Thursday, December 18, 2014

Alberta roady ends with results in Red Deer

  • The sign of a veteran team is not getting rattled when you see a significant lead evaporate before your very eyes. Such was the case last night in a 6-3 win in Red Deer. The Kelowna Rockets were in control before the Rebels erupted for two goals in a span of  :37 seconds to make it a one goal game. How did the road weary Rockets react? They promptly scored three-third period goals in the teams' 28th win of the season. Dillon Dube, Justin Kirkland and Tyson Baillie scored in the final frame, handing the Rebels only their 5th regulation loss on home ice this season.    
  • Justin Kirkland showed why he has the potential to be a dominant player. The 18 year-old scored twice, once on the power play and once in the third period on a seeing-eye slap shot and chipped in with one assist. Kirkland had 3+5=8 in the five game road trip which led all Rockets forwards.  
  • The Rockets took one minor penalty against the Rebels. That is a season low. Nick Merkley took a goaltender interference penalty or the team would have been clean of any infractions.
  • Put your money on Tyson Baillie when an empty net is available. Baillie battles and was rewarded with his 23rd goal of the season. Baillie had 4 goals in the last four games of the road trip. 
  • In case you are not paying attention, the Rockets completed a stretch of playing 11 of their last 17 on the road. They picked up points in 10 of those 11 road games.
  • I liked the fact that head coach Dan Lambert met every player at the bench after Wednesday's game and gave them a congratulatory pat on the back. As a player, how can you not want to play for this guy?     
  • Cole Martin now leads the WHL in plus/minus with a +28. Martin had a solid trip, outside of a rough game in Calgary when the team looked sluggish in a 4-1 setback. Martin brought his offensive game with him on the trip, collecting 6 assists in his last four games of the swing.
  • You can't tell me that recording a 4 and 1 record on this Alberta road trip wasn't impressive. The team was playing without its top goal scorer and its top offensive defenceman. No Chartier and no Bowey translated into 8 out of a possible 10 points. Can't shake a stick at that.
  • Jackson Whistle played in every game on the trip. It was manageable considering the Rockets played every other day outside of back-to-back games in Edmonton Tuesday and in Red Deer on Wednesday. Whistle now leads the WHL in wins with 22. Whistle is 6 starts shy of 100 for his career.
  •  Rodney Southam has goals in back-to-back games. The 18 year-old scored last night in Red Deer and had a goal in Edmonton a night earlier. Last season the Saskatoon resident also scored in back-to-back games against the Rockets, as a member of the Tri City Americans, and against the Prince Albert Raiders. 
  • During the five game road trip, the Rockets out-scored their opponent 19-13. 
  • The Rockets were out-shot in four of the five games. The only time they out-shot the opposition was against Lethbridge in game one of the 'roady'.
  • The Rockets opened the scoring in 3 of the 5 games.
  • The hockey club scored a power play goal in four of the five games. The power play unit, without Chartier and Bowey, went 5 for 18 or 28 percent. The penalty killing unit surrendered four goals against in 26 kills.    
  • The Rockets have now played the second most road games in the WHL (21). Only Kamloops has played more (22).  Home cook'n is on the menu when the second half of the season begins on December 27th against Kamloops. The team will play 9 of its next 11 games on home ice. The only road trips are to Kamloops (twice).   
  • 21 of the teams final 36 games - 58 percent are against BC Division rivals.  
  • Just one more significant road trip awaits the Rockets when they again set sail for Alberta with four games in five night's in Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Kootenay. Ya, ya, Cranbrook is in BC but you get what I am saying.
  • The Rockets are 28-5-3-0 after 36 games. Last season after 36 games the team was 31-3-0-2. In the last 72 regular season games the Rockets are a combined 59-8-3-2.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rockets keep roll'n

