Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Rockets/Warriors preview

Life without Kole Lind begins tonight - Shoot the Breeze Photography
Game Night Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game three of a six game Eastern Division road trip tonight in Moose Jaw. The Rockets are 1-1-0-0 after a 7-5 win in Regina Friday night and a 7-4 loss in Brandon on Saturday. Nolan Foote scored twice Friday and once Saturday to give him a team leading three goals on the trip. Older brother Cal has 0+4=4 in the two games but will be lost to the team as he, Kole Lind and Dillon Dube attending the training camp for the Canadian world junior team. The Rockets last played a game in Moose Jaw on December 16, 2016. Jackson Whistle made 27 saves in a 1-0 shutout victory. In 2013, the Rockets were a 6-3 winner with Myles Bell scoring twice. In 2001, the Rockets fell by a score of 4-1. Shane McColgan scored the lone goal in the setback. After tonight’s game, the Rockets are in Swift Current Wednesday before visiting Prince Albert Friday night. 

Roady by the #’s: The opposition has opened the scoring in both games. The Rockets are 2 for 4 on the power play (50%) in the two games and have surrendered 4 power play goals on 8 killing opportunities. The Rockets have given up 63 shots in the two games while firing a combined 72 shots at the opposition net.

Scoring by Period:  1   2   3   Total
Rockets:                   5  3    3    11
Opponent:                6  3    3    12

Eastern Division Success: The Rockets were 3-3-0-0 in 2015. The team was an impressive 6-0-0-0 in 2013 and 2-2-0-2 in 2011. They were 3-3-0-0 in 2009. In 2007, the team played only five games on an Eastern Division swing (excluding Swift Current) in December and sported a record of 3-1-0-1. The last time the Rockets failed to go on its bi-annual Eastern Division road trip was 2005. In 2003, the team was 5-0-0-0 but again did not play Swift Current on that road swing. In 2001, the team was 0-4-1-0 in five games.

Broadcasters Notebook: Nolan Foote has goals in four straight games…Carsen Twarynski is one goal shy of a new career high. The 20 year-old scored his 20th goal of the season Friday in Regina…Kyle Topping and Libor Zabrasky are both rated as ‘C’ prospects for June’s NHL draft by NHL Central Scouting. Topping was not on the ‘Players to Watch’ list in October before appearing in November’s rankings…The Rockets have won 10 straight games on home ice with wins over Portland, Tri City, Prince George (twice), Vancouver, Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Kootenay….The Rockets played their 16 hundredth regular season game in franchise history November 3rd in Victoria in a 4-2 win……The Rockets are 4 and 2 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind, Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice). The only loss in OT came against the Tri City Americans and Portland Winterhawks…The Rockets are 7-4-1-0 in the second of back-to-back games….The Rockets are 9-3-0-0 against BC Division teams this season….The Rockets are 13-0-0-1 when leading after 2 periods…The Rockets are 14-1-1-1 when scoring the first goal of the game.

Milestones: Head Coach Jason Smith coached his 100th career regular season game against the Kootenay Ice on December 2nd…Carsen Twarynski played in his 200th career game October 28th against the Prince George Cougars…James Hilsendager plays in his 200th career game November 14th vs. Oil Kings.  

Roster Stats:
Player total: 26
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager          
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 10  Porter, Foote, Belcourt, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran
NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150


Monday, December 11, 2017

Things that make me go hmm...

