Sunday, March 19, 2017

Thurkauf makes Rockets history

Regan Bartel photo
  • Calvin Thurkauf is the first European born player to be named the Kelowna Rockets Most Valuable Player. The 19 year-old from Switzerland took home the top honour at the teams' annual year-end awards banquet Sunday at the Kelowna Community Theatre. Thurkauf, who is also a Canadian citizen considering his father was born in Vancouver before moving overseas, had 33 goals this season and 70 points in 60 games. Thurkauf not only led his team in goal scoring, but he represented his country for a second consecutive season at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Suggested as the most 'pro ready' by the Rockets coaching staff, Thurkauf signed an NHL contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 30th. The power forward has had success playing on a line this season with Nick Merkley and overager Reid Gardiner, producing 19 multiple point games. It is safe to say that Thurkauf is the best European forward the team has ever selected in the CHL Import Draft. You can argue he is the best ever, but it is hard to ignore Slovakian defenceman Tomas Slovak who was chosen by the team 4th overall in the 2001 CHL Import Draft. Slovak, for those who can't remember, had 18 goals and 71 points in 65 games during the 2002 season. 


  •  Award winners came as follows:

    Most Sportsmanlike, sponsored by Popeye's Kelowna, presented by Jeff MacIssac: Lucas Johansen (39 penalty minutes in 68 games)

    Scholastic Player, sponsored by the Team Doctors, presented by Dr. Mike Bobyn: Konrad Belcourt

    Top Defenceman, sponsored by Blue Sky at Black Mountain and Black Mountain Golf Course, presented by Tobi McNeil: Cal Foote

    Most Improved, sponsored by Western Star RJames Management Group, presented by Jim Siegmann: Kole Lind (last season 70 games played and contributed 14 goals, 27 assists, for 41 points, he had a 46 point increase this season)

    Top Scorer, sponsored by Pushor Mitchell, presented by Patrick Bobyn: Kole Lind (30 goals, 57 assists, 87 points, 70 games played)

    Rookie of the Year, sponsored by Capri Insurance, presented by Glen Rea: Nolan Foote (19 goals, 16 assists, 35 points, 52 games played)

    Humanitarian, sponsored by the Hamilton family, presented by Anne-Marie Hamilton: Nick Merkley

    Unsung Hero, sponsored by Grant Thornton, presented by Andrew Ingenhorst: Devante Stephens (led defence with 13 goals)

    Plus Minus, sponsored by GSL Group, presented by Dan Fogarty: Cal Foote (+39)

    Top Defensive Forward / Hollis Peirce Award, donated by Dr. Murray Smith, presented by Bruce Hamilton: Rodney Southam

    Most Valuable Player, sponsored by MacDermott's Mens Wear, presented by Noel Anderson: Calvin Thurkauf (led team with 33 goals in 60 games)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Rockets/Giants Preview

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets close out the home portion of their schedule tonight against the visiting Vancouver Giants. This is the 7th of 8 meeting between these two teams. The Rockets are 5-1-0-0 in the first six games, having out-scored the Giants 19-1 in the last three meetings. Overall, the Rockets have out-scored the G-Men 34-13. The Rockets have won 23 consecutive home games over the Giants. The Rockets are coming off a 4-1 loss Wednesday night to the Everett Silvertips. Dillon Dube scored the lone goal, the teams’ first loss in 8 games. In the big picture, the team has 16 wins in the last 20 games (16-3-1-0) while earning a point in 14 of their last 16 games (13-2-1-0). Following tonight’s game the Rockets close out the regular season against the Giants tomorrow night in Langley. The Rockets have scored 74 goals in their last 16 games (4.6 goals per game).  

Too Hot to Handle: Kyle Topping had his 8 game point streak snapped Wednesday night. Topping had 3+5=8 over that period. Cal Foote has points in four of his last five games (1+6=7). Calvin Thurkauf has points in 6 of his last 8 games (3+8=11). Dillon Dube has a 5 game point streak (7+5=12).

Milestones: Lucas Johansen played in his 200th career game Wednesday night…Rodney Southam’s next point will be the 100th of his WHL career…Devante Stephens played in his 200th game last Saturday night. …Gordie Ballhorn played in his 100th game Saturday vs. Victoria.

Streak’n: The Rockets have scored more goals (271) than they did all of last season (269). The team has allowed 204 goals against, which is 14 less than a season ago with two games remaining...Reid Gardiner had his 15 game point streak snapped Wednesday night. Gardiner had 10+12=22 over that stretch. Kole Lind had a 13 game point streak earlier this season. The 21 year-old Gardiner also has goals in 7 of his last 10 games. Rodney Southam has points in 9 of his last 13 games with 7+8=15 over that stretch.  Dillon Dube has points in 11 of his last 12 games (12+13=25). Dube also has goals in 9 of his last 11 games. Dube has12 goals in his last 11 games.

That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets are 26-4-0-0 in their last 30 regular season meetings against the Giants…The Rockets are 11 for 30 on the power play (36.7%) against the Giants this season….The Rockets have killed off 26 of 30 chances while shorthanded against the G-Men this season…Calvin Thurkauf has 3+7=10 in 6 games against Vancouver this season. Cal Foote and Kole Lind both have 3+5=8 in the six games…James Hilsendager has a team leading +8 against the Giants…The Rockets 7 game winning streak was the longest since the team won 10 straight games in 2014-2015…Michael Herringer was named the WHL Goalie of the Week March 6th by posting a record of 3-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.10…Lucas Johansen signed an entry level deal with the Washington Capitals. Johansen was a 1st round pick of the Caps this summer…The Rockets have played 35 road games this season, with one more stop in VancouverThe Rockets have now won 20 or more road games in five consecutive seasons. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera Place…The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 27 of their last 31 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 1-11-2-0.

Broadcasters Bits: Tomas Soustal is missing his 7th straight game tonight after being hurt March 1st against Prince George. The Rockets are 11-2-0-0 in 13 games when Soustal has been injured this season….The Rockets are 62-1-4-0 when leading after 40 minutes in the last two seasons….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 12 losses in the last 49 games… In the Rockets last 13 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 18-7-2-0 since the trade deadline  The Rockets compiled a record of 10-2-1-0 in 13 games in 26 days in February…The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 19-12-0-0 against BC based teams this season …The Rockets were 11-4-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rockets upended by shot blocking clinic