  • The Kelowna Rockets continue to take bad penalties. The good news is, the penalty killing unit is bailing them out. The Edmonton Oil Kings scored once on six power play chances before falling 4-1 to the Rockets last night on home ice. The Rockets used goals from Rodney Southam and Gage Quinney and then added two power play goals from Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker in the win. For Linaker, it was his first goal in 15 games. The Rockets are now the fourth most penalized team in the WHL. It looks odd to see them that high in the penalty minute parade when they lead the entire league with 57 points.
  • Gage Quinney is a way better player than I envisioned. To be honest, I wasn't sure what they were getting when he and fellow teammate Josh Morrissey were acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders last week. Quinney, 19, is not a spare part. Gage Quinney is smart. The quiet as a mouse Quinney makes smart decisions with the puck, moves to areas where he anticipates it going and has a solid battle level when engaging with an opponent to get it. Quinney scored his second goal with the Rockets in his third game but could have had another. After powering past an Oil Kings defender, Quinney went to the backhand and was shutdown by a nice glove save from veteran goaltender Tristan Jarry.
  • Cole Martin had an especially strong game last night in Edmonton. The 20 year-old looked sluggish Sunday in a 4-1 loss in Calgary but came to play against the defending Memorial Cup champions. Martin picked up a career high three assists and was a +2 in the game. He didn't hesitate to shoot the puck and just couldn't be beaten in a one-on-one situation. I was glad to see he was named the games first star because he never gets the credit he rightfully deserves. 
  • I've noticed rookie Tate Coughlin increasing his battle level over the course of the road trip. Often light on his skates, which seems odd for a bigger player, Coughlin played with more bite and almost scored his second goal of the season. Instead it rang it off the goal post. The 17 year-old hasn't scored in 27 games.    
  • I thought Jackson Whistle again was solid. Whistle is significantly different in his approach to stopping pucks, but he battles to keep it out and succeeds. My trust level in him was low at the start of the season, but I have as much confidence in him now as any of the 'so called' elite goaltenders in the WHL. 
  • Nick Merkley ended a mini two game point scoring slump with an assist.
  • Tyson Baille scored his 22nd goal of the season, matching his total from one season ago. Baillie typically scores big goals and prefers to find the back of the net while playing on the road. Sixteen of his 22 goals have come on opposition ice this season.
  • Lucas Johansen had a two point game, his first in his young WHL career. It was Johansen's first point(s) in 21 games.
  • Rodney Southam is growing on me. The 18 year-old is a great teammate. Southam seems to be liked by all and often has a smile on his face. He is a team guy and isn't afraid to stand up for a teammate. While only producing 3 goals and 6 points in 18 games, the Saskatoon resident is a gritty player that every team needs to have in their line up. 
  • It was nice running into injured Rockets defenceman Mitch Wheaton before the game. Since he was watching the game from the press box, I thought it was best to bring him on the radio as a second intermission guest. 'Wheatsie' is a great talker, so filling the intermission with solid content was an easy thing to pull off. While we won't see him on the ice for a couple of months, the fact he will be ready at the most crucial time of the season is encouraging. 
  • Riley Stadel plays in his 150th career game tonight in Red Deer. I would love to see him score. The 18 year-old hasn't found the back of the net in 25 games. He had 6 goals in his first 10 games.    
  • Tyson Gruninger looks like a sure fire beauty. The listed player by the Oil Kings can skate and created some good things in the offensive zone. He also didn't play scared. It is no surprise he scored 30 goals playing midget hockey in Leduc last season. On a first time viewing, I thought the 16 year-old was terrific.
  • Maybe the fans didn't notice, but this game was played with several key components from each team out of the line up. The Rockets were short staffed and so were the Oil Kings. I was looking forward to watching Oil Kings Euro Edgars Kulda, but the 30 goal man was sidelined with injury.  
  • I really like Oil Kings d-man Ashton Sautner. I don't see him play often but the 20 year-old is steady at both ends of the ice....or at least he was Tuesday night. With 53 playoff games under his belt, Sautner would be a massive upgrade for any team looking for help on the blue line. Which brings me to the point of the Oil Kings selling off at the trade deadline. Do they or don't they?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

