Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is it Friday yet?

Shoot the Breeze Photography

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets face the Portland Winterhawks in game one of the Western Conference Championship series. This is the third time in the last four seasons these two teams have met in the playoffs. Back in 2011 they collided in round two before meeting in round one in the 2012 post season. The Winterhawks won both of those playoff series. These two teams met four times during the regular season with the Rockets going 4-0-0-0. Overall, the Rockets out-scored the Winterhawks 28-10 in the seasonal series including 12-5 on home ice and 16-5 on the road. The Rockets out-shot the Winterhawks in three of the four games. Game two in the series is tomorrow night before shifting to Portland for games three and four next Tuesday and Wednesday night. Game five is back at Prospera Place on Friday April 25th. The Rockets are playing in the Western Conference final for the 6th time in franchise history and for the first time since 2009.

Seasonal Series Scoring by Period: 
Period:            1      2     3    Total
Rockets           9      9    10    28
Winterhawks   5      2     3     10

*The Winterhawks opened the scoring in three of the four games. The Rockets were 8/22 on the power play (36.4%) in the four games while Portland was 1/23 (4.3%) with the extra man. Jordon Cooke started all four games for the Rockets in goal while Brendan Burke played in three of the four games but was pulled in two of them.   

This and That: Combined, these two teams had a regular season record of 111-24-2-7. If you add their playoff records to the mix they are a combined 127-26-2-7….The Rockets advanced to the Western Conference final after a five game series win over Tri City in round one and a four game sweep of Seattle in round two…Damon Severson led the team in scoring in a second round series with Seattle with 4+7=11. Nick Merkley was next with 2+6=8….The Rockets are 8 and 1 in the playoffs. The Winterhawks are also 8 and 1…The Rockets have scored 14 power play goals in the 2014 playoffs.  The Winterhawks matched that total…The Rockets have won six straight games overall. The only loss (4-3) came in game three in Tri City in the opening round…The Rockets have allowed 8 goals in five home playoff games. That is an average of 1.6 goals against in the 2014 post season…Defenceman Madison Bowey signed a three year entry level contract with the NHL’s Washington Capitals April 2nd. The 18 year-old was chosen in the second round of the 2013 NHL draft – 53rd overall…The Rockets have killed off 37 of its last 41 shorthanded situations in this year’s playoffs.…The Rockets have a power play goal in all nine playoff games…The Kelowna Rockets franchise is playing its 199th playoff game tonight…This is the 37th playoff series the Rockets have been involved in since relocating from Tacoma for the start of the 1995-96 season…Jordon Cooke was named the VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month for March. It is the second time this season that Cooke has been named VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month, having earned the honor for September/October as well….Damon Severson was named the WHL Player of the Week on April 7th. Severson had three goals and four assists with a +3 rating that week…Four members of the Rockets have made NHL Central Scouting’s final list for this June’s draft. Justin Kirkland, Riley Stadel, Rourke Chartier and Tyson Baillie are cracked NHLCS prestigious list…Madison Bowey turns 19 on April 22nd…Rourke Chartier had 5+4=9 in his first 27 regular season games. In his final 45 regular season games the 17 year-old had 19+30=49…On this date (April 18, 2009) Ian Duval scored twice in the Rockets 4-2 win over the Vancouver Giants in game one of the Western Conference final. Mikael Backlund had a goal and two assists. Mark Guggenberger made 20 saves in the win…Neither one of these two teams were shut out during the regular season and were the only two teams in the league to do so…When these two teams met in the 2012 playoffs, Jordon Cooke was a back up to Adam Brown while Brendan Burke was a back up to Mac Carruth.   

Who’s Hot: Nick Merkley is riding a six game point streak. Merkely has 2+9=11 over that periodDamon Severson is riding a four game point streak. The 19 year-old has 4+7=11 over that period…Marek Tvrdon has points in eight of the nine games in this year’s playoffs (5+6=11)…Rourke Chartier is riding a six game point streak. Chartier has 4+4=8 over that stretch….Jordon Cooke is 8 and 1 in this year’s playoffs with a goals against average of 2.34 and a save percentage of .929. Over his career, Cooke is 12-3-4 in 20 playoff appearances. The Leduc Alberta product has been pulled only once, in a second round series against the Kamloops Blazers in the 2013 post season.      