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
  • The Everett Silvertips are the best shot blocking team in the Western Hockey League. Hands down the best. No one commits more to the craft than the team that skated into Prospera Place last night and earned a 4-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets. Don't be fooled. While Tips goaltender Carter Hart was named the 1st star, which to me is a bit of a head scratcher, it was the players in front of him that paid the price in stopping the home teams seven game winning streak. The numbers don't lie. The Rockets had 41 shot attempts after 40 minutes, but of those 41 shot attempts, only 22 reached the net. As the game went along, despite attempting to push the pace, the Rockets game became fractured and over-passing and second guessing when a shooting lane became available was common place. It all added up for a tough night for a team that has had a heyday in the offensive zone in the last month. Only Dillon Dube, the most consistent Rockets forward on the score-sheet, found the back of the net with his 20th goal of the season. Nothing changed in the standings for either team though. The Rockets remain two points back of Prince George for first place in the BC Division while the Tips are a single point back of Seattle in the fight for first place in the US Division.
  • Again, it was the easiest first star award Carter Hart is going to earn. Did he make a five alarm save in the game? A good indication is my voice at games end. It felt relatively fresh as I had no need to explode as the Rockets failed to storm the Tips net with shot after shot which created glorious chance after glorious scoring chance. It didn't happen. The Rockets ruled the outside of the ice, with pin point passing, but that is a non-scoring area and the Tips were allowing them all the room they needed. Getting to the inside/middle of the ice was a completely different story. It was like a no-fly zone for the Rockets, who couldn't generate much from that prime scoring area. Despite pushing the pace in the third period in an effort to close the 3-1 deficit, while territorial dominating, the Rockets had only 5 shots on goal. Five! The Tips had 10 and ended up keeping the highest scoring team in the Western Conference to under 30 shots on net. An impressive feat in itself. 
  • Scoring the opening goal is always a key, but my belief is scoring first against Everett is more important than against any other team in the WHL. When you are forced to chase the game and the Silvertips sell out on defense, it makes for a frustrating experience in order to claw back in the game. Again, no one defends better. Despite receiving 5 power play chances, which against the Tips is an astronomical amount against the least penalized team in the 22 team circuit, the unit generated only 4 shots on goal. That tells you how good Everett was in all areas of the game. 
  • How about James Hilsendager's first period hit on Tips forward Connor Dewar? Wow! The 19 year-old d-man delivered a clean hit on Dewar at centre ice, sending the 5'10, 170 pound forward sailing right into the Rockets bench. In my opinion, it was the best hit of the season, edging out a similar hit Calvin Thurkauf applied earlier this season when he too sent an opposition player into the Rockets bench.  
  • Reid Gardner had his 15 game point streak come to an end. 
  • A win would have moved the Rockets into a tie with Prince George for first place in the BC Division. It didn't happen. With two games left (both against the Vancouver Giants) the Rockets must win both, but more importantly, the Kamloops Blazers must beat Prince George at least once as those two BC Division rivals end the regular season with a home and home series. If the Blazers lose both, or the Cougars win both, it doesn't matter how the Rockets do this weekend. They will finish second. Well, that's not exactly true. If the Blazers would win both this weekend and the Rockets would lose both, Kamloops would overtake Kelowna and move into second place in the BC Division, which would mean the Blazers would have home ice advantage in an opening round series. Confused? The bottom line is all three BC Division teams have much to play for heading into the final weekend of the regular season.     
  • Heading into the final weekend, three teams in the BC Division are within striking distance of one another. Prince George has a two point lead for first place while the Rockets are only three points up on the third place Kamloops Blazers. This is the best race since the introduction of the BC Division in 2001-2002. That season, Kamloops finished 1st with a two point lead on second place Kootenay. The Ice earned second place with a slim 4 point lead over third place Prince George. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Rockets game notes vs. Tips

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the final week of the 2016-2017 regular season. The Kelowna Rockets play their second to last regular season home game tonight against the visiting Everett Silvertips. This is the 4th and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Rockets are 2-1-0-0 in the three games with all three being decided by a single goal. Two of the three games have needed more than regulation time, with the Rockets winning 4-3 in overtime on October 19th and winning in a shootout on March 3rd with a 3-2 victory. The Rockets are 5-0-2-0 in their last 7 regular season games at Prospera Place against the Tips and 9-3-3-0 in the last 15 meetings between the two teams. Reid Gardiner and Lucas Johansen each have 2 goals against the Tips in the three games. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Victoria Royals Saturday night. Dillon Dube scored the game winner and collected four points (2+2=4) in the teams 7th straight victory. The team has 16 wins in the last 19 games (16-2-1-0) while earning a point in 14 of their last 15 games (13-1-1-0). Following tonight’s game the Rockets close out the regular season this weekend with a home and home series with the Vancouver Giants. Overall, the Rockets have won 7 straight and have scored 73 goals in their last 15 games.  

Too Hot to Handle: Kyle Topping has an 8 game point streak (3+5=8). Cal Foote has a four game point streak (1+6=7). Calvin Thurkauf has points in 6 of his last 7 games (3+8=11). Dillon Dube has a four game point streak (6+5=11).

Milestones: Rodney Southam’s next point will be the 100th of his WHL career….Reid Gardiner played in his 285th career game last Tuesday…Devante Stephens played in his 200th game Saturday night. …Gordie Ballhorn played in his 100th game Saturday vs. Victoria.

Streak’n: Reid Gardiner enters tonight’s game riding a 15 game point streak. Gardiner has 10+12=22 over that stretch. Kole Lind had a 13 game point streak earlier this season. The 21 year-old Gardiner also has goals in 7 of his last 9 games. Rodney Southam has points in 9 of his last 12 games with 7+8=15 over that stretch.  Dillon Dube has points in 10 of his last 11 games (11+13=24). Dube also has goals in 8 of his last 10 games. Overall, Dube has11 goals in his last 10 games…Carsen Twarynski has 6 goals in his last 10 games.

That’s a fact Jack: This 7 game winning streak is the longest since the team won 10 straight games in 2014-2015….Lucas Johansen plays in his 200th career game tonight…The last time the Rockets came into the playoffs this hot was in 2012-2013 when the team was riding a 6 game winning streak…. …Michael Herringer was named the WHL Goalie of the Week March 6th by posting a record of 3-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.10…Lucas Johansen signed an entry level deal with the Washington Capitals last Thursday. Johansen was a 1st round pick of the Caps this summer…The Rockets have 91 points this season, with 6 available points over the final 3 regular season games. The most points the team can earn this season is 97, which puts them three shy of the 100 point barrier the team has reached in each of the last four seasonsThe Rockets have played 35 road games this season, with one more stop in VancouverThe Rockets have now won 20 or more road games in five consecutive seasons. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera Place…The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 27 of their last 30 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 1-11-2-0.

Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets were 15 points out of first place in the BC Division at one point. Now they are just two points off the pace with a game in hand on Prince George….The Rockets are 62-1-4-0 when leading after 40 minutes in the last two seasons….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 11 losses in the last 48 games… In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 18-6-2-0 since the trade deadline  The Rockets compiled a record of 10-2-1-0 in 13 games in 26 days in February…The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 19-12-0-0 against BC based teams this season …The Rockets are 11-3-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winning in all sorts of ways