  • What a start for Dillon Dube. The Kelowna Rockets first round bantam pick from 2013 is the real deal.  The 16 year-old has 5 goals in his first 9 regular season games. Dube says he is finding his groove after essentially missing the first 25 games with injury. "Dan Lambert has given me lots of tips to score goals. The biggest thing I have to do is get to the net and that is something he (Lambert) has pointed out in my game. I like to pass the puck and find open ice. I thinking finding the spot to score goals is something I'm improving at doing as I get more comfortable."     
  • It was an emotional time for the players after Wednesday's win in Lethbridge. The team learned that Jesse Lees and Austin Glover were traded to the Prince Albert Raiders. Veteran defenceman Cole Martin admitted it was a particularly tough time for him."It was hard for me. I have been a roommate with Austin Glover for three years. Everyday after practice we hung out together. We have been together a long time. We have had guys that have been together for four years. We have seven guys that have been together for a long time and then, bang, they are gone", Martin added. Despite the disappointment of seeing two close teammates traded away, Martin knows that its a businesses and sometimes changes are necessary to build a winner. "Like I said from the beginning of the year, I am here to win a Memorial Cup and that hasn't changed."
  • I had a chance Saturday night to watch the Calgary Hitmen's home game against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. It was nice to sit back and relax and observe different aspects of the game that normally go undetected when I'm mentally engaged in broadcasting the game. It was especially interesting watching Don Hay behind the Blazers bench. Hay was often seen banging his hand/fists against the glass after a missed opportunity or a bad pass, but he always, always had physical contact with his players with pats on the back/side as they were seated on the bench. I think the perception is Hay is a mean coach, who wouldn't be categorized exactly as 'player friendly'. The truth be told, Hay cares so much about his team and wants to succeed and his gestures on the bench are a clear indicator of that. Hay likely raises his voice when he wants to get the players attention, but also showed me Saturday night that he has adapted with gentle encouragement to get the best out of his group. Hay is reading his team as likely a fragile bunch and is taking the appropriate steps to bring them through this tough patch. I was impressed.    
  • It is hard to believe that the Kelowna Rockets played their final regular season game in the iconic Medicine Hat Arena. The Arena, built in 1970, will close its doors to the WHL at the end of this season. The new facility, opening in the fall of 2015, will cost 64 million dollars with additional cash going towards things like a high tech scoreboard. The Tigers senior director of marketing and public relations, Dave Andjelic, says the building will be significantly larger that the Arena. "The capacity of the building when it officially opens its doors will be 6140 with the chance to expand to an additional 930 seats down the road. So eventually it will seat 7 thousand and 70.", Andjelic told me prior to Friday's game. It had me wondering. If  the new building seats over 7 thousand down the road, is it too large for Medicine Hat, who currently play out of the Arena which seats 4,006? "For us, we would like to have a few less (seats), but we are not just building it for the Medicine Hat Tigers but for the community and concerts as well. Some say it is a little too big for us, but looking 50 years out, it should be fine.", Andjelic added. The larger building may give the Tigers a good chance of eventually hosting the Memorial Cup. "We are hoping down to the road we can look at that. With this building here, there is no way we could put a bid in". I had a chance to see the construction site of the new building, who's naming rights have yet to be sold to a big corporation. For now it is known as the Medicine Hat Events Centre. 
