Among the many items on Adam Rockwood’s checklist entering this hockey season, a shot at a spot on the Canada West roster was near the top.
Mark it down as done, after the Coquitlam Express forward was among 66 players invited to compete at the selection camp in Calgary, Oct. 26 to 30.
“I had a feeling I’d get invited, being that I was among the [B.C. Hockey League’s] top scorers,” said Rockwood, 18. “It’s a five-day camp and if I make it then I’m away until Nov. 10.”
In his absence, the Express will need to pick up the slack during a pair of home dates, Friday against West Kelowna (7 p.m., at the Poirier Sports Centre) and Sunday’s afternoon match with Chilliwack (2 p.m.).
But first, the Coquitlam minor hockey product hopes to leave on a good note with a victory against the division-leading Rivermen in Langley tomorrow (Thursday).
This past week the results were mixed. Coquitlam split a weekend road trip, beating Trail 5-2 before losing 4-3 in Salmon Arm.
In the win, Ryan Rosenthal scored twice and newcomer Zach Hodder collected a goal and two assists to pace the Express. Also scoring were Canon Pieper and Joey Santucci, while netminder Pierce Dushenko registered his second win, kicking out 29 shots in the process.
Against the Silverbacks, Coquitlam pushed ahead 3-2 midway through the second on Jace Hennig’s marker, but saw Salmon Arm tie it with a powerplay tally two minutes later.
Alex Gillies’ second of the game, early in the third, gave Salmon Arm the win and the Express its first road loss of the season, after starting with seven straight wins.
Corey Mackin and Rosenthal added the other Express goals.
Rockwood, who currently sits tied for second in the league scoring race with four goals and 20 assists in 15 games, said a sweep in Coquitlam’s favour was possible, if not for a few miscues.
“We feel we deserved a better outcome in Salmon Arm, and except for a couple of fixable mistakes we almost had it,” he noted. “It wasn’t my best game. Salmon Arm played their best guys against our line and I give them credit, they slowed us down.”
Almost from the start of the season, Rockwood has experienced positive results on a line with U.S.-natives Rosenthal and Mackin. Coming off a learning year last season, where he posted six goals and 20 assists over 46 games, the Coquitlam native has jumped to the head of the class — a similar trajectory as the one he took in his second year of major midget.
There, the under-sized forward made the most of a sudden growth spurt to become the B.C. elite midget circuit’s top scorer.
This year, while the team entered camp looking at a lot of vacancies on the offensive lines, the recruits and returning players have meshed well. For Rockwood, the opening for a No. 1 team centre was the kind of challenge he enjoys.
“Before I came to the Express last year I expected the offence [responsibility] to be placed on my shoulders,” he noted. “It was the same in major midget — I find I play better when guys look for me to produce.”
To the surprise of many, the Express have had no problem generating offence. The lead the league in most goals scored per game, and sit mid-pack in goals against.
Too many one- and two-goal losses, however, have hindered the club’s progress in the divisional race, said Rockwood. It’s been magnified at home on the smaller Poirier ice surface, where Coquitlam is just 1-4-0-2.
“For whatever reason, I just don’t think our team is comfortable playing in our own rink,” said Rockwood. “It’s so small and we’re built for speed. But we can improve on that.”
Rockwood will also be in Calgary with two other fellow Coquitlam products — defenceman Viktor Dombrovskiy of the Rivermen, and Merritt forward Jeff Wight.
If he makes the Canada West roster, he’ll head to Yarmouth, NS for the World Junior A Challenge.
“I’m really excited to get this chance to battle for a spot… I have full confidence in my team while I’m away, that someone will take it as an opportunity. We just have to play more basic on home ice.”
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