Kelowna Rockets: Iginla named MVP as team gears up for important weekend with Vancouver

Kelowna Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton, left, hands out the team’s MVP award on Thursday to forward Tij Iginla. Global News

Rocky Raccoon will be front and centre this weekend.

When the Kelowna Rockets host their final game of the regular season on Saturday evening, the team will wear giveaway jerseys featuring their now-viral mascot.

Earlier this month, during pre-game ceremonies, Rocky Raccoon blasted out onto the ice on his quad. He carried too much speed and the quad, going backwards, slammed into the end boards, with the mascot tumbling off.

Rocky was OK, but the video went viral, resulting in the team posting on social media “further evidence that raccoons are indestructible.”

Click to play video: 'Silvertips sweep series with Rockets'
Silvertips sweep series with Rockets

A draw will take place during the first intermission, with the winners gathering on ice after the contest for their game-worn jerseys.

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“It’ll be fun. The jerseys are super cool,” said Rockets scoring leader Andrew Cristall, who has 39 goals and 106 points in 60 games.

Hiroki Gojsic of the Kelowna Rockets shows the jersey that the team will give away following Saturday night’s home game against the Vancouver Giants. Kelowna Rockets

“He obviously had a pretty viral moment, which was really funny, but I’m glad he’s OK. It should be good to wear those; they’re pretty sweet.”

The jersey giveaway, though, won’t be this weekend’s focus.

Rather, it’ll be whether sixth-place Kelowna can overtake Vancouver for fifth place in Western Conference standings.

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The Rockets (31-30-4-1, 67 points) and Giants (32-30-4-0, 68 points) will close out their schedules with a home-and-home set. The series, which begins in Langley on Friday night, will determine who finishes fifth.

Kelowna is 5-1 against Vancouver this season, though their last meeting went to overtime, a 4-3 Rockets win on March 1.

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Click to play video: 'Kelowna Rockets beat Vancouver Giants 4-3 in overtime'
Kelowna Rockets beat Vancouver Giants 4-3 in overtime

“It’s going to be playoff intensity and playoff atmosphere in Vancouver and at home as well,” Cristall predicted of the weekend set. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.

“We’re looking to get two big wins. That’s the main focus.”

“Huge games for sure,” said Rockets forward Tij Iginla, who is second in team scoring (47 goals, 36 assists for 83 points).

“We need points to move ahead of Vancouver. It’s like playoff hockey before the playoffs.”

Should Kelowna finish fifth, that will set up a first-round playoff match against fourth-place Wenatchee (33-28-4-0, 70 points).

During the regular season, the Rockets were 2-2 against the Wild.

Should Kelowna finish sixth, that will set up a first-round playoff match against third-place Everett (43-18-2-3, 91 points).

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And this matchup isn’t favourable. The Silvertips went 4-0 against the Rockets this season, including 6-2 and 4-2 victories this past weekend.

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Hurricanes prepare for playoffs

There’s also the possibility that Kelowna could fall down the standings and get overtaken by the seventh-place Victoria Royals (28-29-5-4, 65 points).

The Royals will host the Wenatchee twice in Victoria this weekend. The Wild have won both games this season against the Royals.

If that were to happen, Kelowna would face the second-place finisher. Currently, Prince George (47-15-1-3, 98 points) and Portland (46-15-3-1, 96 points) are jockeying for top spot.

Kelowna has losing records against both Prince George (2-4-1-1) and Portland (1-2-1-0).

On Thursday, Kelowna broke from tradition and handed out its annual team awards.

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The trophies are usually doled out at a banquet or theatre, but unforeseen circumstances forced the team to hold an informal gathering at the rink.

The big winner was Iginla, who won two awards: MVP and scholastic player of the year.

“It’s a big honour to be the MVP,” Iginla told the media. “I thought a couple of guys, like (Cristall), could definitely have been (MVP), but it’s pretty cool to be named MVP.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary Flames great Jarome Iginla elected to Hockey Hall of Fame'
Calgary Flames great Jarome Iginla elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

The son of former NHLer Jarome Iginla, Tij Iginla is in his second WHL season, but first with Kelowna after being traded from Seattle last off-season.

“He’s so dynamic,” Cristall said of Iginla. “He’s almost at 50 goals and hopefully he can get that.

“He’s such a good player and so big for us getting timely goals. He’s dynamic all-around.”

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Below are this year’s award winners.

MVP: Tij Iginla

Top scholastic player: Tij Iginla

Top scorer: Andrew Cristall

Top defenceman: Caden Price

Top defensive forward: Gabriel Szturc

Most improved: Marek Rocak

Most sportsmanlike: Kayden Longley

Rookie of the year: Hiroki Gojsic

Unsung hero: Max Graham

Humanitarian: Dylan Wightman and Ty Hurley



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