Dube celebrates - (www.shootthebreeze.ca)
  • Wins come in all shapes and sizes. Some are complete efforts while others are up to the goaltender to keep you in the game before you finally find your footing. Right now the Kelowna Rockets are winning in various ways and no one is complaining. Would you if your team had won a season high 7 straight games and were two points out of first place in the BC Division? Didn't think so! Michael Herringer was solid early and Dillon Dube was great late, leading the Rockets to a 4-3 overtime win Saturday night over the visiting Victoria Royals. Herringer made several solid stops, including a breakaway save on 48 goal man Matthew Phillips when the game was scoreless and the Royals were carrying the play. Dube finished the night with two goals and two assists, and for second straight game, was named the first star. Sometimes statistics are flattering until you peel back the layers which show Dube was on the ice for two of the three Royals goals. So, it is safe to say, the 18 year-old wasn't very good early but was able to come through when his team needed him the most.
  • I thought the penalty killing unit had a very good night and may be the real story in the win. The Royals scored once on 6 chances, but were a massive threat every time they had a chance. In a game where I thought the Rockets took too many unnecessary penalties, the PK saved them in a game that could have gotten away. I hate to pick on Dube again, but he took two needless charging penalties and Calvin Thurkauf took a double minor with 7 and a half minutes to play that could have cost them the game. But the PK came to the rescue again. Take a bow. Both players were named stars at games end, but the best players must lead in all areas, including discipline.
  • Did anybody notice that rookie Kyle Topping is riding an 8 game point streak?  
  • Cal Foote does not get the credit he deserves. The reason? He isn't flashy. How many times does he get beat one-on-one? I can count the times on one hand. Foote not only defends well, but he is able to take the puck away, control it and move it proficiently up to an awaiting forward. Cal can pound the puck. Finding shooting lanes, the soft spoken blue liner can locate seams and knows when to snap the puck into the pads of the goalie or when to unload it in an effort to beat the opposition goalie clean. Points in 9 of his last 12, I think it is clear to see that he is the teams best defenceman with his calm and steady play.   
  • Reid Gardiner had 1+1=2 and is riding a team high 15 game point streak. With 34 points in 25 games, the 21 year-old has delivered the mail like the organization had hoped when he was acquired in early January. The fear is giving up a quality player or draft pick for a player who under delivers. In only two games this season has Gardiner failed to find the score-sheet. That's what elite offensive players do.
  • While the Rockets were able to beat the Royals twice this week, let's remember they were playing without some significant players. When you don't have Tyler Soy nor Chaz Reddikopp in the line-up, the chances of succeeding are lessened. The Royals are a handful for whoever they face in the opening round.
  • The Rockets remain 2 points back of the Prince George Cougars for first place in the BC Division with three games remaining. It sets up for a massive game Wednesday night at Prospera Place when the Everett Silvertips come to town. A win will move the Rockets into a two way tie with the idle Cougars, but the Rockets will be in first place for the first time this season. Yes, you are reading it correctly....the FIRST TIME. Is it the biggest game of the season? Without a shadow of a doubt, it really is.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

Rockets vs. Giants preview

www,shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the second last weekend of the regular season. Tonight the Kelowna Rockets play game three of a six game home stand against the visiting Vancouver Giants. This is the 6th of 8 meetings between these two teams. These two teams close out the season with a home and home series next weekend. The Rockets are 4-1-0-0, having beaten the G-Men in back-to-back games in February by scores of 6-0 and 5-0. Overall, the Rockets have won 22 straight home games against them. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 win over the visiting Victoria Royals Tuesday night. Nolan Foote, Leif Mattson, Calvin Thurkauf and Carsen Twarynski scored in the teams’ 41st win of the season. The team has 14 wins in the last 17 games (14-2-1-0) while earning a point in 12 of their last 13 games (11-1-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Victoria tomorrow night. Overall, the Rockets have won 5 straight and have scored 61 goals in their last 13 games.   

The Matchup: Kole Lind and Calvin Thurkauf each have 3+4=7 against the Giants this season. Cal Foote and Nick Merkley each have 2+4=6 in five games. Nolan Foote has a hat trick against the G-Men. Brodan Salmond has started in 4 of the 5 games, posting a record of 3-1-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.01 with back-to-back shutouts. In the last 29 meetings, the Rockets are 25-4-0-0. 

Milestones: Reid Gardiner played in his 285th career game Tuesday night…Devante Stephens plays in his 200th game tomorrow night…Gordie Ballhorn plays in his 100th game tomorrow night…Lucas Johansen is three games shy of 200 for his career. Johansen also has 95 career points, 5 shy of 100.  

Streak’n: Reid Gardiner enters tonight’s game riding a 13 game point streak. Gardiner has 8+11=19 over that stretch. The 21 year-old also has goals in 5 of his last 7 games. Rodney Southam has points in 7 of his last 10 games with 6+7=13 over that stretch.  Dillon Dube has points in 8 of his last 9 games (7+10=17). Dube also has goals in 6 of his last 8 games.

That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets have not allowed a power play goal against in 10 of their last 13 games and have successfully killed off 42 of their last 50 penalties….The Rockets have scored 258 goals this season, 18 more than at the same time a year ago….The Rockets have allowed 196 goals against, 4 fewer than at the same time last year….Michael Herringer was named the WHL Goalie of the Week March 6th by posting a record of 3-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.10….Lucas Johansen signed an entry level deal with the Washington Capitals last Thursday. Johansen was a 1st round pick of the Caps this summer…The Rockets have 87 points this season, with 10 available points over the final 5 regular season games. The most points the team can earn this season is 97, which puts them three shy of the 100 point barrier the team has reached in each of the last four seasonsThe Rockets have played 35 road games this season, with one more stop in VancouverThe Rockets have now won 20 or more road games in five consecutive seasons. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera Place…The Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime games …The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 25 of their last 28 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 1-11-2-0.

Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets were 15 points out of first place in the BC Division at one point. Now they are just two points off the pace with a game in hand on Prince GeorgeFour of the Rockets final 5 games are against teams in the BC Division….The Rockets are 60-1-4-0 when leading after 40 minutes in the last two seasons….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 11 losses in the last 46 games… In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 16-6-2-0 since the trade deadline  The Rockets compiled a record of 10-2-1-0 in 13 games in 26 days in February…The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 17-12-0-0 against BC based teams this season …The Rockets are 11-3-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season….The Rockets have allowed fewer shots on goal than at the same time last year. The team has surrendered 222 fewer after 67 regular season games.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Make it 5 straight

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
    • A few nervous moments for the Kelowna Rockets in last night's 4-3 win over the visiting Victoria Royals. Controlling the game for the opening two periods and eventually building up a 4-0 lead, the Royals struck for three, quick, third period goals in an effort to dash the Rockets hopes of finishing first in the BC Division. Instead, the home team earned their 41st win of the season and moved within two points of the Prince George Cougars with 5 games left in the regular season. To think, the Rockets were already two points off the pace after an opening night loss in Kamloops. That deficit widened and widened and widened further as the Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 games while the Cougars started the season 8-0-0-0. I guess it is true. It's not how you start, but how you finish. 
    • Nolan Foote opened the scoring with his 17th goal of the season. I've been asked what the Rockets franchise record is for goals by a 16 year-old forward. The answer is 25. Both Nick Merkley and Shane McColgan accomplished the feat in their first seasons in the WHL. 
    • Colour Analyst Kent Simpson got it right on our AM 1150 broadcast when evaluating why Royals head coach Dave Lowry elected to yank starting goaltender Griffen Outhouse after surrendering Calvin Thurkauf's goal to make the score 3-0. Lowry made the change, not to show his disapproval of Outhouse's play, but that of the team in front of him. The goaltending change seemed to spark the Royals, who had little in the way of anything going on, specifically in the first period when they were out-shot 18-8. To that point, Royals forwards Matthew Phillips, Jack Walker and Dante Hannoun had created little in the way of scoring chances.
    • You have to hand it to both Rodney Southam and Carter Folk for a spirited fight early in the second period. It was a solid slugfest as the two swung wildly in as good a middle weight tilt as we've seen at Prospera Place this season. It was Southam's 11th fighting major of the season, which matches his total from 2014-2015, Is Southam not the teams 'Unsung Hero'? Having a career year offensively, Southam stands up for his teammates and would have played in every game this season if not for a family matter. Southam is very durable and his shot blocking is an inspiration to his teammates. 
    • I really liked the fourth line. Comprised of Leif Mattson, Eric Gardiner and rookie Jack Cowell, those three had significant zone time and had an absolutely excellent shift in the second period when they were buzzing and hemming the Royals in their own end. It would be Leif Mattson's third period goal which stood up as the game winner. For my money, Mattson should be a permanent fixture of that fourth line...unless I am missing something about his play that makes him a liability? I just notice him making a positive contribution when he is out there. I can take a mistake if I see effort...and I see effort. The dude has 4 goals in his last 7 games.   
    • The Rockets penalty killing unit came up large - again! Shutting out the Royals on 4 chances is impressive considering the visitors had scored a whopping 12 goals in their last 23 chances with the extra man. 
    • As always, a good conversation with Dave Lowry before the game. I enjoy my chats with him. It would be nice to sit down with him sometime over an adult beverage, but something tells me he isn't into that.  
    • The Rockets continue a 6 game home stand Friday night hosting the Vancouver Giants before hosting the Royals, again, on Saturday night. Let the scoreboard watching continue tonight as the Cougars visit the Winterhawks while the Blazers host the Royals. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Rockets face Royals

