Dwyer a big factor in Rocket turnaround

Joe MacIntyre
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The P.E.I. Rocket has had quite a turnaround season, and a lot of the credit should go to head coach Gordie Dwyer.

The Rocket finished dead last in the 17-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season with a record of 19-43-0-6 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses). That was the Rocket’s first season under Dwyer. What a difference a year makes!

Dwyer has the Rocket in eighth-place overall going into weekend action with a 29-20-2-0 record. The Rocket already has 10 more wins than all of last season, and they still have 17 games to play.

The Rocket has a chance to finish as high as fifth overall, and no matter where they finish Dwyer has done a great job. Twelve players, or the nucleus of last year's team, are back this year, which tells one that Dwyer has worked with his core group and made them better. That is what coaching is all about.

When you look back at Dwyer’s short coaching career, one should not be surprised with the Rocket turnaround. The 35-year-old native of Dalhousie, N.B., started his coaching career with the Summerside Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) after retiring from playing professionally.

Dwyer did a great job in his two-year stint in Summerside. In the 2009-10 season, he guided the rebuilding Caps to a respectable 27-20-1-2 record and won a round of the playoffs. The following season, 2010-11, he had an impressive 36-12-1-3 record, good for second overall and followed that up with a great playoff run and a Kent Cup championship.

Dwyer was named coach of the year for his efforts before joining the Rocket for the 2011-12 season.

As one can see, Dwyer gets results while bringing stability and confidence to this Rocket team. He has the Rocket pointed in the right direction, and deserves a lot of the credit.

Playoff hockey

Playoff hockey for some leagues is underway, and for other leagues the post-season is just around the corner. This year may very well be the best hockey playoffs that Islanders have seen in some time.

Fans of P.E.I.’s three high-profile teams are expecting big things. The UPEI Panthers have had a good regular season that concluded last night in Charlottetown, and will open up their playoff schedule next week. They will likely face either Acadia or St. Francis Xavier in the opening round, and where they open up depends on last night's results.

Panther fans are excited about their team's chances, and one would think that it would be a major disappointment if the Panthers didn't win at least one series.

The Western Capitals are playing out the regular-season schedule, and trying to get playoff ready for a run that they hope will net them another RBC Cup. The City of Summerside is hosting the Canadian junior A hockey championship at Eastlink Arena from May 11 to 19, and the Capitals are the host team.

Caps’ fans should see some great hockey over the next three months, and it could be the best hockey we have seen since they last hosted and won the RBC Cup in 1997.

The Caps have only eight regular-season games left before the playoffs open in about one month.

The P.E.I. Rocket is also playoff-bound, and may have what it takes to win a round or two in their playoffs, which are about five weeks away. They have 16 games left on their schedule going into Sunday’s home game against the Moncton Wildcats.

The Island Junior Hockey League playoffs are only a week away, and the battle for first place is going right down to the wire. As this is written, only two points separate the top three teams in league standings, but once again the Kensington Vipers are in the driver’s seat needing just one win in their final three home games.

If the Vipers do clinch top spot, they will meet the winner of the Holland College/Montague qualifying series. That leaves the Arsenault Fish Mart Red Wings from Abram-Village and Sherwood A&S Scrap Metal Falcons to meet in the other semifinal series.

I guess I would be like a lot of fans in Prince County in hoping for a Kensington-Western final. They represent the best hockey rivalry on P.E.I., and it looks like the Red Wings have closed the gap somewhat on the Vipers this year, which would make for a great series.

A lot of Island hockey fans wait for playoff time to get out to the rink, and this year looks to be one of the better playoff years in some time. There will be some great hockey to watch over the next three months. 

Summerside Storm

The Summerside Storm has a big night planned for Thursday's home game against the Moncton Miracles. Thursday is Valentine's Day, and the Storm is hosting their "Cure on the Court" game where the Storm helps raise funds for breast cancer research.

The Storm will pass the sneaker to collect donations and they will be selling roses to go with the Valentine's theme, with proceeds also going to the cause. The Storm certainly do their fair share and more when it comes to helping charities, and this fundraiser is the latest in a long list the team has helped in their second year in the National Basketball  League of Canada.

Fans are encouraged to come out and see what should be a great basketball game, and at the same time help with a very worthwhile cause. The Storm has a big game in London, Ont., on Sunday afternoon, when they tangle with the league's top team and defending league champions, the London Lightning.  

Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to j-mac@eastlink.ca.

Organizations: Holland College, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Capitals Maritime Junior Hockey League RBC Red Wings Island Junior Hockey League National Basketball League of Canada London Lightning

Geographic location: Summerside, Dalhousie, Charlottetown Abram-Village Prince Kensington-Western London, Ont.

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