  • The new building is located just off the Trans Canada as you come in from the North from Calgary. "I would have preferred more of a central location for it", Andjelic added. "The city actually bought that land for one dollar, so it was a City of Medicine Hat decision. We started talking about a new arena in 1996 when the Medicine Hat Tigers were involved. It has taken a long time to get there". The Tigers had 100% control of designing the dressing rooms and office space.  
  • The best interview of the week goes to legendary Tigers radio broadcaster Bob Ridley. I hunted down Ridley to reflect on the 'Arena' closing its doors at seasons end. "I remember the first game in here. We had chicken wire at the ends. It was jam packed full. Women in their furs and men in their suits. The visitors called it the 'Smartie Box'. The wooden seats were yellow, blue and red. It was a party atmosphere. You could smoke in here that the air was blue that you couldn't see the other side of the ice", Ridley said with a chuckle. "The bars were full afterwards. The Tigers really put the city on the map. Before that, nobody knew where Medicine Hat was".  
  • One of the interesting stories of the Medicine Hat Arena was a section of fans known as the 'Section 2 Group'. That small collection of Tigers fans were ruthless against the visitors. "It got so bad that the Tigers organization had to slow them down a bit because the league was complaining", Ridley added. "The Regina Pats players got even with them by getting in early and greasing the seats with Vaseline, so the Section 2 group complained to the league. They would throw things at the opposition and their was no glass behind the visitors bench at the time". 
  • When you spend as much time on the road as we do over the course of the hockey season, people either rub you the wrong way or you find a greater appreciation for them. Rockets' athletic therapist Scott Hoyer is one such individual who really brings positive energy to the team. 'Scotty', as he is known to me and the 28 other people on the bus, is a leader in his own right. What a great example he is to this group of 16 to 20 year-old players. Hoyer doesn't just walk the walk. The 40 something father of two girls walks the walk. Oh, he is also my roommate.       
  • What is with the gas prices here in Alberta? In Red Deer, the pump reads 85.9 cents a litre. Gas it dirt cheap in Central Alberta. I never thought I would see the day of gas being this low. 85.9 cents a litre is nothing short of bizarre.    
  • An interesting conversation last week with Lethbridge Hurricanes assistant coach Bryan Maxwell. I asked the bass voiced Maxwell about the Hurricanes firing head coach Drake Berehowsky. "The changes have probably affected us (coaches) more than the players", Maxwell told me Wednesday. I asked the 59 year-old if he was considered for the head coaching job? "No, it wasn't asked. Nobody really approached me on it". Would he have accepted it had they asked him to be the new head coach of the Hurricanes? "I don't know. It would have been something I would have had to look at to see what my role would have been as far as with the general manager, if it would have remained the same, or what my relationship would have been. Obviously that is putting the cart before the horse so its a non issue", Maxwell added.  The veteran coach stays on with the Hurricanes as an assistant to new head skipper Peter Anholt.
  • Did you know that Rockets head coach Dan Lambert was a teammate of Ex-Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins? You do now. The two were d-partners with the Moncton Hawks in 1992-93. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Umm....not good!