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
Tonight’s Preview: A rare Tuesday night home game at Prospera Place features the Kelowna Rockets hosting the Victoria Royals. This is game two of a six game home stand for the Rockets, who were a 4-2 winner Saturday night vs. Tri City on the strength of four unanswered goals and a 2+1=3 effort from Dillon Dube. This is the 6th of 8 meetings between these two teams this season. The Rockets are 4-2-0-0 in the first 6 game, having out-scored the Royals 28-18. In the last meeting between the two teams, January 13th, the Rockets were a 9-2 winner. Only two of the six games have been decided by a single goal. How closely matched have these two teams been over the last 5 seasons? The Rockets own a record of 15-13-1-1 in the last 30 regular season meetings. The team has 13 wins in the last 16 games (13-2-1-0) while earning a point in 11 of their last 12 games (10-1-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Vancouver Friday before welcoming the Royals again Saturday night for the second meeting in five days. Overall, the Rockets have won 4 straight and have scored 57 goals in their last 12 games (4.75 per game).  

The Matchup: Kole Lind has 3+7=10 in the 6 games against the Royals this season. Dillon Dube has 4+4=8 but has only played in 4 games against Victoria. Calvin Thurkauf has 3+2=5 in five games against their BC Division rivals from the Island. Michael Herringer is 4-2-0-0 with a goals against average of 3.01 and a save percentage of .877. The leading scorer for the Royals against the Rockets is Jack Walker (3+4=7) followed by Matthew Phillips (4+2=6). Both power plays have clicked against one another. The Rockets have 8 power play goals in the seasonal series while the Royals have 9.

Streak’n: Reid Gardiner enters tonight’s game riding a 12 game point streak. Gardiner has 8+10=18 over that stretch. The 21 year-old also has goals in 5 of his last 6 games. Gardiner also reached the 250 point mark for his WHL career Saturday night against Tri City. Rodney Southam has points in 7 of his last 9 games with 6+7=13 over that stretch.  Dillon Dube has points in 7 of his last 8 games (7+9=16). Dube also has goals in 6 of his last 7 games. Rookie Kyle Topping has goals in three of his last five games.

That’s a fact Jack: Lucas Johansen signed an entry level deal with the Washington Capitals last Thursday. Johansen was a 1st round pick of the Caps this summer…The Rockets have 85 points this season, with 12 available points over the final 6 regular season games. The most points the team can earn this season is 97, which puts them three shy of the 100 point barrier the team has reached in each of the last four seasonsThe Rockets have played 35 road games this season, with one more stop in VancouverThe Rockets have now won 20 or more road games in five consecutive seasons. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera Place… Kole Lind has the 2nd most points by a 17 year-old draft eligible player in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. Lind has 80 points and is 10 points shy of matching the 90 points that franchise leader Nick Merkley put up in his 17 year-old season in 2014-2015…The Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime games …The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 24 of their last 27 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 1-11-2-0.

Broadcasters Bits:.Rockets alumni Jordon Cooke of the U of S Huskies was named Canada West Goalie of the Year. Former Rockets forward Tyson Baillie of the U of A Golden Bear was named Canada West Rookie of the Year...The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 11 losses in the last 45 games… In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 15-6-2-0 since the trade deadline  The Rockets compiled a record of 10-2-1-0 in 13 games in 26 days in February…The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 16-12-0-0 against BC based teams this season …The Rockets are 11-3-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season….Calvin Thurkauf has 62 points this season, the 5th most from a European born player in one season wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. The franchise leader is Tomas Slovak (86 in 2002-2003), followed by Vaclav Varada (85 in 1995-96). The third most points in one season put up by a European born player in one season is Jan Fadrny (77 in 2000-2001). Tomas Oravec (65 in 2000-2001) rounds out the top four.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Monday, March 6, 2017