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Severson and Pouliot on opposite ends of the scale

Derrick Pouliot - Shoot the Breeze
  •  The Kelowna Rockets defencemen will have their hands full containing the speed of the Portland Winterhawks in game one of their Western Conference championship series. Mitch Wheaton knows it won't be easy when Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic are on the ice. “They are a really skilled team. They are a lot different than Seattle. They were more of a big, physical team that would fore-check us really hard. These guys will try to make plays around us and make us turn”. The Winterhawks scored the most goals in the WHL this past season.
  • Two calm and composed coaches meet one another when Rockets bench boss Ryan Huska faces Portland’s Mike Johnston. Yellers they are not. Will they be upset with the officials when things don’t go their way? Of course.  But, the two referees’ should have confidence in having dialogue with either coach and taking the time to hear them out.   
  • Kelowna Rockets Rourke Chartier has something in common with Winterhawks forward Taylor Leier. Both were born and raised in Saskatoon and played midget hockey with the Saskatoon Contacts.
  • The Kelowna Rockets will want to avoid one specific area in their playoff series with the Portland Winterhawks. The penalty box!  The Winterhawks had the best power play in the WHL during the regular season.  Forward Tyrell Goulbourne says his team will have to be disciplined. “Our penalty kill is going to have to be great.  The best way to defeat it is stay out of the box.” While Portland had the best power play during the regular season the Rockets had the top penalty killing unit. 
  • Portland defenceman Derrick Pouliot was the first player taken in the 2009 WHL Bantam draft. The Rockets first rounder that season was Jason Seibert. The top pick for the Rockets that year may have been Damon Severson (9th round) who was taken 191 players after Pouliot was picked. 
  • Did you know that the Spokane Chiefs traded their 9th pick in the 2009 WHL draft to the Rockets where they went ahead and selected Severson?
  • Games three and four will indeed be played at the Modo Center in Portland.  Despite the upgrades at Memorial Arena, the 262 million dollar facility is spectacular and is a great venue for hockey. I still think they made a massive mistake by changing its name from the Rose Garden, but money talk’s right? 
  • Good to see the WHL coming down hard on the Victoria Royals for their over the top aggressive play in game five of a playoff series with the Winterhawks. Brandon Magee was slapped with a 12 game suspension for his antics.  Stephen Hodges was given a five game suspension.  The Royals organization was also fined 10 grand. 
  • I am not sure the antics of the Royals, specifically on television, make the league look good in the eye of parents who are considering allowing their son to play in the WHL or go the college route. You have to predict your brand.     
  • I am really looking forward to Winterhawks radio callers Todd Vrooman and colour man Andy Kemper squeezing into the visitors broadcast booth at Prospera Place. Is it humanly possible? 
  • Interesting isn’t it that the Portland Winterhawks face the Kelowna Rockets in the playoffs and the Portland Trail Blazers face the Houston Rockets in the NBA post season.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hurry up and wait!