James Porter Junior - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The weather has to be the single biggest story outside of the Kelowna Rockets performance on this Eastern Division road trip. It has been incredibly mild in Saskatchewan. You are hard pressed to find snow on the streets of Regina. All you can see today is small clumps of dirty snow, mainly filled with gravel, washed up on the side of boulevards. The temperature today in Regina, as an example, is +1. The wind is always noticeable here, but when the temperatures are this mild, it's really quite manageable. When the team heads north for games in Prince Albert and Saskatoon on the weekend, the forecast is for a high of between 0 and +1 degree. For this time of the year, it's tropical in these parts.
  • How friendly are Saskatchewan people? While the Kelowna Rockets were wrapping up practice at Brandt Centre in Regina, I was engaged in a conversation with Kamloops Blazers GM Stu McGregor. As is often the case, I lost track of time and noticed the Rockets bus had left the arena without me. As I quickly walked out of the arena in an attempt to catch it, an elderly lady walking out of the Pats souvenir store asking if I needed a ride. Indeed I did. After exchanged names and telling her my story about missing the bus, she gladly gave me a lift back to the hotel. I told her I was the Kelowna Rockets broadcaster and was originally from Swift Current. I am not sure which part of my story resonated with her, but she obviously felt picking up a stranger and letting him into her vehicle wasn't going to put her life in danger. In speaking with her, I found out her husband, confined to a wheel chair, has been a Pats season ticket holder for 20 years and she would be returning home with a unique story of chauffeuring the Kelowna Rockets radio broadcaster back to his hotel. Saskatchewan people have a heart of gold. I generally believe people look after one another, even complete strangers, but what we often hear is the negative side of people in this world that bring pain upon others. I wanted to share this story to remind you that people are indeed good, you just have to treat them with kindness and they will often reciprocate. 
  • Speaking of good people, I had a chance the other day to meet James Hilendager's parents on the way to Brandon. When the team stopped for a pre-game meal in Moosomin, two couples at an adjacent table asked if we/I was an official for the game that night against the Wheat Kings. I introduced myself to the Hilsendager's, who didn't know the face, yet knew the voice. 
  • It is a sure sign I am getting old. I often find great interest in gasoline prices from province to province. Gas prices range greatly  here in Regina. One gas bar is offering regular unleaded gasoline for $91.9 cents a litre while another pump price reads $98.4 cents a litre. Regardless of where you fill up, anything under $1.00 a litre is music to my ears.
  • While in Regina, did I visit the Riders Store? Do pigs like mud?  
  • Let's talk some hockey! As you may have heard or read, rookie goaltender James Porter Junior has been pulled twice on this Eastern Division road trip. Porter allowed 4 goals on 14 shots against Regina before being yanked after surrendering 4 goals on 11 shots against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Being pulled in back-to-back starts is nothing new for a Kelowna Rockets goalie prior to Christmas. Last season, on an Alberta road trip, starter Michael Herringer was pulled after giving up 3 goals on 4 shots against Lethbridge before getting pulled two nights later in Medicine Hat after surrendering 6 goals on 21 shots. For James Porter Junior to be rattled by early struggles on this road trip is unwarranted. No goaltender is immune to adversity and soft goals. The good ones are able to find the mental resolve to bounce back from them quickly.
  • With the loss of Kole Lind, Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, the Rockets clearly lose an abundance of skill with four games remaining on this road trip. I've seen it time and time again. As Kevin Constantine was quoted as saying in his short stint as a coach in the NHL, 'Will beats skill'. Hard work and determined play goes a long way even against an opponent that has a greater degree of talent. The players that I anticipate playing the hardest are the three 20 year-old's on the roster. If I see maximum effort from Carsen Twarynski, Gordie Ballhorn and James Hilsendager, the younger players will follow. Those three are worth watching over the next four games. If they 'bring it', the Rockets have a fighting chance.
  • When the team losses good players to Hockey Canada at this time of the year, lesser skilled players often make an impact. Look at last December's game in Lethbridge when Connor Bruggen-Cate and James Hilsendager scored their first goals of the season. Two nights later, Braydyn Chizen, Leif Mattson and Kyle Topping were involved in the scoring in an overtime win in Medicine Hat. All three were rookies at the time. To say first year players can't make an impact in the remaining four games of this road trip would be foolish.
  • For the first time in recent memory, no prospects have joined the team for practice on this road trip. It has been common place for a underage player like Tyler Myers, Shane McColgan or Damon Severson to skate with the team at least once.   
  • What have I noticed in the first two games on this Eastern swing? My belief is the referee's out here call a looser game. They don't call the petty hooking and holding penalties like we see in the Western Conference. 
  • Leif Mattson is a real good interview. I spoke to him before Saturday's game in Brandon. Mattson has a good delivery, always sounds engaged in the conversation and it appears his fake interviews with teammate Liam Kindree on the bench before game time are paying off. Honestly, I often notice Kindree being the interviewer and Mattson being the interviewee while sitting on the Rockets bench with about 30 minutes left before pre-game warm-up. As they say, practice makes perfect and both players are solid behind the microphone.  
  • Are the Regina Pats in trouble? As hosts for the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, they need
    Bus driver Greg Link's Xmas tree
    help in a number of areas if they want to be competitive in the 10 day tournament. They look eerily similar to the Saskatoon Blades from 2013. That was a mess. It didn't look much better in 2016 in Red Deer. I am sure Pats GM John Paddock has a few tricks up his sleeve come trade deadline day, but he is going to have to make a massive splash in an effort for the host team to be competitive against the champions of the three leagues. 
  • The radio set-up in Brandon was excellent. Hard line Internet, wireless Internet and a PA feed. Speaking of the PA announcer in Brandon, how good is he? The clarity in his voice is outstanding. Not over the top, even if the Wheat Kings score, his pronunciation of the visiting players was textbook terrific. Where opposition players names are often butchered, it doesn't happen in Brandon. Internet high 5!!!
  • The Rockets had a team building exercise when they went curling Monday afternoon. Have you ever tried curling or believe those that participate at the highest level are not athletes? Think again and try it yourself. It isn't easy.
  • Does the WHL hand out a fine for comments made by Prince George head coach Richard Matvichuk towards two referee's following Sunday's overtime loss to the Victoria Royals? In the radio post game show, Matvichuk teed off on both Chris Crich and Nick Swaine. My takeaway from his comments? He wouldn't want either to do a pee-wee game. Have a good day and keep warm!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Eastern swings starts with mixed results


Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets are 1 and 1 after two games on an Eastern Division road trip. It all started Friday night with a 7-5 win in Regina before suffering a 7-4 loss Saturday night in Brandon. Both games were up tempo, with several solid performances from players that must elevate their play with the loss of Dillon Dube, Cal Foote and Kole Lind next week to Hockey Canada's training camp. Here is my take on both games.
  • Winning the opening game Friday night against Regina wasn't a must, but it sure was a solid way to begin a road trip where fatigue will play a factor. The real concern for the Rockets in the opening game against the Pats was getting over the road fatigue after a 14 hour bus ride. While the team split the trip into two-7 hour segments, it still adds up to having bus legs when the puck dropped at the Brandt Centre. The Pats opened the scoring with the Teddy Bear Toss goal just four minutes into the game and it looked like a long night for the visitors. But give the team credit for bouncing back. With rookie goaltender James Porter Junior struggling and Pats veteran Tyler Brown no better at the other end, it was a clear advantage for the shooters who entertained the crowd with 7 - first period goals.  
  • The Rockets coaching staff deserve credit for pulling Porter when they did. While it is never ideal to yank your starter so early in the game, the 17 year-old was replaced by 16 year-old Roman Basran after giving up 4 goals on 14 shots. It paid off, as the Rockets scored the next four goals and took over the game. While head coach Jason Smith pulled Porter, Pats head coach John Paddock, surprisingly, did not remove Tyler Brown until it was too late. After surrendering 6 goals on 25 shots, the 20 year-old was relieved by backup Max Paddock.
  • Leif Mattson was named the first star in Friday's win. The second year forward showed great hand-eye coordination on his second goal by deflecting a Libor Zabransky shot past Brown. What made the goal so impressive was Zabransky's shot at chest level was going significantly wide of the net before Mattson pulled it back to deflect it home. Mattson almost had the hat-trick, but his wrist shot in the third period hit the cross bar. 
  • Nolan Foote also had a solid game with two goals and a fight. Foote displayed his quick release and showed why he scored 19 goals in his 16 year-old season. Foote was on the wrong end of a late third period tilt with Pats forward Scott Mahovlich, but the fact that he stood in there and attempted to do something he isn't accustomed to doing received rave reviews from his team-mates.  
  • Carsen Twarynski scored his 20th goal of the season in the win. It matches his career high of 20 goals with the Calgary Hitmen two seasons ago. 
  • Kole Lind had his 8 game point streak snapped as the 19 year-old failed to hit the score-sheet despite a large contingent of family and friends cheering him on.
  • The Rockets were not granted a power play until .9 seconds left in the game. Not one power play until that point? With 1:03 left in regulation time, Pats forward Tanner Sidaway engaged in a fight with 20 year-old Gordie Ballhorn. Sidaway was clearly the aggressor, yet the two officials didn't hand out an instigator as Ballhorn skated away from the fight without even taking off his gloves. Ballhorn received a cross checking call before the fight started, so the Pats were granted a power play even though the home team clearly wanted to take physical liberties with the game out of reach.
  • The crowd in Regina Friday night was outstanding. Yes, it was Teddy Bear Toss night at Brandt Centre, but the 65 hundred fans packed the building and the atmosphere inside of it was excellent.    
  • After earning a solid road win against the Pats Friday night, the team took a 6 game winning streak into Saturday's road game against the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Wheat Kings were riding a 7 game winning streak. Again, the Rockets surrendered the opening goal just ;31 seconds into the game and the visitors had to gut it out to get back in the game. Who would get the ball rolling offensively? I sure didn't think 17 year-old rookie Ted Brennan would be that guy, but the soft spoken forward slide the puck past Wheat Kings goaltender Logan Thompson for his first career WHL goal. Just like that the score was tied at 1. 
  • Despite early struggles from Rockets starting goaltender James Porter, who was pulled again after surrendering 4 goals on 11 shots this time, the visitors were in a good position by building up a 3-2 lead halfway through the game. I thought the turning point came when Wheat Kings leading scorer Ty Lewis was unchecked in the neutral zone, skated in on a breakaway and scored to make it 3-3. That goal was one of three the home team would score in a span of about five minutes and it put the Rockets in a huge hole. While scoring a late power play goal to make it 5-4, the Wheat Kings sealed it with two, late third period goals and it was game over. 
  • The Rockets fired 40 shots at the Wheat Kings net and gave up only 15 shots over two periods to a team that features three dynamic forwards that can make you look silly. The big three of Tanner Kaspick, Stelio Matteos and Ty Lewis combined for four goals and 11 points in Brandon's 22nd win of the season. 
  • Second year forward Nolan Foote again found the back of the net with a beautiful power play goal in the first period to tie the score at two. Foote now has goals in four straight games, which is a far cry from the three goals he scored during a quiet stretch of 15 games earlier this season. Nolan Foote is heating up at just the right time. I thought older brother Cal was also excellent with three assists while also trying to do his best to defend a Wheat Kings team that has a lot of weapons offensively.  
  • Dillon Dube scored his 18th goal of the season Saturday night which extended his point streak to 7 games.
  • With two games under their belt, the Rockets have two days off to regroup for two tough tests mid-week against the Moose Jaw Warriors (Tuesday) and the Swift Current Broncos (Wednesday). While the Rockets lose Dillon Dube, Cal Foote and Kole Lind to Hockey Canada, the Warriors lose forward Brett Howden while the Broncos will play without 35 goal scorer Tyler Steenbergen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Rockets/Wheat Kings preview