Rockets roll'n at right time

Head Coach Jason Smith (www.shootthebreeze.ca) 
  • No matter how strong the Kelowna Rockets finish the regular season, they will be unable to earn the same number of wins or points as they did a year ago. Does that really matter though? A 100 point season for a 5th consecutive year is not in the cards, but is this team not more playoff ready than they were a season ago? Last years 48 win, 100 point team struggled down the stretch and were inconsistent heading into a first round playoff series with the Kamloops Blazers. It showed as they had to use overtime in the 7th and deciding game to dispose of a Blazers team that probably played a better 'team game' but were out-skilled by a Rockets team that was better on paper. Forced again to play a 7 game series against Victoria in round two, the 14 game emotional roller coaster ride to get to Seattle for the Western Conference final took its toll. It appears under rookie head coach Jason Smith, the team is peaking at the right time, playing their best hockey with 6 games left in the regular season. At this same time a year ago, the Rockets were a very average 4-4-1-0 in their final 9 regular season games. Will this solid play down the stretch pay dividends in late March and into April? We are about to find out in three short weeks.
  • My belief is this years team is better than last years. Why? More scoring depth and little to no time played in the defensive zone. So why isn't the record better than? The Western Conference is crazy good, that's why. The BC Division has four teams that could compete with anyone. Wins this year have been hard earned. Let's remember, of the 21 losses this year, 12 have been against teams within the division.  
  • Quietly playing under the radar this season is Nolan Foote. While other first year players are making a bigger splash on the score-sheet, Foote has scored the most goals of any 16 year-old rookie. That's right, other first year players have more points but Foote just turned 16 on November 29th. Foote scored his 16th goal Saturday night. It would have been his 17th, if you were able to count a shootout winner in Everett Friday night. 'Little Footer', as his teammates call him, snapped a 7 game goal scoring drought with the game winner in a 4-2 comeback victory Saturday night over visiting Tri City. It was his longest goalless drought of the season up until his sharp angle snap shot beat Americans goaltender Evan Sarthou to the short side. Foote has scored those 16 goals in just 46 games. Had he been healthy and played in another 20 games, the pace he is on this season would give him 23 goals. The bottom line is he can score, and score a lot with one of the best releases on the team. Let's keep it quiet right now and let Nolan Foote play in the shadows before he catches every ones attention when he is draft eligible, not next season, but the season after that (2019). The fact is, he won't be able to hide much longer. When you are 6'3 and are still growing, scouts are already noticing that the soft spoken forward is speaking volumes with his terrific play.
  • With the loss of Rourke Chartier, Tyson Baillie and Justin Kirkland, goal scoring was expected to be hard to come by for the Kelowna Rockets this season. Who would score? Would it be scoring by committee with no one player standing out this season? After 66 games a season ago, the team had scored 237 times. This season after 66 games, the 2016-2017 edition has found the back of the net 254 times, which is a 17 goal improvement from a year ago. Career years from Kole Lind, Calvin Thurkauf, Rodney Southam and Devante Stephens have helped bolster the goal scoring totals and now gives them the bragging rights of having the 4th best offense in the WHL.
  • If you can't defend, you are cooked. Score all the goals you want, but if you can't keep them out of your own net the road to success will always be a bumpy one. It looks like that element of the game is taking a turn for the better and it starts with one player. While a small sample size, Michael Herringer was extremely good in back-to-back wins over Prince George and Everett last week. In the 3-2 shootout win, Herringer didn't allow a goal on 6 shooters. In a relief appearance Saturday, he didn't surrender a goal in two periods of work. While plagued with inconsistency this season, what we do know now is the 21 year-old goalie wasn't a fluke last season with his tremendous play. He can be the best player, or near the best player on the ice when he is 'locked in'.  At the end of the season, Herringer's numbers won't be top 5 in any category among goaltenders across the league. Right now he has the 10th best goals against average and a save percentage that has him between 15 and 19th in the league. Those numbers are not flattering, but he can play like a top end goalie when he is dialed in. Herringer's recent play gives me the belief he has the tools necessary to be the anchor when the real season starts on March 24th.
  • Let's discuss discipline. Have you noticed how it has improved significantly over the past 10 games? The most penalized team in the WHL still has its off nights when trips to the penalty box are frequent, but they only took 4 minors against Prince George, 4 against Everett and three against Tri City. Bad habits are tough to break, but is it any wonder that the lower number of trips to the penalty box has translated into wins? The last time they found themselves in penalty trouble was in Seattle. They ended up losing that game 5-3.
  • Congratulations to Reid Gardiner for earning his 250th career point with a goal in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Americans. Since arriving with the Rockets 21 games ago, Gardiner routinely leads the team in shots taken and is rewarded for his efforts. The 21 year-old had a team high 8 against Tri City (tied with Dillon Dube) and a team high 5 in Everett on Friday. Gardiner has the highest points per game average on the team (1.36) followed by Dillon Dube, who has been lights out terrific, at 1.32 points per game.
  • Many were wondering what type of impact Reid Gardiner would make on the Rockets when he joined the team on January 7th. With 30 points in 22 games, he is just 6 points shy of the 36 points Leon Draisaitl put up over the same number of games with the Rockets in 2015. Both are different players, so it may not be fair to compare....but I did anyway. Draisaitl was a center while Gardiner is a shoot first winger, but it is still interesting to look at the offensive numbers and take note that Gardiner is making a significant contribution since his rights were acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders for a 1st round WHL bantam pick.    
  • I'm often asked, if I had choice, who would the Rockets match up best against in the opening round of the WHL playoffs? It is hard for me to answer that question, especially after what the Prince George Cougars did to the Kamloops Blazers on the weekend. That is the type of dominance I expected from the first place Cougars after the trade deadline, but it never really materialized until this weekend. Sure, they pummeled Edmonton by putting up 11 during an Alberta road trip, but the Blazers and Oil Kings are in two different stratospheres. Let me answer that question when I see the Cougars and Blazers meet two more times this season. If the Cougars again destroy the Blazers, I will look forward to interviewing Kamloops head coach Don Hay on several occasions in round one. Don't count out the Victoria Royals either. They may be more in the mix than many people are giving them credit for, sitting three points back of Kamloops for 3rd with two games in hand.   

Friday, March 3, 2017

Rockets vs. Tips

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets make their final regular season visit to a U.S Division opponent this season. The Rockets and Silvertips are meeting for the third of four times this season with the seasonal series tied at one win apiece. Both games have been decided by a single goal. The Rockets were a 4-3 winner, in overtime, back on October 19th before the Tips were a 5-4 winner on January 16th. These two teams close out the seasonal series March 15tjh at Prospera Place. The Rockets are coming off a 5-1 win Wednesday night over the Prince George Cougars. Calvin Thurkauf scored twice and added an assist in the win. Dillon Dube, Kyle Topping and Nick Merkley also scored in the teams’ 38th win of the season. The team has 11 wins in the last 14 games (11-2-1-0) while earning a point in 9 of their last 10 games (8-1-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Tri City tomorrow night in the first of 6 straight games on home ice. The Rockets have scored 51 goals in their last 10 games.  

Streak’n: Reid Gardiner enters tonight’s game riding a 10 game point streak. Gardiner has 5+10=15 over that stretch. The 21 year-old also has goals in three of his last four games. Gardiner is also 3 points shy of 250 for his WHL career. Rodney Southam is riding a 7 game point streak (6+7=13) while Dillon Dube has a 6 game point streak (5+8=13). Dube also has a goal in five straight games. Rookie Kyle Topping has goals in three straight games.

That’s a fact Jack: Lucas Johansen signed an entry level deal with the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Johansen was a 1st round pick of the Caps this summer…The Rockets have 81 points this season, with 16 available points over the final 8 regular season games. The most points the team can earn this season is 97, which puts them three shy of the 100 point barrier the team has reached in each of the last four seasonsThe Rockets have played 34 road games this season, with two more stops in Everett and VancouverThe Rockets have now won 20 or more road games in five consecutive seasons. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera Place… Kole Lind has the 3rd most points by a 17 year-old draft eligible player in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. Lind has 79 points, which is tied with Brett McLean for second all-time. Lind is 11 points shy of matching the 90 points that franchise leader Nick Merkley put up in his 17 year-old season in 2014-2015…The Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime games …The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 23 of their last 25 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 1-11-2-0.

Fantastic in February: The Rockets compiled a record of 10-2-1-0 in 13 games in 26 days in February. Of those 13 games, the team managed to score 5 or more goals 8 times. Overall, the team scored 74 goals or 5.7 goals per game.  Nick Merkley (10+11=21) and Dillon Dube (6+15=21) were the top scorers during the month. Kole Lind had 20 points while Reid Gardiner had 19. The big surprise was Devante Stephens and Rodney Southam. Stephens had (3+11=14) 14 points while Southam (6+7=13) earned 13 points in those 13 games. 

