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Junior hockey: Kelowna Rockets finalize roster ahead of home opener

Click to play video: 'Rockets prep for home opener' Rockets prep for home opener
It's been almost 600 days since the Kelowna Rockets played a regular season game in front of fans at Prospera Place. But on Friday, all that will change when the Rockets host the Kamloops Blazers in their home opener with fans in the stands Travis Lowe looks at who might backstop this season's team. – Oct 14, 2021

The Kelowna Rockets have finalized their roster for the 2021-22 season, just ahead of their home opener on Friday night against the Kamloops Blazers.

On Thursday, the team announced it had placed goaltender Cole Schwebius on waivers.

Schwebius was one of four 20-year-olds in the lineup — one over the league limit of three over-age players per team — including captain Tyson Feist, forward Mark Liwiski and defenceman Jake Lee.

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After the Rockets acquired Edmonton Oil Kings backup netminder Colby Knight, Schwebius became the odd man out and had to be released.

So it would seem Kelowna’s job of starting goaltender is Knight’s for the taking.

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Kelowna Rockets goaltender Colby Knight during practice on Thursday. Global News

“He’s going to be given an opportunity at this point to give us the chance on Friday night,” said Rockets head coach Kris Mallette.

However, whether or not the 18-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., can take the opportunity and run with it remains to be seen.

“There’s still some uncertainty as to how much he has proven himself within the league,” Mallette admitted.

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Knight appeared in four games for Edmonton during the shortened 2020-21 season, with a 3-1-0 record, a 2.25 goals-against average and a .885 save percentage.

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The 6-foot-3 and 190-pound netminder was originally a fifth-round draft pick of the Oil Kings in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft at 92nd overall.

For his part, Knight couldn’t be happier about donning Rockets colours and having the chance to be the No. 1 netminder.

“Coming from Edmonton, that job wasn’t really up for the taking,” said Knight.

“I’m just really excited, I think it’s going to be lots of fun battling for the No. 1 spot.”

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The last time the Rockets played a regular-season game in front of fans at Prospera Place was March 11. 2020 — just before the rest of the season was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite focusing on bringing the team together, Mallette says he’s extremely excited for the franchise’s home opener in front of fans.

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“Absolutely, it’s junior hockey,” Mallette said with a smile on his face. “Having people cheering for you and showing their support is huge,”

However, because of COVID crowd restrictions, Friday’s game is already sold out.

Health rules stipulate that rinks are currently allowed 50 per cent capacity, which translates to around 3,400 seats for Prospera Place.

The team made an extra 400 seats available, but they’ve been snapped up, with the remainder of the seats withheld for season-ticket holders.

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