Liam Kindree - Shoot the Breeze Photography
Game Night Preview: May the force be with you! The Kelowna Rockets face the Brandon Wheat Kings for the one and only time this season. These two teams met last season in Kelowna (Dec 3rd) with the Rockets earning a 3-1 win. Nick Merkley scored the ‘Teddy Bear Toss’ goal while Brodan Salmond made 17 saves in the victory. The Rockets last appearance in Brandon was December 12, 2015 in a 5-1 loss. Lucas Johansen scored the lone goal for the visitors, who were out-shot 41-36 in the game. The last win in Brandon came December 13, 2013 in a 6-5 overtime win. Trailing 5-3 with 2:20 remaining, the Rockets made it a 5-4 game with :38 seconds remaining and then tied it with 9 seconds left in regulation time. Myles Bell won it in overtime at 2:52.

Eastern Division Success: The Rockets were 3-3-0-0 in 2015. The team was an impressive 6-0-0-0 in 2013 and 2-2-0-2 in 2011. They were 3-3-0-0 in 2009. In 2007, the team played only five games on an Eastern Division swing (excluding Swift Current) in December and sported a record of 3-1-0-1. The last time the Rockets failed to go on its bi-annual Eastern Division road trip was 2005. In 2003, the team was 5-0-0-0 but again did not play Swift Current on that road swing. In 2001, the team was 0-4-1-0 in five games.

