The Okanagan Rockets more than held their own against some of the world’s best midget teams before going down to defeat in the semifinals of the Mac’s Midget Tournament this week in Calgary.
The Rockets, who made the playoffs for the first in their history at the 25-team international tourney, were beaten 5-1 by the powerhouse Finnish U17 national team in the semifinal round on Wednesday.
Still, the Rockets threw a scare into the Finns and were tied 1-1 midway through the final period.
But Okanagan ran into some penalty trouble in the late going as the Finns put the game away on the power play and with an empty netter.
The class of the tournament, the Finns—who outscored their opponents 62-11 over seven games—won the gold medal with a 7-1 win over the Swiss.
“We knew we had to make some adjustments from a tactical standpoint,” said Rockets’ head coach Mack O’Rourke. “We figured our club could skate with them and pressure them, make them uncomfortable. For 50 minutes it was mission accomplished, unfortunately for us we ran into some penalty trouble and they capitalized.”
The Rockets posted a 2-0-2 record in the round robin to make the playoffs at Mac’s for the first time in team history. The two tie games came against two of Western Canada’s top midget programs—3-3 against the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs and 5-5 against the Notre Dame Argos.
In the quarterfinals, the Rockets downed South Side Athletic Club from Edmonton 5-4.
“It would be an understatement to say I’m proud of these guys,” said Rockets general manager David Michaud. “We had a single loss in six games against some of the best midget teams in the world. I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish here this week. Hopefully this will be a big stepping stone for our program.”
The Rockets, who lead the BCMML standings, will have a little down time before returning to the ice Jan. 8 for the start of the Kelowna International Elite Midget Tournament.