Shoot the Breeze Photography

The Kelowna Rockets will have to go through another U.S Division team in their quest for the organizations first WHL championship since 2009.
The Rockets open the Western Conference final Friday night at Prospera Place against the Portland Winterhawks. 
The regular season champions used five games to dispose of the Tri City Americans in round one before sweeping the Seattle Thunderbirds in four straight games in the second round.
The Rockets and Winterhawks were the only two teams in the WHL that scored over 300 goals during the regular season.    
Rockets' Head Coach Ryan Huska says the way they score goals is very different.  
"We have to have three or four whacks at things going in where as they might be a team that will make two or three passes and try to end up with an empty net type goal. So, similar in regards to the offenses but a little different in how we get it accomplished".
The Winterhawks are attempting to go to the league final for a fourth straight season and will have to go through three of the four BC Division teams to accomplish the feat.
Rockets forward Carter Rigby says despite the Winterhawks impressive resume they are confident they can compete against the defending WHL champions.
"You are going to have to play defense to win games too but we need to pressure them and get on them and hopefully get them to cough up pucks. They have good d-men but at the same time anyone who is going to get forced and hit is going to cough up pucks here and there and we just have to bury".  
Despite earning the Scotty Munro trophy as the top team during the regular season, players like 19 year-old Tyrell Goulbourne is hungry for a long playoff run.    
"With this group, I know we all want to go far. Everyone has a passion for this game and everybody is excited to move forward. We are confident and want to play. We want to play all the way through May." 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Well, well...look what we have here!!

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Hello Portland! Nice to see you again. For the third time in the last four seasons the Kelowna Rockets will meet the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL playoffs. The two teams met in a second round series in 2011 that went six games before clashing in a first round set in 2012 with the Winterhawks ending the Rockets season in four straight games. The Western Conference final in 2014 features the top two teams in the WHL during the regular season. The Rockets had just five more points than the Winterhawks thanks to 3 more wins and two fewer losses. 
  • In 2011 and 2012 the Winterhawks had home ice advantage. The Rockets have that luxury in this years playoffs where they are 5 and 0.
  • These two teams met four times during the regular season with the Rockets winning all four games. The Rockets out-scored the Winterhawks  25-10. Sounds lopsided right? Don't get to excited though. The Winterhawks were without Brendan Leipsic for one of the two games in Kelowna in October and Nic Petan, Derrick Pouliot and Taylor Leier were all playing for Team Canada when the Rockets visited the Winterhawks in Portland just prior to and after the New Year. That said, the Rockets did put up some big numbers in those four games and didn't show any mercy against the short staffed Winterhawks.   
  • While the Winterhawks are making their fourth straight appearance in the Western Conference final, this team is poised to do it again next season. This isn't an old group that the Winterhawks are going with this season. In fact, the teams 18 year-old's are really the story. Chase De Leo, Nic Petan, Alex Schoenborn and Oliver Bjorkstrand combined for 142 goals this season. Those four forwards were born in 1995. The Rockets have two forwards born in 1995. Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker combined for 33 goals this season.
  • Goaltending has to favour the Rockets. Jordon Cooke is the Western Conference nominee for goaltender of the year and was especially good in round one against Tri City. Cooke was equally as good in games one and two of the Seattle series. The Winterhawks are going with 18 year-old Brendan Burke, who also had good numbers in an opening round series against Vancouver before backstopping the Winterhawks to a five game series win over Victoria in round two. Cooke and Burke have identical playoff records of 8 and 1, but the nod in goal in this series has to go with Cooke.
  • Playoff experience will favour the Winterhawks. Just look at 19 year-old defenceman Derrick Pouliot who has 73 games of playoff experience after long runs in the last three post seasons. By comparison, 19 year-old's Colton Heffley and Damon Severson have 34 playoff games under their belt.     
  • No team can match the Winterhawks fire power, so the ability to defend will be critical for the Rockets to have success. While Madison Bowey, Mitch Wheaton, Cole Martin and Damon Severson have to be strong in their own zone, the forwards can make life a lot easier by fore checking hard and making the Winterhawks play defence. Without a solid fore check and significant play inside the Winterhawks zone, the Rockets will only be able to slam the door shut for so long. The forwards play a vital role in taking pressure of the d-core by playing major minutes inside Portland territory.
  • For what its worth the Winterhawks scored 28 more goals during the regular season than the Rockets, who allowed 25 fewer goals against.
  • While the Winterhawks should have the advantage in the power play category, that may have changed heading into the Western Conference final. The Rockets have the best power play in the playoffs with 14 goals in 40 chances. The Winterhawks also have 14 power play goals but in 57 opportunities. The Rockets penalty killing unit was the story in a second round series with Seattle, killing off 20 off 22 T-Birds chances. The Rockets also owned the best penalty killing unit during the regular season. 
  • Who wins this series? Statistics don't really mean much at this time of the year. The fact remains that the team that wants it more usually gets it!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I didn't see this coming...not this quickly