Eastern Conference Roady: The team is playing game two of an Eastern Division road trip, which started last night in Regina. The team is in Moose Jaw Tuesday December 12th, Wednesday December 13th in Swift Current, December 15th in Prince Albert and concludes December 16th in Saskatoon.  The Rockets were 3-3-0-0 in the 6 games in 2015-2016 with wins in Regina, Swift Current and Moose Jaw. The team is playing 6 games in 9 nights.

Broadcasters Notebook: Leif Mattson was acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings October 6, 2016 for an 8th round bantam pick. Mattson, one of only two Manitoba born player on the roster, was an 8th round bantam pick of the Wheat Kings in 2014 …Kyle Topping and Libor Zabrasky are both rated as ‘C’ prospects for June’s NHL draft by NHL Central Scouting. Topping was not on the ‘Players to Watch’ list in October before appearing in November’s rankings…The Rockets have won 10 straight games on home ice with wins over Portland, Tri City, Prince George (twice), Vancouver, Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Kootenay….The Rockets played their 16 hundredth regular season game in franchise history November 3rd in Victoria in a 4-2 win……The Rockets are 4 and 2 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind, Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice). The only loss in OT came against the Tri City Americans and Portland Winterhawks…The Rockets are 7-3-1-0 in the second of back-to-back games….The Rockets are 9-3-0-0 against BC Division teams this season….The Rockets are 12-0-0-1 when leading after 2 periods…The Rockets are 14-1-1-1 when scoring the first goal of the game…Dillon Dube, Cal Foote and Kole Lind will leave for the Hockey Canada’s main camp following tonight’s game against the Wheat Kings. The Rockets have sent 15 players to represent Canada in the prestigious event including five staff. Marcel Comeau and Marc Habscheid were head coaches while Ryan Huska was an assistant. Jeff Truitt was a video coach for Canada. Scott Hoyer and Jeff Thorburn were members of Hockey Canada’s training staff.

Hockey Hotbed: The Kelowna Rockets are in their 27th year of existence since coming into the Western Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1991. After four seasons in Tacoma, the team relocated to Kelowna in 1995-96, where the team has spent the last 22 years in the Okanagan. The team has four WHL championships (2003, 2005, 2009, 2015) and have missed the playoffs only once in their existence. The hockey club has made four straight appearances in the Western Conference final and has registered 40 or more wins in five consecutive seasons.

Milestones: Head Coach Jason Smith coached his 100th career regular season game against the Kootenay Ice on December 2nd…Carsen Twarynski played in his 200th career game October 28th against the Prince George Cougars…James Hilsendager plays in his 200th career game November 14th vs. Oil Kings. 

Roster Stats:
Player total: 26
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 10  Porter, Foote, Belcourt, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran
NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rockets roll into Regina

James Hilsendager - Shoot the Breeze Photo
Game Night Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open an Eastern Division road trip Friday with a stop in Regina against the Pats. It is the first time these two teams have met since a three player trade between the two teams November 30/2016 when the Rockets sent 17 year-old Jonathan Smart to the ‘Queen City’ for 17 year-old forward Erik Gardiner and 19 year-old James Hilsendager. Smart has since been traded to Kootenay while Hilsendager is one of three 20 year-old’s on the Rockets roster. Gardiner remains sidelined with an upper body injury. Hilsendager has been the biggest surprise in the trade with 11 goals and 23 assists=34 points in 73 career games in Kelowna. With the Pats, Hilsendager had 1+17=18 in 135 regular season games

Eastern Conference Roady: The team begins an Eastern Division road trip tonight in Regina, It continues December 9th in Brandon, December 12th in Moose Jaw, December 13th in Swift Current, December 15th in Prince Albert and concludes December 16th in Saskatoon.  The Rockets were 3-3-0-0 in the 6 games in 2015-2016 with wins in Regina, Swift Current and Moose Jaw. Team is playing 6 games in 9 nights.

Sasky Boyz: The Kelowna Rockets feature four players and two staff that have ties to Saskatchewan. Kaedan Korczak is from Yorkton. James Hilsendager is from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan while Erik Gardiner is from Humboldt. Kole Lind is from Shaunavon. Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer is from Regina while broadcaster Regan Bartel is from Swift Current.

