Junior hockey: Kelowna Rockets trade captain to league-leading Seattle Thunderbirds

A roundup of results and news from junior hockey teams in the Okanagan and area.


The Western Hockey League’s top team just got stronger.

On Saturday, the Kelowna Rockets announced that they had traded their team captain, Colton Dach, to the Seattle Thunderbirds.

In sending Dach to the front-running Thunderbirds, who have won 13 of their last 14 games and have a league-best 58 points, the Rockets also gave up a draft pick but received two players and three draft picks in return.

Dach, 19, suffered a serious shoulder injury while playing for Team Canada at the recent world junior hockey championship, and isn’t expected to play for the next six to eight weeks.

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“Anytime you trade your captain, it’s a very tough decision,” Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton said on Saturday morning.

“With Colton being injured and not available to play until likely March 1st, we felt that it was in the best interests of our team and Colton to make this trade. We want to congratulate Colton on his world junior gold medal and thank him for his time with the Rockets. We wish him all the best moving forward.”

When Dach does return, though, Seattle’s formidable roster will feature five players who played for Canada at the world juniors: goalie Milic Thomas, defencemen Nolan Allan and Kevin Korchinski plus forward Reid Schaefer.

Having two players with Team Canada experience is considered impressive. Four? That’s other-worldly, let alone five.

The Medicine Hat Tigers (1988), Kamloops Blazers (1996), Windsor Spitfires (2010) and Niagara IceDogs (2011) also had four players on Canada’s team.

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“While Colton is currently recovering from an injury, we expect him to be back well before the playoffs begin,” Seattle GM Bill La Forge said of Dach, a 6-foot-4 centre who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2021.

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“He is a big, talented center that provides us with another offensive weapon as we chase our championship goals.”

In 14 games with Kelowna this season, Dach had 9 goals and 17 points. Last season, he had 29 goals and 79 points in 71 games.

The Rockets also gave up a fifth-round pick in the WHL’s 2024 bantam draft. Going to Kelowna, though, are left winger Ty Hurley, 18, plus defenceman Ethan Mittelsteadt, 17, plus a 2024 first-round pick, a conditional second-round pick in 2025 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2023.

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At Kelowna, Andrew Cristall scored twice as the Rockets snapped a six-game losing streak on Friday night.

Marcus Pacheco also scored for Kelowna (13-19-3-0), which led 1-0 and 2-0 at the period breaks. Talyn Boyko stopped 26 of 28 shots for the Rockets, who hadn’t won since a 6-0 victory over Lethbridge on Dec. 16.

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Daylan Kuefler and Kyle Masters replied for Kamloops (21-8-4-2), which will host Kelowna on Saturday night. Dylan Ernst stopped 22 of 25 shots for the Blazers, who lead the B.C. Division with 48 points. The Rockets are fourth out of five with 29 points.

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Kelowna was 1-for-2 on the power play while Kamloops was 1-for-5.

Friday’s results

  • Brandon 3, Portland 2
  • Medicine Hat 3, Edmonton 2
  • Calgary 2, Moose Jaw 1
  • Prince Albert 2, Red Deer 1
  • Everett 4, Prince George 2
  • Seattle 6, Regina 0
  • Victoria 6, Spokane 3
  • Swift Current 5, Saskatoon 4
  • Vancouver 3, Tri-City 2 (OT)

Saturday’s games (all times PT)

  • Seattle at Moose Jaw, 5 p.m.
  • Brandon at Prince Albert, 5 p.m.
  • Red Deer at Saskatoon, 5 p.m.
  • Swift Current at Medicine Hat, 6 p.m.
  • Edmonton at Lethbridge, 6 p.m.
  • Everett at Prince George, 6 p.m.
  • Victoria at Tri-City, 6:05 p.m.
  • Kelowna at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
  • Vancouver at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

Sunday’s games

  • Calgary at Regina, 2 p.m.
  • Portland at Winnipeg, 3:05 p.m.
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At Prince George, Hank Levy was perfect between the pipes, stopping all 29 shots he faced, as the Vees blanked the Spruce Kings on Friday night and won their 30th game of the season.

Brett Moravec, Josh Nadeau and Aydar Suniev scored for league-leading Penticton (30-2-0-0-0), which did all of it scoring in the third period.

Moravec made it 1-0 at 1:13 of the third, with Nadeau putting the Vees ahead 2-0 at 16:53. Suniev closed out the scoring at 17:17 with a power-play goal.

Jordan Fairlie stopped 25 of 28 shots for Prince George (16-12-2-1-0).