Broadcasters Bits: Former Kelowna Rockets forward Mitchell Callahan has been called up by the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings….Rockets alumni Jordon Cooke of the U of S Huskies was named Canada West Goalie of the Year. Former Rockets forward Tyson Baillie of the U of A Golden Bear was named Canada West Rookie of the Year...The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 11 losses in the last 43 games… In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 13-6-2-0 since the trade deadline  The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 16-12-0-0 against BC based teams this season …The Rockets are 9-3-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season….Calvin Thurkauf has 61 points this season, the 5th most from a European born player in one season wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. The franchise leader is Tomas Slovak (86 in 2002-2003), followed by Vaclav Varada (85 in 1995-96). The third most points in one season put up by a European born player in one season is Jan Fadrny (77 in 2000-2001). Tomas Oravec (65 in 2000-2001) rounds out the top four.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Herringer $$ in fight for 1st

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
  • Michael Herringer was money. The 21 year-old was the main reason why the Kelowna Rockets were able to earn a 5-1 win Wednesday night over the visiting Prince George Cougars. Herringer, who has had more downs than ups this season, made no less than four of five alarm saves in the opening 20 minutes to keep it a score-less tie. Out-shot 14-6 in the first period, the Rockets, who looked sluggish from the opening puck drop, scored four straight goals in the second period in the teams 38th win of the season. Calvin Thurkauf scored twice while Dillon Dube added a goal and an assist, as the Rockets moved within 4 points of the first place Cougars in the BC Division. 
  • As mentioned, Herringer allowed his team to find their rhythm after the Cougars dominated the play in the opening frame. Was it any wonder that the overager was that good on this particular night? It was a year ago - to the day - that Herringer was publicly declared the starter after the team announced that Jackson Whistle was being shutdown for the season with double hip surgery.  
  • The downfall for the visitors was their anemic power play. They had two chances to score in the first period when Reid Gardiner made separate trips to the penalty box, but the highly skilled Cougars couldn't convert.  The Rockets, who own the 5th best power play unit in the league, went to work and scored the opening goal before Nick Merkley added his team leading 12th power play goal of the season to make it 4-0. The Cougars would unravel emotionally as the game went sideways, including forward Jesse Gabrielle going to the penalty box three times for: charging, and twice for slashing. 
  • Kyle Topping's 2-0 goal was one to like. The 17 year-old skated hard to the net with Cougars captain Sam Ruopp all over him. The rookie wasn't deterred, staying in front of the goaltender as teammate Rodney Southam's sharp angle pass from the right corner appeared to glance off of Topping's skate and past goaltender Ty Edmonds. It was Topping's 13th goal of the season and third goal in three games. Topping had a goal in Seattle and another one in a 10-1 romp over the Edmonton Oil Kings last week.
  • Tip of the cap to assistant coach Travis Crickard for using 4 forwards on a 4 on 3 power play in the second period. The unit moved the puck around and created good look after good look before Nick Merkley fired home his 23rd of the season. The 19 year-old is now two goals shy of his career high 25 goals that he scored as a 16 year-old rookie.   
  • The Rockets went 4-4-0-0 against the Cougars in the seasonal series, winning the last four meetings after losing the first four match-ups.The Cougars power play went just 10% in the eight games against a Rockets penalty killing unit that was 36 for 40. Assistant Coach Kris Mallette take a bow.
  • What is the Rockets commitment level to winning at this point of the season? Tomas Soustal blocked a first period shot and had to leave the game. The 19 year-old was willing to awkwardly step into a point shot when the Cougars were swarming the net with the game still scoreless. Soustal never returned after the opening period.        
  • Calvin Thurkauf has 9-multiple goal games this season. The 19 year-old leads the team in goals with 32. 
  • Captain Rodney Southam extended his point streak to 7 games with an assist. The 20 year-old now has 97 career points.
  • Reid Gardiner had two assists and is now 3 points shy of 250 for his career. Gardiner also had the 4th highest ice time with 21;01. 
  • The Rockets now get set for the second to last road game of the regular season on Friday in Everett. Then it is back at home for a 6 game home stand against the high flying Tri City Americans, who have won 7 straight.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Rockets game notes vs. Cougars

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo) 
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the final month of the Western Hockey League regular season. The Kelowna Rockets have 9 games left before the playoffs, with seven of those at Prospera Place. The team is coming off a three game weekend where they beat Kamloops (8-2), lost in Seattle (5-3) and earned a (9-5) four goal win in Spokane on Sunday. The team faces the Prince George Cougars tonight for the 8th and final time this season. The team is 3-5-0-0 in the seasonal series, having beaten the Cougars in the last three meetings. The scores were 3-2 (Feb 3rd), 5-1 (Feb 4th) and 5-2 (Feb 18th). The two teams are separated by 6 points in the BC Division standings with the Rockets still holding a game in hand. The team has 10 wins in the last 13 games (10-2-1-0) while earning a point in 8 of their last 9 games (7-1-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets are in Everett Friday before host Tri City Saturday night. The Rockets have scored 46 goals in their last 9 games.  

Fantastic in February: The Rockets compiled a record of 10-2-1-0 in 13 games in 26 days in February. Of those 13 games, the team managed to score 5 or more goals 8 times. Overall, the team scored 74 goals or 5.7 goals per game.  Nick Merkley (10+11=21) and Dillon Dube (6+15=21) were the top scorers during the month. Kole Lind had 20 points while Reid Gardiner had 19. The big surprise was Devante Stephens and Rodney Southam. Stephens had (3+11=14) 14 points while Southam (6+7=13) earned 13 points in those 13 games. 

Streak’n: Reid Gardiner enters tonight’s game riding a 9 game point streak. Gardiner has 5+8=13 over that stretch. The 21 year-old also has goals in three straight games. Gardiner is also 5 points shy of 250 for his WHL career. Rodney Southam is riding a 6 game point streak (6+6=12) while Dillon Dube has a five game point streak (4+7=11). Dube also has a goal in four straight games.

That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets have 79 points this season with 18 available points over the final 9 regular season games. The most points the team can earn this season is 97, which puts them three shy of the 100 point barrier the team has reached in each of the last four seasonsThe Rockets have played 34 road games this season, with two more stops in Everett and VancouverThe Rockets have now won 20 or more road games in five consecutive seasons. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera Place Kole Lind has the 3rd most points by a 17 year-old draft eligible player in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. Lind has 78 points, which is one shy of Brett McLean (79) and 11 shy of matching the 90 points that franchise leader Nick Merkley put up in his 17 year-old season in 2014-2015…The Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime games …The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 22 of their last 24 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 1-11-2-0.

Go, Go Goal Scoring: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 18 of his last 21 games. Thurkauf has 13+14=27 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 13 of his last 17 with 8+17=25 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 12 of his last 15 games with 11+15=25 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 11 of his last 16 games with 1+11=12. Reid Gardiner has points in 13 of his last 14 games with 9+11=20 over that stretch.