Broadcasters Notebook: Head Coach Jason Smith played 128 regular season games for the Pats from 1991-1993. Smith was the team captain in 1992-93 scoring 14 goals and collecting 66 points and was named the WHL defenceman of the year, was named a CHL 1st team all-star and won a gold medal for Canada at the World Junior’s The Rockets have shorthanded goals in four of their last five games…Forward Erik Gardiner has missed 14 straight games with injury. Gardiner last played October 28th against the Prince George Cougars….Leading scorer Kole Lind had missed 7  straight games with mono but returned Saturday with a goal and an assist in a win over Kootenay…Kyle Topping and Libor Zabrasky are both rated as ‘C’ prospects for June’s NHL draft by NHL Central Scouting. Topping was not on the ‘Players to Watch’ list in October before appearing in November’s rankings…The Rockets have won 10 straight games on home ice with wins over Portland, Tri City, Prince George (twice), Vancouver, Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Kootenay….The Rockets played their 16 hundredth regular season game in franchise history November 3rd in Victoria in a 4-2 win…Carsen Twarynski has 15 goals in his last 16 games….James Porter has started in 18 of the last 22 games…The Rockets are 4 and 2 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind, Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice). The only loss in OT came against the Tri City Americans and Portland Winterhawks…The Rockets are 7-3-1-0 in the second of back-to-back games….The Rockets are 9-3-0-0 against BC Division teams this season….The Rockets are 12-0-0-1 when leading after 2 periods…The Rockets are 14-1-1-1 when scoring the first goal of the game…Dillon Dube has goals in four of his last five games.

Hockey Hotbed: The Kelowna Rockets are in their 27th year of existence since coming into the Western Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1991. After four seasons in Tacoma, the team relocated to Kelowna in 1995-96, where the team has spent the last 22 years in the Okanagan. The team has four WHL championships (2003, 2005, 2009, 2015) and have missed the playoffs only once in their existence. The hockey club has made four straight appearances in the Western Conference final and has registered 40 or more wins in five consecutive seasons.

Milestones: Head Coach Jason Smith coached his 100th career regular season game against the Kootenay Ice on December 2nd…Carsen Twarynski played in his 200th career game October 28th against the Prince George Cougars…James Hilsendager plays in his 200th career game November 14th vs. Oil Kings.  

Roster Stats:
Player total: 26
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 10  Porter, Foote, Belcourt, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran

NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Monday, December 4, 2017

Smith reaches 100!

Jason Smith hits 100 game benchmark - Shoot the Breeze Photography
It has never been about Jason Smith. It wasn't about him as a player. It isn't about him as a head coach. Smith is the ultimate team guy. Always has been. Always will be. That said, as a broadcaster, my intent was to draw more out of him in a pre-game interview as the 44 year-old reached 100 games coached in the Western Hockey League prior to his team hitting the ice Saturday night in a 5-2 win over Kootenay. In what I would consider my best interview with him to date, Smith reflected back on his first game behind the Kelowna Rockets bench, a 9-2 road loss last season to the Kamloops Blazers.
"To get to 100 games, it's been great. I have been around a great bunch of kids and work with great people, so it makes it a lot of fun to do it. You are managing personalities and people and are trying to get the best results out of the players you have. I hope I am a better coach than I was back then". 
Smith is an intimidating figure when you meet him for the first time. He was a hard nosed player in the NHL and you can still see the intensity in his eyes even as a coach. But I've had the privileged of seeing the more human side of Smith, which comes with time and trust between coach and broadcaster. 
"I think as a player you acquire knowledge from coaches and now as a coach yourself, you want to pass on that knowledge I acquired to the players. The guts of hockey is about hard work and how well you play as a team to bring you success. You can be as skilled as you want and play as an individual, but the chances are your team won't have success. Experience of playing is something that you can't read in a book. You can't explain what being in the heat of the battle is unless you've done it". 
I always wondered how someone so intense as a player is able to turn it off as a coach, or at least managing it better when you can't take your frustration out in a physical manner while standing behind the bench as a head coach wearing a suit and tie. 
"At the start, there were some games where I was too emotional and got a bit wound up, not with the players but the referee's", Smith said with a chuckle. "I want to try and give direction and our staff wants to give direction to these kids in a positive way. We want them to be a positive factor once they leave here". 
Under Jason Smith, the Rockets are 62-30-7-1 after 100 games.
Congrats coach, on the milestone.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Opening December with road win