  • They couldn't have played any worse! The Kelowna Rockets looked like a team playing their third game in three night's with a lackluster 4-1 loss Sunday afternoon to the Calgary Hitmen. Unfortunately the excuse of fatigue couldn't be used as a factor in the teams' 5th loss of the season. Right from the opening face-off until the 15 minute mark of the third period, the Hitmen were first on pucks and looked more interested in winning. The Rockets - as a group - were a step behind. The Hitmen weren't faster. The Hitmen didn't have a lopsided advantage with more key players in their line. The home team just had more energy and 'want' in their game. Only Dillon Dube's 5th goal of the season. on the power play, late in the third period was the reason why the Rockets weren't shutout for the first time this season.
  • A sure sign that it was a rough night was back-to-back icings in the second period. Traditionally, the Rockets use long cross ice passes that are tape-to-tape. It is an awfully impressive skill set to have when executed properly. When the passes are off though, like they were Sunday afternoon, it looked like a team that was struggling mentally.
  • As bad as the Rockets were over essentially 54 minutes of the game, the power play goal by Dube and the final five minutes of frantic action inside the Hitmen's zone almost saw the visitors make it a one goal contest. Tyson Ballie, with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, was set up wonderfully on a back door play and fired the puck into what appeared to be a wide open net. Hitmen goaltender Mack Shields, who had an extremely easy night, came up with a solid right pad save. Had Baillie scored on that chance, the Hitmen would have been in a heap of trouble as the Rockets finally awoke after cruising through a good portion of the game.         
  • No matter what you read on other blogs or on Twitter, this team won't win without optimum effort. I see this team every day. If they play as a team and 90 percent of the players are 'going', they can win games. Lots of games. No team, no matter what the roster may look like is invincible. What do losses do? Hopefully they reinforce the fact that a half hearted effort won't be good enough to earn a victory.  
  • The Rockets generated a season low 18 shots on net. On numerous occasions, scoring situations presented themselves yet the puck was passed rather than delivered towards the net. Remember this quote from Wayne Gretzky? "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." The Rockets need to take a Spokane Chief mindset when shooting. Fire it from almost anywhere and crash the net for rebounds. It isn't pretty, but again you don't get style points for scoring. Tyson Baillie was the only one firing the puck on net. The 19 year-old led the team with 6 shots on goal against the Hitmen. 
  • I think the Rockets are taking too many penalties. Assistant Coach Kris Mallette commented when I asked him the same question in back-to-back post game shows, which I did, wondering if his team was taking warranted penalties? I think many can be avoided. If it is a scoring chance for the opposition and a trip or hook is needed, fill your boots, take a penalty. The Rockets took 6 penalties last night with Nick Merkley receiving a 4 minute minor for high sticking. Did Merkley get the home town discount on that penalty, or should he been given a five minute major and a game misconduct?
  • The Hitmen are an excellent team. You have to remember they didn't have two of their best players in the line up with Jake Virtanen and Travis Sanheim at the training camp for Team Canada. Thankfully those two weren't with the Hitmen or it could have been ugly.    
  • The penalty killing unit killed off all four Hitmen power plays. That came on the heels of a 6 for 6 effort against the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night. The PK is doing good work in the last two games. 
  • Enough negativity. It was the teams' 5th loss of the season. Let's put things into perspective here. The Rockets lost against a solid team. Again, they didn't look good, but some nights' you aren't going to have it. I would have just liked more 'try' in the game and if the results aren't there at the end of the night, or the opposing goaltender is lights out, I can accept that and believe the coaches will too.   
  • Those Hitmen uniforms. Wow. They are good to look at but from high in the Saddledome the name bars and the numbers on the side of the jersey's are almost impossible to detect. It is amazing how much those side digits on the arms are used for radio broadcasters to identify players. What likely made matters worse was the distance I was from the ice and the fact it was the first time I have seen the Hitmen this season. Maybe my eye sight is failing me too?
  • The Rockets are basing out of Red Deer over the next three nights with the Edmonton Oil Kings and Red Deer Rebels on the horizon. The Oil Kings present the next challenge on Tuesday. Wish me luck attempting to identifying their players as I fight altitude sickness from the broadcast booth at Rexall Place.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gutsy win in hostile 'Tiger Territory'

