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Rockets only B.C. team without head coach

Blazers holding camp for prospects this weekend
June 3, 2016 9:53 P.M.

The Kelowna Rockets now are the only team in the WHL’s five-team B.C. Division without a head coach.
The Prince George Cougars introduced Richard Matvichuk as their head coach on Thursday, a couple of hours after the Vancouver Giants held a news conference for Jason McKee, their new head coach.
Interestingly, Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier reports in today’s editions that Matvichuk was on the radar with the Rockets, while McKee had applied for the coaching position.
Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, is looking for a replacement for Brad Ralph, who is gone after one season as head coach.
Matvichuk, 43, takes over from Mark Holick, who had been the Cougars’ head coach for three-plus seasons. Holick, who had a year left on his contract, left shortly after the Cougars’ season ended.
For the past two seasons, Matvichuk was the director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. This season, the Mavericks showed a 44-point improvement, enough for the ECHL to salute Matvichuk as both its executive and coach of the year.
From Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., he was a defenceman with the Saskatoon Blades (1989-92), who went on to play 14 seasons in the NHL and win one Stanley Cup.
The 37-year-old McKee had been with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints for 10 seasons, the past six as general manager and head coach. He guided the Saints to the AJHL final each of the past four seasons, winning twice.
In Vancouver, he takes over from Lorne Molleken, who was fired with two games left in the regular season. It was his only season as the club’s head coach; he had a year left on his contract when he was dismissed.
While McKee had a great deal of success in Spruce Grove, the Giants have missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons.
Meanwhile, Hamilton is looking for the Rockets’ third head coach in as many seasons.
Dan Lambert, a five-year assistant coach, moved up to head coach for the 2014-15 season, then left to join the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres as an assistant coach. He now is the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
Ralph left the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads to join the Rockets, but is gone after just one season.
Hamilton told Fisher that he has heard from more than 70 potential candidates.” “We’ve got lots . . . they have kept coming in,” Hamilton said. “I think we’ve got some good people, and now it’s time to start to dial in.”
The candidates include Kelowna assistant coaches Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard. Mallette, a former Rockets defenceman, has been an assistant coach for two seasons and has a year left on his contract. Crickard’s two-year contract is up and he hasn’t yet re-signed. He also is the club’s goaltending coach.
Hamilton told Fisher that he hopes to have a head coach in place before the NHL draft, which is scheduled for June 24-25 in Buffalo.
The Kamloops Blazers have almost two dozen prospects in town for the weekend as they hold their first orientation camp.
Selections from the 2015 and 2016 bantam drafts registered and took part in fitness testing on Friday at the Sandman Centre. Players and families also toured the team facilities.
On-ice sessions are scheduled for Brock Arena today, from 1 p.m. to 2:45 p.m., and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
The on-ice sessions are open to the public.
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