  • Western Conference fans may get their wish. The Kelowna Rockets are on a collision course to meet the Portland Winterhawks in a seven game playoff series featuring the top two teams in the Western Hockey League during the regular season. The Rockets made surprisingly short work of the Seattle Thunderbirds Wednesday night with a 5-2 win, eliminating the 41 win team in four games. While the T-Birds opened the scoring for the first time in the series, it was the Rockets who battled back with four straight goals including two in a span of 2:03 in the second period for their 8th win in 9 playoff games. The Rockets now face the winner of the Portland-Victoria series with the Winterhawks holding a commanding three games to one lead in that Western Conference semi final series. 
  • I would have never envisioned the Rockets rolling over the T-Birds in four games. While separated by 30 points in the standing, Seattle was built for a long playoff run after making several roster moves.  General Manager Russ Farwell made a statement to the league that the T-Birds were going to make some noise in the spring by acquiring Sam McKechnie and Jamien Yakobowski – two 19 year-old’s – early in the season. The news got even better when highly coveted Ryan Gropp left the BCHL and joined them. Upgrading the goaltending position by obtaining 19 year-old Taran Kozun from Kamloops seemed like the final touch to a well molded team that everyone expected could challenge the top teams in the Western Conference. Despite bowing out in this series, T-Bird fans have to remember the future looks awfully bright for this team.     
  • Damon Severson took his game to a new level in this series. The 19 year-old had four goals and dominated at both ends of the ice. The New Jersey Devils second round pick had a goal and an assist in game four and pinged one off the crossbar when the game was scoreless. Clearly, Seattle goaltender Taran Kozun had no clue on where Severson was going to shoot the puck and the guessing game didn’t work in his favour. Severson look every part of a junior player on the verge of making his mark in the NHL.      
  • Marek Tvrdon didn’t make an impact in the first two games of this series but the Seattle air got him going with two significant efforts at ShoWare Center. The 20 year-old had two assists in a game three win and then scored the game winner in game four. Tvrdon’s goal saw the soft spoken forward fire a seeing eye shot short side over the shoulder of T-Birds goaltender Taran Kozun to make the score 3-1. It was Tvrdon’s 5th goal of the playoffs.    
  • The Rockets power play was lethal in this series with eight goals with the extra man. It ran with an efficiency rate of 42 percent. The penalty killing unit was equally good killing off 22 of 24 T-Bird power plays. 
  • The Rockets scored 22 goals in the four games. Seattle’s top point getters struggled with just 11 goals with veteran Brandon Trook and Shea Theodore failing to find the back of the net.        
  • It marks the 6th time in franchise history the team has advanced to the Western Conference final. The team first accomplished the feat in 2002 and then repeated it in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009 and now this season.       
  • T-Birds d-man Evan Wardley left the game in the second period with a leg injury and never returned. 
  • Word in the rink was Seattle forward Jaimen Yakubowski, who was hurt in game one, suffered a concussion after missing a hit and hitting his head on the dasher board.   
  • It was great running into Lindsy, Kelli, Carlee, Brendan, Molli and Tyler Ronish and the entire crew who diligently work the Chuck-A-Puck at T-Bird home games. They often harassed me (friendly banter) when I entered the T-Birds office where they would ask me if I would say ‘Pitter Patter’ or slur Roberts Lipsberg’s name. I told them I would ‘perform for them’ before game six but luckily that won’t happen.       