Shoot the Breeze Photography

  • James Porter Junior's mom and dad were featured on the 'Kiss Cam' Friday night in Spokane. On cue, they proudly displayed their affection for one another. On the ice, 17 year-old son James was proudly displaying his goaltending skills by making several five alarm saves in the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 road win. Porter was especially good early in the game when it was scoreless and allowed his team to find their footing for their fourth consecutive win. Porter, named the third star, was extremely quick down low and made several stops look easy including a low glove hand grab on Chiefs forward Jared Anderson-Dolan in the second period on a nice setup from Riley Woods. Overall, Porter's rebound control, which is still a work in progress, is getting better by the game. That is good news for the Rockets and not so good news for the opposition.
  • While the Chiefs opened the scoring with 1:04 left in the first period, you had the feeling that the Rockets were dialed in and would eventually stop the bleeding. The passing was better. The work ethic was there and despite failing to score on two early power play chances, you could tell as a group, the chances of success by winning in a building where they lost 6-2 just nine days ago was very high. While again getting into penalty trouble, specifically in the second and third period, the penalty killing unit was terrific. Shot blocking. Attempting to get into shooting lanes and getting pucks on sticks destined for the Rockets net made for a frustrating night for the Chiefs. 
  • Carsen Twarynski scored his team leading 19th goal of the season to open the scoring for the visitors. The 20 year-old's laser beam wrister from just inside the blue-line caught everyone by surprise including the Chiefs starting goaltender. Nolan Foote had a similar shot that went glove hand side to make the score 2-1. The third goal of the period was the one I really liked considering the Rockets rarely score that way. The puck was centered in front of the Chiefs net by Kyle Topping. Dillon Dube whacked at it before line-mate Liam Kindree banged it home for a 3-1 lead. Those goal mouth scramble goals, which many teams are able to manufacture against the Rockets, are the ones I wish the team was able to execute more often. They won't make the high-lite reel, but it often demonstrates the hunger level or willingness to generate offense, rather than always looking for the picture perfect pass or perimeter shot attempt.
  • Dillon Dube is simply dialed in right now. He is scary good. Many players can skate fast, but Dube can do it with the puck. The shorthanded goal he scored Friday night was a beauty on a two-on-one with Connor Bruggen-Cate. Dube held onto the puck, waited for Chiefs d-man Ty Smith to slid by him in an effort to cut off a pass, and then wired a wrist shot low to the blocker side of Spokane netminder Donavan Buskey. It was the Rockets 4th shorthanded goal in four games and 6th this season. The Brandon Wheat Kings lead the league with 9.
  • Speaking of Dube, I was watching him in the morning skate and how he works on individual skills once the team drills are over. Is that why he is so good? I think so. Whether it's working on one-timers or continuing to improve the edges in his skating, it is that type of focus which translates into games. The preparation to perform at an above average level doesn't start at 5 pm when the player arrives at the rink. Dube's day starts much earlier. It would be great for other younger players to pick up on what the 19 year-old is doing. Being productive in practice is something that the Calgary Flames second rounder has perfected. 
  • How about Rockets rookie Colum McGauley attempting to fight Chiefs tough guy Riley McKay? McKay leads the WHL in fighting majors with 8, but the 17 year-old McGauley didn't care. In a quick tilt where neither player had the upper hand, McGauley deserves some props for electing to fight McKay, who had 17 tilts a season ago.  
  • Ty Smith again impressed me last night. The 17 year-old is so good with his decision making. The Spokane Chiefs d-man appeared to be more active offensively in last night's game which makes him a duel threat. I think he is a terrific player who is guaranteed to be taken in the opening round of June's draft. My hope is Rockets rookie d-man Kaedan Korczak can eventually become close to what Smith has evolved into. With more playing time and an additional boost in confidence, I think the now 16 year-old can become a threat at both ends of the ice in his sophomore season. Right now it's best that Korczak keeps his game simple. The 'Kiss Principle' never goes out of style. 
  • The Rockets arrived back in Kelowna in the early morning hours for a home game tonight against the Kootenay Ice. Once playoff rivals when the Ice played in the BC Division, these two teams see each other but once a a season. The Rockets want to win their 10th consecutive home game tonight while celebrating in style considering it's 'Teddy Bear Toss' night at Prospera Place. It is the final home game before embarking on a Eastern Division road trip next Friday against Regina. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Rockets/Chiefs preview

