The Western Hockey League announced earlier this week the cancellation of the WHL Playoffs and the Memorial Cup as well. That event was set to be played in Kelowna from May 22-31, 2020. Being the hosts, the Kelowna Rockets would have played in that event regardless of how they did in the playoffs. That means Mark Liwiski would have been playing on the biggest stage in Major Junior Hockey at the end of May. However, that's not the case anymore.
The Rockets did also qualify for the playoffs with a record of 29-28-3-3, good for 64 points and the top wildcard spot in the Western Conference. Liwiski helped the Rockets finish their campaign with a 5-2-2-1 record in their last 10 games. In the end, it's not to be and it's still a tough pill to swallow for the Dauphinite.
"It's pretty tough news honestly. I think our team could have made a huge push in the playoffs, it's pretty tough right now," said Liwiski. "Especially being the hosts of the Memorial Cup and not getting that chance this season, it's just unfortunate but there's nothing we can do, safety is first. I just have to stay busy and make sure I'm ready for next season at this point."
Prior to the suspension and eventual cancellation of the season, Mark was enjoying a career-year in his second season with the Rockets after he started his career by playing 10 games with Everett. He scored eight goals and added 11 assists for a 19 point total in 55 games. Last year in 60 games, Liwiski had 17 points. He was also a +3 this year which is much improved from last season's -12.
Mark also had one shorthanded goal as he continues to round out his game.
"I'm pretty happy with what I did this year. I was playing in a shutdown role and I had some more opportunities in the second half of the season," continued Liwiski. "I probably could have put up more points throughout the year, but I'm pretty pleased with the season overall."
After recording two more points this year compared to last, Mark is preparing to bust things right open next season. His goal is to double his point production from this year which would put him at least with 38 points over the course of the 2020-2021 regular season.
"100 percent. I think I can have a record-setting season next year, I'm looking forward to showing what I can do," continued Liwiski. "I'll be playing in a bigger role with some new linemates, things should be good."
This year was one of ups and downs for Kelowna and it showed in their final standing. The team also added up 64 points last season which wasn't enough to earn a playoff spot. The 64 this year was enough; however, it's the fewest points they have registered since the 2009-2010 season when they had 76. They also had 118 in the 2013-2014 season for a bit of a comparison.
When it comes to moving into next year, not only is Mark getting ready for a big year but so is the team.
"I think we're going to be one of the top teams in the division and I think we can even win the B.C. Division," continued Liwiski. "We struggled with consistency this season. We would win six in a row and then we would lose six in a row, it's just about finding middle ground and I think we'll be able to do that next season because our roster will be very strong."
So yes, Mark is back home much earlier than he thought and hoped he would be. But being from Dauphin, he's back to see his family and friends every day and that's certainly not a bad thing for the 18-year-old.
"Yeah, it's good being back home, sure it's earlier but it's a good feeling," concluded Liwiski. "I missed my friends and family so it's nice to be back. It's also nice to get some downtime."