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shorthanded unit shines bright in game three win

  • The Kelowna Rockets penalty killing unit can take a bow. Without a shadow of a doubt its best single game performance of the season, the four man unit  - in two cases it was a three man unit - shut down the Seattle Thunderbirds on nine of ten power play chances in a 5-4 win. The Rockets took three consecutive penalties in the games first ten minutes which allowed the home team two-five on three chances. Instead of the T-Birds playing with the lead, something they haven't enjoyed the luxury of having this entire series, the Rockets found themselves up 2-0 after one period when it should have been the other way around.
  • The Rockets showed the T-Birds how to score on the power play when they responded on their first chance of the game. Damon Severson's point shot was tipped by Ryan Olsen, who deflected it past Seattle starter Taran Kozun. Tyrell Goulbourne would score 24 seconds later by skating hard on left wing and wiring a shot past Kozun's stick side. 
  • The T-Birds ended the night going 1 for 10 on the power play. Some of the penalties were justified while others were marginal. The fact that the visitors were able to win this game while playing 20 odd minutes shorthanded it pretty incredible. 
  • The best pass of the game goes to Madison Bowey, who fired a puck from the side of his own net to an awaiting Justin Kirkland at the T-Birds blue line. Kirkland skated in all alone on Kozun and nicely tucked the puck five hole on the 19 year-old goaltender. At the time it made the score 5-2, but a late rally by the T-Birds had the Kirkland goal standing up as the game winner.
  • I thought Jordon Cooke had his weakest showing of the series but still made timely saves, something Kozun has been unable to do. Cooke made a nice stop on Alexander Delnov in the first period when he was able to steal a puck away from Rockets d-man Riley Stadel at the T-Birds blue line. I think even Cooke will admit he should have had the Ethan Bear goal which made it 2-1 and would normally stop Justin Hickman's shot that made the score 5-3.
  • Marek Tvrdon took a bad penalty 6 minutes into the third period when he was assessed a double minor for high sticking. But the 20 year-old also made two terrific passing plays on goals from Tyson Baillie and Madison Bowey. It was Tvrdon's best game of the series. When the dude wants to play he can make some spectacular plays.
  • Seattle's Brandon Troock scored four goals in an opening round playoff series with  Everett. The Dallas Stars draft pick hasn't found the back of the net in the first three games.
  • Revealing stat of the series. Of the Rockets 17 goals, ten have been scored in the first five minutes or the last five minutes of a period. 
  • T-Birds Alexander Delnov has a goal in all three games in this series.
  • The most interesting nugget I got out of T-Birds head coach Steve Konowalchuk during our pre-game interview was he did not want to mention which players needed to be better in order for his team to get back in the series. Instead he preferred to simply say his offensive players need to be better. 
  • A solid crowd Tuesday night at ShoWare Center. The 2 for 1 promotion brought out over 5 thousand fans who were entertained until the final buzzer sounded. They saw the visitors build up a 4-1 third period lead before the home team battled back with three goals in the final frame. 
  • The Rockets are now 7 and 1 in the post season.
  • If you would have told me at the start of this series that the Rockets would have a 3-0 lead after the first three games I would have said you were crazy. 
  • The team is one win away from advancing to the third round. Game four is tonight at ShoWare Centre with game five set for Friday back at Prospera Place.      

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Game Day!

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets face the Seattle Thunderbirds in game three of a best of seven Western Conference semi final series. The Rockets have a 2-0 lead in the series after a 6-2 win in game one and a 6-3 victory in game two. Game three is tonight with game four tomorrow night again at ShoWare Centre. These two teams met in an epic seven game opening round playoff series in 2013 where the T-Birds won the first three games before the Rockets rallied back to win four straight to advance to round two. Five of the seven games were decided in overtime. This season the two teams met four times with both sporting records of 2-1-0-1. The Rockets out-scored the T-Birds 15-14 in the four games. Two of the regular season games were decided in the shootout. These two teams are meeting for the 6th time in the playoffs. The two teams have met in 2013, 2008, 2005, 2003 and 2001. The Rockets advanced to the second round for the third time in the last four years with a five game series win over the Tri City Americans.       