Dan Lambert as head coach of the Kelowna Rockets
Rockets/Chiefs Preview: The Kelowna Rockets are back in Spokane to face the Chiefs for the second time in 9 days. These two teams met back on November 22nd with the Chiefs earning a 6-2 win. The Rockets enjoyed a month of November where they went 8-3-1-0 in 12 games and are coming off a 5-3 win Wednesday night over the visiting Prince George Cougars. Carsen Twarynski recorded his second-three goal game of the season while Dillon Dube and Cal Foote added singles. The Rockets fired 29 shots at the Cougars net in the team’s 15th victory. The Rockets open the month of December playing 7 of 8 games on the road before the Christmas break. The team hosts Kootenay tomorrow night before embarking on an epic 6 game in 8 day road trip through the Eastern Division. The Rockets are riding a 9 game home ice winning streak.

Eastern Conference Roady: The team begins an Eastern Division road trip December 8th in Regina, December 9th in Brandon, December 12th in Moose Jaw, December 13th in Swift Current, December 15th in Prince Albert and concluding the trip December 16th in Saskatoon.  The Rockets were 3-3-0-0 in the 6 games in 2015-2016 with wins in Regina, Swift Current and Moose Jaw.

Broadcasters Notebook: Forward Erik Gardiner has missed 12 straight games with injury. Gardiner last played October 28th against the Prince George Cougars….Leading scorer Kole Lind has missed 6  straight games with mono but has recovered to the point that he may play tomorrow night against the Kootenay Ice…Kyle Topping and Libor Zabrasky are both rated as ‘C’ prospects for June’s NHL draft by NHL Central Scouting. Topping was not on the ‘Players to Watch’ list in October before appearing in November’s rankings…The Rockets have won 9 straight games on home ice with wins over Portland, Tri City, Prince George (twice), Vancouver, Red Deer, Edmonton and Lethbridge….The Rockets played their 16 hundredth regular season game in franchise history November 3rd in Victoria in a 4-2 win…Carsen Twarynski has 14 goals in his last 14 games….James Porter has started in 16 of the last 20 games…The Rockets are 4 and 2 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind, Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice). The only loss in OT came against the Tri City Americans and Portland Winterhawks…The Rockets are 6-3-1-0 in the second of back-to-back games….Hockey Canada names its training camp roster on Monday. Three Rockets (Lind/Foote/Dube) are on the radar. Dube is trying to become first Rockets player ever to play in back-to-back seasons at the world junior’s for Canada. This year’s tournament is in Buffalo, New York…The Rockets are 9-3-0-0 against BC Division teams this season….The Rockets are 10-0-0-1 when leading after 2 periods…The Rockets are 13-1-1-1 when scoring the first goal of the game.

Hockey Hotbed: The Kelowna Rockets are in their 27th year of existence since coming into the Western Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1991. After four seasons in Tacoma, the team relocated to Kelowna in 1995-96, where the team has spent the last 22 years in the Okanagan. The team has four WHL championships (2003, 2005, 2009, 2015) and have missed the playoffs only once in their existence. The hockey club has made four straight appearances in the Western Conference final and has registered 40 or more wins in five consecutive seasons.

Milestones: Head Coach Jason Smith coaches his 100th career regular season game tomorrow night against the Kootenay Ice…Carsen Twarynski played in his 200th career game October 28th against the Prince George Cougars…James Hilsendager plays in his 200th career game November 14th vs. Oil Kings. 

Roster Stats:
Player total: 26
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 10   Porter, Foote, Belcourt, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran
NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Making a bid for an NHL deal

Shoot the Breeze Photography - Carsen Twarynski
  • Carsen Twarynski wants an NHL contract. The 20 year-old also wants to be one of the most dominant players on the ice. It is fair to say the well spoken left winger took another step to realizing both after a three goals effort Wednesday night in a 5-3 win over the visiting Prince George Cougars. Twarynski scored his team leading 16th, 17th and 18th goals of the season and is two goals shy of the career high 20 he scored as a member of the Calgary Hitmen two seasons ago. The Philadelphia Flyers third round selection must be signed by this June or he becomes a free agent. