ home opener in front of 5,238 fans.
“We had a really good start to the game, I thought we were moving our feet well, getting pucks deep and really wearing down their D-men and it started to show in the second, they were getting pretty tired,” said Lind. “All around it was a good game, I thought we could have had a better ending to it, but we’re just hoping to carry the momentum into tomorrow.”
Tomas Soustal, Jack Cowell and rookie Liam Kindree, with his first WHL goal, also scored for the Rockets.
With the loss of the likes of high-scoring forwards Nick Merkley, Reid Gardiner and Calvin Thurkauf from last year’s team, the Rockets will need scoring to come from up and down the lineup this season.
The Rockets got just that on opening night, with four of six goals coming from either first or second-year players.
“That’s what you want from your group, you want your players that have maybe moved up in the lineup and are getting more opportunity this year to create offense and kind of fulfill the role of some of the players that we’ve lost and that’s junior hockey,” said Rockets head coach Jason Smith.
“It’s about developing players, moving them on and players stepping up when they get the opportunity, grow their game and be a big part of your group.”
Brodan Salmond, the Rockets newly-appointed No. 1 goaltender stopped 33 shots and had his shutout broken by a pair of Kamloops goals three minutes apart late in the third period.
Defenceman Cal Foote celebrated his first game as Rockets’ captain with three assists and was named the game’s first star.
Foote, 19, was announced as the 23rd captain in club history earlier in the day.
“It’s a huge honour, you look at the wall here and a lot of them have captaincies, very honoured and it’s a dream to be a captain of an organization like the Kelowna Rockets,” said Foote, a draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Serving as alternate captains to Foote will be forward Dillon Dube and 20-year-old defencemen Gordie Ballhorn and James Hilsendager.
Dube remains with the NHL’s Calgary Flames and didn’t play with Kelowna Friday.
The Rockets and Blazers will meet again tomorrow night in Kamloops.