The day has arrived, the main event is here: it’s time for Andrew Cristall versus Connor Bedard as the Kelowna Rockets welcome the Regina Pats on Tuesday night.
In their first and only meeting of the season, both clubs have been average to start the season despite each having one of the top two scorers in the WHL.
Going into Tuesday’s contest, the Rockets sit eighth in the Western Conference standings with a record of 9-10-1-0. Meanwhile, the Pats sit seventh in the Eastern Conference with an 11-11-1-1 record.
The Pats are on a seven-game roadtrip with the majority of it coming through British Columbia for the first time since before the pandemic. They’ve started the roadtrip 2-0. Kelowna is beginning a mini-two game homestand and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. A Rockets-Pats game is almost three years in the making as the last time they played each other was Dec. 13, 2019.
Tuesday’s game marks the first time in their WHL careers that best friends Cristall and Bedard are playing against each other. The two of them sit one and two in league scoring as Bedard has 53 points (22 goals, 31 points) in 24 games while Cristall has 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists) in 20 games. Bedard has recorded a point in 23 straight games while Cristall is riding an 11-game point streak. Both of them have been given ‘A’ rankings on the latest NHL Central Scouting preliminary players to watch list.
As the Bedard show comes to Kelowna, fans around town have taken notice as Tuesday’s game is the first sellout the Rockets have had since 2019. All seats and standing room are completely sold out at around 6,400 fans.
Puck drop at Prospera Place on Tuesday night is set for 7:05 p.m.
Wheeling and Dealing on a Monday
Monday wasn’t only busy because of Bedard being in town, it was also busy for the Rockets front office as they made two trades throughout the day.
Around midday, the team announced they had traded forward Rilen Kovacevic to the Edmonton Oil Kings for forward Carson Golder and a third-round pick in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
“For Kovacevic, it’s an opportunity for him to be on a team where he thinks he should be and that’s in the top six,” said Rockets President and General Manager Bruce Hamilton. “I think it’s a situation where I think a change of scenery will be good for him, he’s a talented player that has a lot to give, but he’s still in the learning process of playing in this league.”
Golder has recorded 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 24 games this season and brings experience to the Rockets as he won the 2022 WHL Championship with Edmonton.
“We had the opportunity to acquire a good two-way player in Golder that can play forward and defence,” said Hamilton. “It’s unique that he can play both positions and something that we’ll take advantage of. He brings a little more depth to our lineup and adds speed, which I felt we needed to address.”
Golder is expected to be in the line up for the Rockets on Tuesday night against Regina.
That wasn’t the only move on the day as the team also announced on Monday night they have traded the playing rights to goaltender Nicholas Cristiano to the Victoria Royals in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
In three games (one start) for the Rockets this season, Cristiano recorded a loss with a 2.61 goals against average (GAA) and an .879 save percentage. After his stint with the Rockets to start the year, the team sent him down to the West Kelowna Warriors, where he’s 1-2 with a 4.42 GAA and an .867 save percentage.