Broadcasters Bits: Coaches want to see their team getting better as the season goes along. The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 11 losses in the last 42 games… In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 12-6-2-0 since the trade deadline  The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 15-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 40 of the last 52 games…The Rockets are 9-3-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season….Calvin Thurkauf has 58 points this season, the 5th most from a European born player in one season wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. The franchise leader is Tomas Slovak (86 in 2002-2003), followed by Vaclav Varada (85 in 1995-96). The third most points in one season put up by a European born player in one season is Jan Fadrny (77 in 2000-2001). Tomas Oravec (65 in 2000-2001) rounds out the top four.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Monday, February 27, 2017

Rockets end February with flair

www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)
  • What a weekend! Exhausted? Yes. Considering the quality of the teams the Kelowna Rockets faced, I would consider a 2-1-0-0 record quite satisfying at the end of it all. The team played three games in three nights, all on the road, managing to out-score the opponent 20-12. Of the 12 goals surrendered, half (6) of them came while shorthanded. The team ends the month of February with a record of 10-2-1-0 and scored a mind boggling 74 goals and managed to put up 5 or more goals 8 times in those 13 games. With Sunday's 9-5 win in Spokane, the team is within a single point of Kamloops in the fight for second place in the BC Division and within 6 points of first place Prince George. The Rockets hold a game in hand on both of those teams. 
  • The 9 goal outburst in Spokane on Sunday was surprising. In a seasonal series where the Chiefs had won three consecutive games in overtime, the Rockets opened the scoring 93 seconds into the opening face-off and found the back of the net almost at will. The Chiefs couldn't get a save. Jayden Sittler, who was the first star in two of the three games against the Rockets this season, had a hole in his bucket. He was leaky all over the place and really struggled as the visitors top shooters seemed to score every time they fired the puck on goal. Eventually he was yanked but returned to the game in the second period after affiliated goalie Donavon Buskey, who didn't have much luck either, allowing three goals on 6 shots. I thought Rockets starting goalie Brodan Salmond started strong, making an especially key save on Chiefs forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan when the game was close, but he too seemed to lag in the third period as the home team rallied with a three goal third period. I didn't like the Ty Smith goal that beat Salmond to the glove side, nor did I like the power play goal that Riley Woods whiffed on, beating Salmond between the legs with a squeaker.
  • It was nice to see Reid Gardiner have a real standout game. The 21 year-old had a four point effort (2+2=4) against the Chiefs and displayed his wicked, wicked release. Gardiner also hit the post, with one of three coming off a Rockets stick in the lopsided win. Surprisingly, despite the high score, the team managed a very low 22 shots on net. The team, on average, generates close to 35 shots per game, the fourth most in the entire WHL.   
  •  The only real struggle on the weekend was a lack of discipline. The team took far too many penalties which cost them the game in Seattle Saturday night. I also, if I have to be completely honest, didn't like the goaltending in any of the three games. It was average at best with starter Michael Herringer playing in two of the three. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, the goaltending has failed to steal a game for the team this season. Not one. It was common place last year for either Jackson Whistle, before he was hurt, or Herringer to be the best player on the ice as the team escaped with a victory. That's why, in some respects, this team may be better than last season because of the goaltending they've been getting.  
  • Nick Merkley and Dillon Dube led the team in scoring in February with 21 points apiece. Merkley had a mind blowing 10 goals while Dube had a team leading 15 assists. Kole Lind had 20 points (6+14=20) while Reid Gardiner had 19 points (8+11=19) during the month. I am not sure which was the bigger surprise during the month. Was it the play of Rodney Southam or Devante Stephens? 'Devo' had an amazing 14 points in February (3+11=14) while Southam had 13 points (6+7=13). Those are significant totals for two players who are having career seasons.
  • The Rockets earned their 20th road win Sunday, hitting the benchmark for a 5th consecutive season where 20 or more wins on opposition ice have been attained. With two road games left in the regular season, they can tie last seasons total (21) or beat it with games in Everett and Vancouver.
  • Among the highlites on the weekend was Carsen Twarynski hitting the 100 point mark Friday in Kamloops with a three point effort in a 8-2 win. Nick Merkley also hit the 250 point plateau with a three point game in Spokane on Sunday. 
  • With the win over Spokane, the Rockets have beaten every team they've played at least once this season. Against American based teams, the Rockets are 10-3-3-0.  
  • With 9 games left in the regular season, 7 of those 9 will be played on home ice. The team faces Prince George Wednesday night in another must win situation if they indeed want a chance at first place in the division. What an amazing story it would be if the team could claim the BC Division title considering how significant a lead the Cougars had at the Christmas break.
  • Random thought #1: Was it any surprise that Oil Kings goaltender Patrick Dea didn't play in either game up in Prince George on the weekend? Dea essentially pulled himself in the third period after giving up the 8th goal in last Wednesday's a 10-1 loss at Prospera Place. Dea skated to the Oil Kings bench, made his way off the ice and headed to the dressing room. Dea never returned for the final 7 minutes in a show of disgust towards his teammates for a lack of support. Does he play another game this season? It is worth watching.  
  • Random thought #2. Props to the anthem singer in Spokane Sunday. The woman had a 'cheat sheet' in her hand as she sang the Canadian national anthem. No shame. It is better to be safe than sorry by getting the words correctly. Well played. 
  • Random thought #3: A shout-out to the fans in Seattle/Kent. The atmosphere in that building is always excellent and the fans there make a truck load of noise. One of the best atmospheres in the league in my opinion. I also thought it was pretty cool how they handled the 'Parents Weekend' with the introduction of family members on the ice in the first intermission. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rockets game notes vs. Spokane

www.shootthebreeze.ca 
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets close out a three game in three night weekend and will play their 4th game in 5 nights against the Spokane Chiefs. This is the 4th and final meeting of the season between these two teams, with the Chiefs winning in overtime on all three occasions. The scores in the seasonal series have been 5-4, 3-2 and 2-1. The Rockets lost in Spokane (December 2nd) by a 2-1 score. In the big picture, the Rockets are 4-1-2-0 in their last 6 visits to the Spokane Arena. The Rockets are coming off a 5-3 loss last night in Seattle. The loss snapped a three game winning streak. The team has 9 wins in the last 12 games (9-2-1-0) while earning a point in 7 of their last 8 games (6-1-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Prince George Wednesday night. The Rockets have scored 47 goals in their last 8 games (5.9 goals per game). 

Lind among franchise leaders: Kole Lind has the 3rd most points by a 17 year-old in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. Lind has 77 points, which is two shy of Brett McLean (79) and 12 shy of matching the 90 points that franchise leader Nick Merkley put up in his 17 year-old season in 2014-2015.

European Influence: Calvin Thurkauf has 57 points this season, the 5th most from a European born player in one season wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. The franchise leader is Tomas Slovak (86 in 2002-2003), followed by Vaclav Varada (85 in 1995-96). The third most points in one season put up by a European born player in one season is Jan Fadrny (77 in 2000-2001). Tomas Oravec (65 in 2000-2001) rounds out the top four.

Better with age: Kole Lind has 28+48=77 so far this season. That is 35 points more than the 41 he put up this season….Devante Stephens has 10+18=28 this season. That is 17 more points than in a disappointing sophomore campaign. Stephens is a career +55. Only Nick Merkley has a better career +/- with a +80 rating.

That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets have played 33rd road this season, with three more stops in Spokane, Everett and VancouverThe Rockets are trying to win 20+ road games for the 5th straight season. The last time they failed to hit 20 wins was in 2011-2012 when they won 15 games away from Prospera PlaceCarsen Twarynski earned his 100th career point Friday with 1+2=3 in a 8-2 victory in Kamloops….Calvin Thurkauf earned his 100th career point Wednesday night with an assist The Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime gamesBrodan Salmond was named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week ending February 12th after back-to-back shutouts against the Vancouver Giants … The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low….Reid Gardiner has 21 points (9+12=21) in 18 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets.…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 22 of their last 23 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 13 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-11-2-0.