  • Visiting teams' don’t often beat the Medicine Hat Tigers. They surely won’t leave the 'Gas City' with a ‘w’ without their top goal scorer and two world class defenceman absent from the line up. Or will they? The Kelowna Rockets may have been without the services of Rourke Chartier, Madison Bowey and newly acquired defenceman Josh Morrissey, but that didn’t deter them from producing a gutsy 4-2 win over a Tigers team, that up until last night, had lost only three times on home ice this season.  Tyson Baillie scored twice and Gage Quinney, making his Rockets debut, scored his first goal with his new team in the WHL leaders 26th win of the season. Jackson Whistle was typically tremendous, making several key stops and was full marks for being named the first star.
  • The penalty killing unit of the Rockets deserves a pat on the back for their strong play. The Tigers, while having the 15th best power play unit in the league, were awarded six chances on the evening. Tyrell Goulbourne led the charge with a shot blocking clinic. The 20 year-old blocked three significant blasts from the blue line while Riley Stadel got into the way of one that hit him in the hand. It was a great ‘sellout for success’ by that four man unit.
  • The Tigers have a good looking power play. With the five players they put out there the puck is moving around so quickly, it appears to be a well oiled machine. But if you really dissect it, you can zing the puck around the perimeter all you want but if you aren’t getting good looks/chances on goal, what good is it? The Rockets, for the most part, kept the puck to the outside with few secondary chances after a shot on goal was taken. Again, the shot blocking may have been the best I’ve seen all season.
  • The Rockets d-score found themselves in a heap of trouble when Riley Stadel had to leave the game after getting a shot off his hand. That meant five d-men had to ramp up their play and the results were impressive. Of those five d-men, Lucas Johansen and Devante Stephens are raw rookies. Stephens particularly stood out and ended the game with a +3 rating. The 17 year-old isn’t overly physical but makes smart decisions with the puck. What you need to watch out for is his speed. He could be one of the fastest skaters on the team. Watch him a little more closely and see how the undrafted player is rounding into form with the more ice time he receives.   
  • It was nice to see newly acquired Gage Quinney find the back of the net for the first time.  The 19 year-old sent a wrist shot on goal that powered past Tigers goaltender Marek Langhammer. Quinney must have felt out of place playing his first game with new line-mates and new systems. The coaches really liked what he brought to the table and is a definite upgrade to the centre ice position.
  • I thought Justin Kirkland play his most intense game of the season.  The 18 year-old’s battle level was significantly improved and he played with an edge in the game. Playing with an edge doesn’t mean getting into the face of an opponent after a whistle. What it means for Kirkland is a battle level that meets or exceeds an opponent when the two are fighting for a loose puck. Kirkland was charged with a cross checking minor when he aggressive battled for a puck behind the Tigers net. I didn’t like the call, it was soft, but if Kirkland fights for loose pucks like that, I will accept a visit to the penalty box every time.     
  • I don't want to say I told you so, but I mentioned before the trip started that two players, in particular, had to step up in an effort to have success. Isn't it funny how Tyson Baillie (2 goals) and Cole Martin (2 assists) were significant contributors on the score-sheet last night?  
  • I don’t want to get too picky here, but is the officiating worse in the Eastern Conference than in the West? I have found in the first two games on this Alberta road trip a lot of soft calls with many of them directed towards the visiting team.  
  • This was the final regular season game the Rockets will play in the iconic Medicine Hat Arena. In 2015, the teams next visit barring a playoff match up, will be in a brand new facility bordering Redciff. 
  • Following last night's game, the Rockets were off to Calgary where they will face the Hitmen Sunday afternoon. This game will be more of a level playing field as the Hitmen also have two players away at Team Canada's training camp. Losing Jake Virtanen and Travis Sanheim is the equivalent of  no Rourke Chartier and Madison Bowey. Translation? No excuses.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rockets game notes vs. Tigers

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of a five game Alberta road trip tonight against the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Rockets are playing five games in eight nights’ which includes stops in Calgary (Sunday), Edmonton (December 16th) and Red Deer (December 17th). The team only plays back-to-back games once on this road trip with stops in Edmonton and then a night later against the Rebels. On Wednesday night, Dillon Dube scored twice and added an assist in a 4-3 shootout win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Nick Merkley scored the game winning goal in the shootout. Rodney Southam added his second goal in a Rockets uniform in the teams’ 25th win of the season. This is the first of two meetings between the Rockets and Tigers this season. They meet again in Kelowna on January 10th – trade deadline day in the WHL. Last season the Rockets were 2-0-0-0 with a 5-4 victory and a 4-3 win. Overall, the Rockets have a record of 5-3-2-0 in their last 10 games. The Rockets return home after the Christmas break to host the Kamloops Blazers on December 27th.

Blockbuster Deal: The Kelowna Rockets pulled off a four player deal with the Prince Albert Raiders Wednesday night. The Rockets acquired 19 year-old Josh Morrissey and 19 year-old Gage Quinney from the Raiders for 19 year-old Jesse Lees, 18 year-old Austin Glover and a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick. Morrissey is attempting to make Canada’s entry at the World Junior Hockey Championships while Quinney is making his debut tonight with his new team after playing Tuesday night in Vancouver with the Raiders.

Digging Deeper: Josh Morrissey is a first round pick of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. Morrissey was an Eastern Conference 1st team all-star last season, recording 28 goals on the Raiders blue line. Morrissey is also the older brother of Rockets rookie goaltender Jake Morrissey. Gage Quinney was born in Las Vegas Nevada when his father Ken (born in Quesnel BC) was playing down there for the Las Vegas Thunder of the defunct International Hockey League. Quinney’s father was a 10th round NHL pick of the Quebec Nordiques and is a former teammate of Rockets head coach Dan Lambert. Gage’s brother Landon is listed by the Moose Jaw Warriors.                

First to 30: Rourke Chartier became the first Kelowna Rockets player to reach 30 goals in under 30 games. Chartier has 31 goals in 28 games after scoring twice on Wednesday. That breaks the old mark of the quickest player to 30 goals, set by Brett McLean, who scored 30 goals in 30 games in the 1997-98 season. Here are other Rockets players to reach 30 goals in a short period of time. 
1)     Rourke Chartier: 30 goals in 28 games (2014-2015).
2)     Brett McLean: 30 goals in 30 games (1997-98).
3)     Jamie Benn: 30 goals in 36 games (2008-2009).
4)     Jason Deleurme: 30 goals in 36 games (1997-98).
5)     Chuck Kobasew: 30 goals in 39 games (2001-2002).   

The Saskatoon Sniper: Rourke Chartier had 18+10=28 in the month of November. In 14 games, Chartier scored a goal in 12 of them. The 18 year-old had points in 13 of those 14 games. Chartier had 9 multiple point games in the month. Chartier had 6-3 point games and three-two point games. By comparison, last seasons’ WHL scoring champion Mitch Holmberg had 12+14=26 in November. The only player to record more points over the last five seasons in the month of November is Portland’s Brendan Leipsic. Leipsic had 9+21=30 in November 2012.

Walking wounded: 
Tanner Wishnowski: missed 32 games   Mitch Wheaton: missed 28 games
Dillon Dube: missed 25 games                Dalton Yorke: missed 14 games
Joe Gatenby: missed 7 games                Jake Morrissey: missed 6 games. 
Justin Kirkland: missed 6 games             Cole Martin: missed 1 game
Total # of games = 134 man games lost to injury. (Unofficial)
*16 games lost by departed players Glover and Lees.

World Junior Bound: Congratulations Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey and Rourke Chartier for being three of 29 players named to Team Canada’s training camp roster for the WJHC. Kelowna Rockets forward Kris Schmidli will participate in the upcoming World Junior’s with Switzerland. Rockets majority owner Bruce Hamilton is a member of Team Canada’s management team.

This and That: Gage Quinney’s dad Ken played four seasons with the WHL’s Calgary Wranglers…Quinney’s mother is from Nova Scotia…Nick Merkley is playing in his 100th career game tonight in Medicine Hat…The Rockets have had 12 players play for Canada at World Junior Hockey Championship. Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn (twice), Tyson Barrie, Shea Weber, Josh Gorges, Brandon McMillan, Blake Comeau, Chuck Kobasew, Brett McLean, Jamie Benn and Robb Gordon.…Rourke Chartier was named the WHL Player of the month for November…Nick Merkley is rated 22nd by the International Scouting Service for this June’s NHL draft….The Rockets have been held to three goals or less only 8 times this season…The Rockets are rated as the second best team in Canada according to the CHL Top 10 junior rankings…Nick Merkley has 16 multiple point games….Rourke Chartier and Nick Merkley have been held off the score-sheet five times this season…In case you are wondering, the Rockets have not been shut-out in 107 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops.
Who’s Hot: Tyson Baillie has six goals in his last 12 games and has points in 9 of his last 15…Over that period, the 19 year-old has (8+7=15)...Rourke Chartier has eight more goals (32) than he had all of last season. Chartier has goals in 16 of his last 19 games….Nick Merkley has 6+20=26 in his last 17 games…Madison Bowey has 93 points in his last 100 regular season games.     

