Junior hockey: Rockets add defenceman, drop forward at trade deadline
The Kelowna Rockets added one player to their roster and subtracted another, just as the WHL’s annual trade deadline came to a close on Thursday afternoon.
Kelowna released 20-year-old forward Lane Zablocki, then claimed 20-year-old defenceman Matt Barberis from the Vancouver Giants.
The trade deadline ended at Jan. 10, at 2 p.m.
Hailing from Wetaskiwin, Alta., Zablocki was acquired in a trade with the Victoria Royals earlier this season. In 22 games with Kelowna, the six-foot forward had 4 goals and 8 assists for 12 points, along with 31 penalty minutes.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to release Lane,” Rockets GM and president Bruce Hamilton said in a press release. “The way our hockey club is today, we had the chance to pick up a really skilled overage defenceman that will help us give our young guys more and more ice time.
“I think it’s important that [Kaedan Korczak, Devin Steffler, Lassi Thomson and Cayde Augustine] get to play more and with one of the three over-age defencemen all the time. They’ll get a chance to improve their game and play in situations that they don’t get to all the time.
“Barberis is a skilled, great skating player. He has had a tough year injury-wise, but he’s cleared to play, and we’re excited to get him into our lineup. He probably won’t play until next weekend.”
Barberis, from Surrey, is a 5-foot-10 blue-liner who weighs 185 pounds. He was selected 20th overall by Vancouver in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. This season, he had 1 goal and 2 assists, along with 10 penalty minutes in nine games with Vancouver. Last season, he registered three goals and 27 assists for 30 points, plus 67 penalty minutes in 56 games.
The Kelowna Rockets were somewhat outclassed on Wednesday night by the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips.
“We felt we did some good things. We did get out played,” Rockets head coach Adam Foote said following his team’s 4-2 home-ice loss to Everett.
Finnish import defenseman Lassi Thomson did some good things. He opened the scoring in the first with a power-play marker and added a deuce in the second.
Thomson’s second goal of the game came at 19:58 of the middle frame, just two seconds before the second period expired. He is now tied for third in WHL rookie scoring with 9 goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 39 games.
Also playing for Kelowna last night was new defenceman Schael Higson, who donned a new uniform just hours after being acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings for blue-liner Braydyn Chizen.
Higson, 20, at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds and hailing from Grand Prairie, Alta., should provide a steady physical presence on the blue-line for the rockets for the rest of the season.
“He’s got a lot of good things and he’ll be good for our club,” said Foote.
Higson and the rest of the Rockets (17-19-3-1), though, weren’t able to stop an onslaught of Everett shots, as the Tips (32-8-1-1) outshot Kelowna 44-24.
Notably, Rockets goaltender James Porter was the first star with a 40-save effort.
Down 3-2 with a minute left, Foote pulled Porter for an extra attacker. The Rockets, however, couldn’t break past center ice, as Everett kept Kelowna in its own half despite the 6-on-5 scenario. A turnover led to Gianni Fairbrother scoring into an empty net with 10 seconds left, and the crowd of 5,025 began exiting the building.
“It’s good measuring stick for us for where we are at,” Foote said of the game.
“We have to learn the hard way and we have to learn that you have to play every shift and you can’t take a shift off against a team like that.”
Foote hopes it’s a lesson Kelowna can put into action on Friday night in Prince George when they take on the Cougars (14-22-1-2).