The Vees were 1-for-2 on the power play while the Spruce Kings were 0-for-5.


At Salmon Arm, Matthew Tovell backstopped the Silverbacks to a shutout win with a 37-save performance on Friday night.

Brandon Santa Juana, Owen Beckner and Ryan Gillespie scored for Salmon Arm (16-12-2-1-0), which did all of its scoring in the first period.

Ethan David started for Vernon (14-14-0-4-0), but lasted just one period, stopping 8 of 11 shots. Roan Clarke went 19-for-19 in relief.

Both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play.

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At West Kelowna, Isaiah Norlin scored the only goal in the shootout, which went seven rounds, as the Warriors rallied to beat the Smoke Eaters on Friday night.

Riley Sharun, Michael Salandra and Jaiden Moriello scored in regulation time for West Kelowna (xxx), which trailed 2-0 after the first period and 3-0 midway through the second.

Sharun scored at 10:45 to make it 3-1, with Salandra pulling West Kelowna to within one at 5:15 of the third. Nine minutes later, at 14:15, Moriello scored his 16th goal of the season to level the score at 3-3.

Overtime was scoreless, with the game then heading to what would be a lengthy and nearly scoreless shootout.

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Angelo Zol stopped 31 of 34 shots for the Warriors, with Teagan Kendrick turning aside 48 of 51 shots for the Smoke Eaters.

Trail was 1-for-3 on the power play while West Kelowna had no power-play opportunities.

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Friday’s results

  • Coquitlam 4, Chilliwack 1
  • Cowichan Valley 3, Victoria 1
  • Cranbrook 4, Merritt 1
  • Alberni Valley 4, Nanaimo 2
  • Wenatchee 6, Powell River 5 (OT)
  • Surrey 4, Langley 0

Saturday’s games (all times PT)

  • Cranbrook at Chilliwack, 6 p.m.
  • Merritt at Vernon, 6 p.m.
  • Wenatchee at Alberni Valley, 7 p.m.
  • Cowichan Valley at Powell River, 7 p.m.
  • Penticton at Prince George, 7 p.m.
  • Nanaimo at Victoria, 7 p.m.
  • Trail at Langley, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday’s games

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  • Salmon Arm at West Kelowna, 2:30 p.m.
  • Wenatchee at Cowichan Valley, 4 p.m.
  • Coquitlam at Surrey, 4 p.m.
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The Nelson Leafs say their head coach has resigned, and the team issued an apology, in the wake of a line brawl on Dec. 31.

In all, 10 players and one team staff member were disciplined by the league on Jan. 3, with suspensions totalling 43 games – 35 to Nelson and eight to Beaver Valley.

Then, on Friday, Jan. 6, the KIJHL announced that Nelson head coach Adam DiBella had been suspended for the rest of the season.

“Our investigation determined that the incident in Saturday’s game was instigated by the Leafs at Mr. DiBella’s direction,” said KIJHL commissioner Jeff Dubois.

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“The KIJHL has zero tolerance for these types of actions by any team staff member, and the severity of Mr. DiBella’s suspension reflects the seriousness that we place on leadership and player safety.”

The Leafs, who were also fined $5,000, also announced on Friday that DiBella had resigned, and that the team will be under the guidance of assistant coach Tyson Soobotin and GM Lance Morey.

“The Nelson Leafs will be making a decision concerning the head coaching position in the days to come,” said the team, adding it won’t be appealing the league’s decisions.

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Friday’s results

  • Kimberley 2, Castlegar 1
  • Golden 9, Creston Valley 4
  • Fernie 5, Columbia Valley 3
  • 100 Mile House 2, Kamloops 1
  • Nelson 4, Chase 3
  • Sicamous 5, Princeton 4
  • Revelstoke 5, North Okanagan 1
  • Grand Forks 2, Beaver Valley 1

Saturday’s games (all times PT)

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  • Creston Valley at Columbia Valley, 6 p.m.
  • Castlegar at Fernie, 6:30 p.m.
  • Kimberley at Golden, 6:30 p.m.
  • Nelson at 100 Mile House, 7 p.m.
  • Chase at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
  • Sicamous at Kelowna, 7 p.m.
  • Princeton at Revelstoke, 7 p.m.
  • Osoyoos at Grand Forks, 7 p.m.
  • Summerland at Beaver Valley, 7 p.m.

Sunday’s games

  • Kelowna at Sicamous, 2 p.m.
  • North Okanagan at Osoyoos, 4:05 p.m.
  • Nelson at Kamloops, 5 p.m.
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