Game Two Tidbits: Nick Merkley scored his first career WHL playoff goal in game two. It was Merkley’s first goal in 14 playoff games. In the 2013 playoffs, Merkley had three points in 7 games. In this year’s playoffs the 16 year-old has 10 points in 7 games…Riley Stadel opened the scoring in game two. It was the 17 year-olds first goal in 52 games. Stadel’s last goal was in Prince Albert in mid December…Tyrell Goulbourne scored in game two. It was his second career playoff goal. Goulbourne’s other playoff goal came against the T-Birds – in Seattle – last season in game four…The Rockets were out-shot 39-30 in game two. It marked the first time in this year’s playoffs that they were out-shot….The Rockets scored three goals in the second period in game two. The team now has five goals in the second period in the series.        

Game One Tidbits: Nine Rockets found the score sheet in game one…Nick Merkley had two assists. The 16 year-old has yet to find the net in post season. Merkley has ten career assists in 13 playoff games…Cole Linaker scored once in game #1’s 6-2 win. That gives the 18 year-old two goals in the 2014 post season. In his rookie campaign, Linaker had just two goals in 37 regular season games during the 2012-2013 season…Jordon Cooke picked up his 5th win of the playoffs with a 23 saves performance. Cooke has one more win than the four he recorded during the 2013 post season…The Rockets were 3 for 6 on the power play in game one. That gives the Rockets 9 power play goals in the playoffs, two more than the seven they manufactured in last year’s post season…Three defenceman lead the Rockets in +/-. Damon Severson, Mitch Wheaton and Madison Bowey are all +4…Goaltender Jordon Cooke earned an assist in game one…The Rockets took four penalties in game one. The T-Birds took 7.
This and That: Damon Severson has 3+6=9 in seven games. Severson had 1+9=10 in 11 playoff games…Cole Linaker is stepping up his play. Linaker has 3+3=6 in seven games. In the 2013 playoffs, the 18 year-old had 3+2=5 in 11 games…The Rockets have allowed 8 goals in five home playoff games. That is an average of 1.6 goals against in the 2014 post season…During the regular season the Rockets d-core was a combined +213. The T-Birds d-score was a combined +5….Defenceman Madison Bowey signed a three year entry level contract with the NHL’s Washington Capitals last Wednesday. The 18 year-old was chosen in the second round of the 2013 draft – 53rd overall…If this series goes a full seven games, it will be played over 13 nightsTyrell Goulbourne scored 17 times this season. Of those 17 goals, three of them came against the T-Birds…The Rockets have killed off 21 of its last 22  shorthanded situations in this year’s playoffs.…The Rockets have a power play goal in all seven playoff games…The Kelowna Rockets are playing their 197th playoff game tonight…This is the 36th playoff series the Rockets have been involved in since relocating from Tacoma for the start of the 1995-96 season…The Western Hockey League announced this week that Jordon Cooke has been named the VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month for March, 2014.  It is the second time this season that Cooke has been named VAUGHN WHL Goaltender of the Month, having earned the honor for September/October as well….Damon Severson is the WHL Player of the Week. Severson had three goals and four assists with a +3 rating in two games last week.

Who’s Hot: Damon Severson has 3+4=7 in the first two games of this series…Marek Tvrdon has points in six of the seven games in this year’s playoffs (4+3=7)…Rourke Chartier is riding a six game point streak. Chartier has 4+4=8 over that stretch….Tyson Baillie had 8 playoff goals in 2013…Baillie had seven goals in seven games in last year’s opening round series with the T-Birds including a hat trick in game seven…Jordon Cooke is 6 and 1 in this year’s playoffs with a goals against average of 2.01 and a save percentage of .931.   

