By Warren Henderson
As the club’s lone veteran stopper, Adam Brown will be expected to carry a heavy load for the Kelowna Rockets this season.
Thankfully, it’s not a new concept for the Yorba Linda, California native, who logged 3,385 minutes between the pipes in 2009-10, the third highest total in the entire Western Hockey League.
“I really learned how to play a lot of games last year in a short space of time as opposed to playing one game here and there,” said Brown, who turns 19 in October. “When you’re playing every night, you really have to focus on each game, you get more fatigued, some days it’s not your day, so you always have to try and find ways to battle through that. I think I learned a lot about that part of the game and I’m looking forward to taking on the challenge again.”
After appearing in 29 games in his rookie campaign and posting some stellar numbers—18 wins, 2.02 goals against—Brown figured to be the No. 2 man once again in 2009-10. But when a hernia prevented incumbent Mark Guggenberger from starting the season, the 5-foot-10 1/2 168 pound Brown moved into the starter’s role.
It’s a job Brown held for entire regular campaign but, due to some inconsistency late in the year, Guggenberger was back in the driver’s seat by the third game of the playoffs.
Still, with a young Rockets team in front of him, goaltending/assistant coach Kim Dillabaugh said Brown performed well under the circumstances.
“We didn’t have him pencilled in as the No. 1 guy, so he was really thrust into that role kind of unexpectedly,” said Dillabaugh. “He went from a guy playing 20-some games in his rookie season to a guy faced with playing every night in his second season.
“Obviously there was a different team in front of him last year than the year before, so that made the transition more of a challenge. He had to learn how to play night in and night out, there were ups and downs, but overall I think he handled it very well.”
Now, with two full seasons under his belt, Dillabaugh looks for Brown’s game to take another step forward this year.
“He’s getting to the phase in his development where he’s learning to read the game a little bit better, understanding certain situations and just simplifying his game, something that comes with experience.
“He’s had a good approach, he knows he’s the only returning guy, but he’s not going to rest on that. He wants to show he’s a bona fide No. 1 guy.”
And Brown has every intention of living up to both his and the Rockets’ expectations.
“Every game, every practice I try and improve and that’s what I’m going for this year,” said Brown, who went 31-18-1-4 last season with a 2.80 goals against average in 59 games. “I’m going to try and prove myself everyday and try and be the best that I can.”
Battling for the backup job behind Brown this season are two Alberta products: Jordon Cooke, 17, from Leduc, and Chase Martin, 18, from Medicine Hat.
Rocket Shots…The Rockets close out their exhibition schedule this weekend with two games against Chilliwack Bruins. The clubs play Friday in Chilliwack, then Saturday at 7 at Prospera Place…The Rockets open the regular season Saturday, Sept. 25 at home to the Prince George Cougars.