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rockets' acquire stud d-man

If you are playing for a contending team, shouldn’t you expect trades by management in an effort to bolster your chances of winning? The answer is obviously yes, but that doesn’t make it any easier when a close knit team like the Kelowna Rockets is forced to say goodbye to two of its popular players. Jesse Lees and Austin Glover care greatly for their teammates and is reciprocated by the 23 they leave behind. When those two players were told after Wednesday night’s game that they had been traded, shock set in, not only for Lees and Glover but for their teammates too. It is truly the ugly side of junior hockey because we are dealing with such young men. These are not professionals. For many it’s the first time they have been traded, while for their teammates, it is the first time they have experienced the harsh reality of a buddy being dealt away. Tears are shed. Hugs were exchanged. I am sure the question of; why them or why us was utter many times. It is the part of sports that fans love, but when you see firsthand how it affects everyone involved, it isn’t much fun. It really isn’t. A trade like this is both cruel and exciting.
Without question the Rockets are a better team today than they were prior to the start of this road trip. The players, while hard to accept the loss of two friends, will realize that soon. Josh Morrissey is the key player in the deal. The Rockets get one of the best defenceman in the WHL who brings instant offense from the blue line. The first round pick of the Winnipeg Jets scored 28 goals last season with the PA Raiders and was a first team all-star in the Eastern Conference. The Calgary resident, the older brother of Kelowna Rockets rookie goaltender Jake Morrissey, will also play for a second straight year at Christmas for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Can you imagine Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey quarterbacking your power play? If hockey fans in the Okanagan aren’t already excited about their teams’ 25-4-3-0 start, they should be now.
For me, the acquisition of a premiere player by General Manager Bruce Hamilton is a bit of a surprise. Why? Over my 15 seasons with the organization, obtaining a big fish via the trade route hasn’t happened. Oh sure, picking up the rights to Chuck Kobasew from Prince George or persuading Duncan Keith to leave Michigan State after Christmas are solid calculated moves, but landing a marquee player while dealing away individuals on its current roster isn’t common place around these parts. In 2004, the team added two nice pieces with the acquisition of Simon Ferguson and D.J King from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In 2009, the team again added depth with separate deals with Moose Jaw for Ian Duval and Riley Grantham. They also had the benefit of landing Michal Backlund after the Calgary Flames elected to move their prospect to major junior after the World Junior Hockey Championships were over.
The Morrissey deal is swinging for the fences and hitting it out of the park without giving up a highly coveted 1st round bantam pick in return. In my books, that is impressive trading. If Hamilton was asked to give a first round pick in return rather than the 2nd and 3rd round picks, maybe the deal would have been off the table?
While Morrissey is the star studded player acquired in this trade, it will be interesting to see what Gage Quinney brings to the team. Born in Las Vegas Nevada, Quinney can only add more depth to a 19 year-old age group which already consists of Jackson Whistle, Madison Bowey, Tyson Baillie, Cole Linaker and injured d-man Mitch Wheaton. Quinney's father is an ex-teammate of Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert.
So what kind of day was it for the Kelowna Rockets? On so many levels it was a sad day full of emotion. But in the end, the players on this year’s team will know that its GM is out there, fighting for them, in an effort to bring the type of success this organization has enjoyed only once in its 24 year history.