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 17 of his last 20 games. Thurkauf has 13+13=26 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 12 of his last 16 with 8+16=24 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 11 of his last 14 games with 10+13=23 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 10 of his last 15 games with 1+10=11. Reid Gardiner has points in 12 of his last 13 games with 7+9=16 over that stretch.

Broadcasters Bits: Kole Lind was the WHL Player of the Week ending February 9th. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games to earn the honour…In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 12-6-2-0 since the trade deadline….The Rockets have scored 12 shorthanded goals this season, two more than all of last season … …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 15-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 40 of the last 52 games…The Rockets are 9-3-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season.

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150


Friday, February 24, 2017

Rockets game notes vs. Blazers

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open the weekend playing three games in three nights. The team faces the Kamloops Blazers for the 10th and final time this season. The Rockets are 3-6-0-0 in the seasonal series and are 0-4-0-0 at Sandman Centre this season. The Rockets have scored four goals in four visits to Kamloops. They have lost by scores of 6-0 (Feb 8th), 3-1 (Jan 6th), 5-1 (Dec 28th) and 9-2 (Sept 23rd). If the playoffs were to begin tonight, these two teams would meet in the opening round with the Blazers holding home ice advantage. The Rockets were a 10-1 winner over the Edmonton Oil Kings Wednesday night, helping the team to its 8th win in the last 10 games (8-1-1-0) while earning a point in 6 straight (5-0-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets play in Seattle (Saturday) and in Spokane (Sunday). The Rockets have scored 36 goals in their last 6 games (6.0 per game).

What just happened? The Rockets scored a season high 10 goals in a 10-1 win Wednesday night over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. Rodney Southam scored three times and added an assist in the win. It was Southam’s second career hat trick. The 20 year-old had a three goal game against Kamloops in last year’s playoffs. James Hilsendager had four assists as the Rockets went 3 for 4 on the power play while out-shooting the Oil Kings 53-15. Brodan Salmond earned the win in goal.   

Better with age: Kole Lind has 27+45=72 so far this season. That is 31 points more than the 41 he put up this season….Devante Stephens has 10+18=28 this season. That is 17 more points than in a disappointing sophomore campaign. Stephens is a career +51. Only Nick Merkley has a better career +/- with a +79 rating.

That’s a fact Jack: Nick Merkley (2+4=6) and Rodney Southam (0+6=6) lead the Rockets in scoring against the Blazers. Rudolfs Balcers has scored 8 goals in 7 games against the Rockets …Calvin Thurkauf earned his 100th career point Wednesday night with an assist The Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime gamesBrodan Salmond was named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week ending February 12th after back-to-back shutouts against the Vancouver Giants.…Nolan Foote became the youngest player in franchise history to score three goals in a game. Foote accomplished the feat February 10th against the Vancouver Giants, scoring those three goals at the tender age of 16 years, 2 months and 12 days. The old mark was set by Shane McColgan who scored a hat trick at 16 years, 11 months and 9 days… The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Vancouver Giants February 10th were a season high….The 15 shots the team surrendered February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings was a season low...The Rockets have lost the same number of games (20) as they did all of last seasonReid Gardiner has 19 points (7+12=19) in 16 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets.…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 20 of their last 21 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 12 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-10-2-0.

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 16 of his last 18 games. Thurkauf has 13+11=24 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 11 of his last 14 with 7+13=20 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 10 of his last 12 games with 9+12=21 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 9 of his last 13 games with 1+9=10. Reid Gardiner has points in 10 of his last 11 games with 5+9=14 over that stretch.

Broadcasters Bits: Kole Lind was the WHL Player of the Week ending February 9th. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games to earn the honour…In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 11-5-2-0 since the trade deadline….The Rockets have scored 11 shorthanded goals this season, one more than all of last season…..GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 14-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 38 of the last 50 games…The Rockets are 9-2-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rockets game notes vs. Oil Kings

Erik Gardiner - Shoot the Breeze Photo
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets close out the month of February playing four games in 6 nights. The Rockets welcome the Edmonton Oil Kings to wrap up a four game home stand. The Rockets are 2-0-1-0 in three games after a 6-3 win over Seattle, a 5-4 overtime loss to Spokane and a 5-2 win over the Prince George Cougars. This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Rockets and Oil Kings. These two teams met in the final game before the Christmas break with Jake Kryski, now of the Calgary Hitmen, scoring the game winning goal. The Rockets were a 5-2 winner against the Cougars Saturday night, helping the team to its 7th win in the last 9 games (7-1-1-0) while the team earned a point in 5 straight (4-0-1-0). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets play three games in three nights in Kamloops (Feb 24th), Seattle (Feb 25th) and Spokane (Feb 26th). The Rockets have scored 26 goals in their last 5 games (5.2 per game).

What just happened? Devante Stephens had 1+2=3 in the Rockets 5-2 win over Prince George Saturday night. Nick Merkley, the games 1st star, had a goal and an assist. Tomas Soustal also had 1+1 in the victory. The Rockets were 1 for 4 on the power play and 4 for 4 on the penalty kill. The Rockets fired 43 shots at the Cougars net. Michael Herringer made 25 saves in the victory.

Better with age: Kole Lind has 26+45=71 so far this season. That is 30 points more than the 41 points he put up this season….Devante Stephens has 10+16=26 games this season. That is 15 more points than a disappointing sophomore campaign. Stephens is a career +50. Only Nick Merkley has a better career +/- with a +78 rating.

That’s a fact Jack: Riley Stadel will not play tonight against his old team. The 21 year-old is sidelined with a broken wrist and did not make the trip. Stadel was traded to the Oil Kings, by the Rockets, for a 5th round bantam pick back on January 6th. The trade was made to make way for Reid Gardiner…Calvin Thurkauf has 99 career pointsThe Rockets have lost their last 4 overtime gamesBrodan Salmond was named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week ending February 12th after back-to-back shutouts against the Vancouver Giants.…Nolan Foote became the youngest player in franchise history to score three goals in a game. Foote accomplished the feat February 10th against the Vancouver Giants, scoring those three goals at the tender age of 16 years, 2 months and 12 days. The old mark was set by Shane McColgan who scored a hat trick at 16 years, 11 months and 9 days… The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Giants February 10th were a season high….The Rockets have lost the same number of games (20) as they did all of last seasonReid Gardiner has 18 points (7+11=18) in 15 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets.…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 19 of their last 20 games…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 12 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-10-2-0.

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 15 of his last 17 games. Thurkauf has 13+10=23 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 10 of his last 13 with 6+13=19 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 9 of his last 11 games with 8+12=20 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 8 of his last 12 games with 1+8=9. Reid Gardiner has points in 9 of his last 10 games with 5+8=13 over that stretch.

Broadcasters Bits: Kole Lind was the WHL Player of the Week ending February 9th. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games to earn the honour…In the Rockets last 12 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 10-5-2-0 since the trade deadline….The Rockets have scored 11 shorthanded goals this season, the same number as all of last season…..GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 14-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 38 of the last 49 games…The Rockets are 9-2-3-0 against U.S Division teams this season.

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150