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cooke carrying strong play into playoffs

  • Jordon Cooke was named the Kelowna Rockets regular season MVP. The 20 year-old is showing in the 2014 playoffs exactly why. Cooke made no less than six clutch saves in helping his team earn a 6-3 win Saturday night over the Seattle Thunderbirds and in the process has his team up two games to none in a best of seven Western Conference semi final series. Cooke made 16 saves in the first period alone in arguably the Rockets worst period of the series and the T-Birds best. Fortunately, because of Cooke's strong play, the home team was able to skate to the dressing room in a 2-2 tie. 
  • Cooke's best saves came against T-Birds forward Sam McKechnie, not once but twice. Cooke made a tremendous stop off the 19 year-old in the first period and then a breakaway save later in the game. The Leduc Alberta resident also stopped 16 year-old Seattle forward Mathew Barzal on a great scoring chance early in the third period. Again, timely saves by Cooke has been the story of his season, not only in the regular season but now in the playoffs. Simply put, Cooke has been better than Seattle goaltender Taran Kozun and is a big reason why the series is slanted in Kelowna'a favour.
  • Kozun was better in game two than he was in a game one 6-2 loss. The Seattle goaltender made some solid stops and didn't receive much puck luck in Saturday's setback. The Rourke Chartier goal to make the score 5-2 would be a good example of that. But Kozun hasn't been lights out and his numbers indicate that. In the first two games of this series the 19 year-old has a goals against average of 5.50 and a save percentage of .831. Cooke's numbers in the first two games include a goals against average of 2.50 and a save percentage of .922.
  • I thought the T-Birds played a real good game. They were clearly the better team in the first period and may have had the slight edge in the third. But that said, they still lost at the end of the night which must be deflating. 
  • Riley Stadel forgot how to celebrate after opening the scoring eight minutes into the game. Stadel went hard to the net on a two-on-one with Carter Rigby and scored his first career playoff goal.  No celebration for Stadel though. It was his first in 42 games.   
  • A solid game for Carter Rigby. A two assists effort and physical play contributed to a great effort by the 19 year-old forward. Rigby realizes that if he wants ice time he has to play a physical game. By his comments on our post game show, my feeling is he doesn't believe he needs to be as physical to be a force on the ice. Maybe I am reading him wrong? Honestly, if he doesn't use that large frame to his advantage he just isn't anywhere near the player he needs to be at this level. I like the fact he is following the lead of Coach Huska though. Rigby needs to do what is best for the team. When the Rockets won a WHL championship in 2009, Brandon McMillan had to play defence instead of forward. Did he like the move back to the blue line? Probably not, but he was willing to do whatever it took to win. Did it hurt McMillan's development in the long run? The dude is playing in the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes.  
  • Nick Merkley helped the Rockets to a 2-0 lead courtesy of his first career WHL playoff goal. Merkley was set up wonderfully on a back door pass from captain Madison Bowey. Merkley now has a goal and 12 assists in 14 career playoff games. 
  • Alexander Delnov loves Kelowna. The T-Birds forward has four goals at Prospera Place this season. The Russian had two goals in two stops in Kelowna during the regular season and scored once in game one and once in game two.
  • The T-Birds sat out 19 year-old Jaimen Yakubowski, who apparently was injured in game one. In his place the coaches elected to go with 16 year-old Lane Pederson who I thought had a solid game. At the end of the night he was a -2 but created some good things in the offensive zone.  
  • The Rockets are keying on T-Birds d-man Shea Theodore and it is paying off. The T-Birds leading scorer during the regular season is being bumped every time he touches the puck and that extra attention to physical play on him will pay off over the course of a playoff series. While Theodore was better than he was in game one, the Anaheim Ducks first rounder has just one assist. 
  • The biggest surprise for me in the first two games is the Rockets physical play. I thought the T-Birds would dictate the physical play but the home team has responded in a big way. Don't get me wrong, the T-Birds are playing physical but the Rockets are giving as much as they are receiving. The T-Birds pushed around the Rockets in last years playoff series but that hasn't been the case in this best of seven.  
  • For the Rockets to have success in the next two games in this series, two players will have to find their name prominently on the score sheet. Tyson Baillie has no points in this series and 20 year-old Marek Tvrdon has just a secondary assist.    
  • Regina Pats GM Chad Lang took in the game. 
  • Former T-Birds head coach Rob Sumner was also spotted in the press box. Sumner is a scout with the NHL's Calgary Flames. 

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