By Dave Cunning
Losing 7-1 to the Calgary Hitmen last Friday certainly wasn’t enjoyable for any of the Kelowna Rockets, but fans can at least take some solace in knowing two Hitmen players with Kelowna ties were on the right side of the lopsided victory.
Collin Bowman played with the Rockets from 2006 to 2010, until he was dealt to the Moose Jaw Warriors, and then to Calgary this season. Carrying on from Kelowna seemed to be a good move, as his 48 points with the Warriors last season, and 41 so far this season with Calgary have both been higher than what he was able to put up while wearing Rockets colours.
It’s also made him the Hitmen’s highest-scoring defenceman this season.
“It’s always fun to come back,” said Bowman. “Kelowna has a great crowd. I played here for four years, so there are a lot of memories. It’s even nicer to get a win, especially one like that.”
Today, the Rockets get a chance to avenge that thumping they took from the Hitmen, when Kelowna visits the Calgary Saddledome for their final head-to-head meeting of the regular season. Game time is 3 p.m.
Playing against former Rockets teammates and friends doesn’t mean Bowman dials back any part of his game come the drop of the puck.
“I found it’s more of a motivation for me,” Bowman admitted. “You want to play them hard and show them what your team’s about. It’s fun playing against those guys and making it a hard night for them. When you get traded, it’s kind of a pride thing to beat up on your old team. When we can come in here and get a win, it definitely feels good to gain some bragging rights.”
Cody Sylvester is Calgary’s captain, and also lived in Kelowna from the age of nine, until he went on to play his first of four years with the Hitmen.
“It’s always fun to come back to your hometown, and play in front of your family and friends,” Sylvester said. “It’s a bonus to get a big win too. I’m just coming off the flu, so once we got up a few there, I didn’t play as much. Our guys battled hard though, and I’m just happy we got the win.”
Playing through sickness is just one of the many lead-by-example tactics Sylvester has used to motivate his teammates.
“I like to be vocal and get guys fired up, but I think it all starts on the ice,” said Sylvester. “I just try to go out there and work as hard as I can. If the guys see me doing that, maybe they’ll also start working as hard as they can.”
This has easily been Sylvester’s most productive WHL season — he currently sits tied for the team lead in scoring with 62 points in 57 games played. That’s 30 more points than he had last year, and in two less games. He also leads the team with a plus-26 rating.
Despite the increased output, Sylvester doesn’t think his game has changed all that much from previous years.
“I haven’t really changed anything,” conceded Sylvester. “I just try to work as hard as I can every night. My linemates are playing well, and that’s a big factor of me having success. I’ve just been throwing the puck at the net, and trying to set up my teammates — it’s been going well so far this year.”
Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson said both players have been tremendous assets to the squad.
“Both guys have done such a good job on and off the ice,” Williamson said. “Sylvester being our captain, and Bowman really solidifying things for us on the back end. Both guys play such an important role for us night in and night out, and they’re both very unselfish players. Both guys have a strong two-way game, and that’s their strength. Sylvester’s really developed into a strong two-way player that can play in any situation.
"He’s good on draws, so he takes key face-offs, power play, penalty kill . . . he logs a lot of minutes. Bowman’s added an element on our power play with his shot and his ability to run things on the blue-line. He also plays against top guys defensively.”
Dave Cunning is a former semi-pro hockey player turned writer, coach and personal trainer. You can read his blog at