Tyrell Goulbourne isn’t going to let a little thing like recovering from surgery on a lacerated calf muscle keep him from being with his Kelowna Rockets teammates when they compete for the Memorial Cup in a four-team major junior hockey tournament that begins Friday in scenic Quebec City.
“I wouldn’t miss it if I was in a wheelchair, I’ll be there,” Goulbourne, the 21-year-old left wing told Western Canada’s AM 1150 radio.
Goulbourne’s injury – he was cut by Portland Winterhawks forward Keegan Iverson’s skate in the third round of the Western Hockey League playoffs – has been the only downer in the Rockets’ ride to the 97th annual Memorial Cup tourney that will determine the Canadian Hockey League champion.
The team stormed through the Tri-City Americans, the Victoria Royals, and the Brandon Wheat Kings to capture the WHL’s Ed Chynoweth Cup, losing only three games along the way. The Rockets began the playoffs with a four-game sweep of the Americans and ended it by sweeping the Wheat Kings.
The quest for the Memorial Cup begins Friday when the Rockets face the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Quebec Remparts, the tournament’s host team. The Rimouski Oceanic, the QMJHL’s champions, and the Oshawa Generals, the Ontario Hockey League champs, also qualified for the tournament.
An Edmonton native, Goulbourne was a major contributor to the Rockets’ 53-13-5-1 regular season record and in the team’s playoff run before his injury. A Philadelphia Flyers third-round draft pick in 2013, he tallied 22 goals and 23 assists in 62 regular season games and notched a goal and an assist in 12 playoff games.
Four Rockets players were among the Top 10 scorers in the WHL playoffs. Still, Kelowna is known more for its defense. After all, this is the team that produced the likes of defensemen Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, Tyler Myers of the Winnipeg Jets, Josh Gorges of the Buffalo Sabres and the Flyers’ Luke Schenn.
Carrying on that blue line tradition is team captain Madison Bowey, a 2013 Washington Capitals 2013 second-round draft pick. His 2014-15 season could earn him more than a look-see from Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz during the team’s rookie camp and training camp later this year.
The 20-year-old Winnipeg native scored 17 goals and 43 assists in 58 regular season games and had a gaudy plus-minus of plus-38. He had 7 goals and 12 assists in 19 WHL playoff games. Bowey also played for Gold Medal-winning Team Canada in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, scoring a goal and 3 assists in the tournament.
All Bowey has done is win this season to the point that he’s in a position to complete a hat trick – an IIHF championship, a WHL championship, and a Memorial Cup.
Another Rockets defenseman, Devante Stephens, hopes to follow in Bowey’s skates and be selected by a National Hockey League team at the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla., next month. He’s ranked 116th among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service.
Stephens scored 4 goals and 7 assists for the Rockets in 64 regular season games and 4 assists in 17 playoff games. The Surrey, British Columbia, native won the team’s Rookie of the Year and Most Improved Player awards this season.
If Stephens, 18, hears his named called inside Sunrise’s BB&T Center at the June 26-27 draft, he may give an assist to Bowey, whose absence from the Rockets for the world junior championship gave Stephens more minutes and more responsibility on the ice.
“When the guys went away to world juniors….I really had an opportunity to show the coaches what I had,” Stephens told Rockets TV. “And I think it was a real stepping block for me, especially in this league. I really just got to show my stuff.”
Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer has had a chance to show his stuff to Rockets coaches – and potential NHL suitors – this season. In 14 regular season games Herringer posted an 11-2 record and recorded 2 shutouts.
Born in Haiti and raised in Comox, British Columbia, the 19-year-old Herringer had a 2.33 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. He went 3-0 in the WHL playoffs with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.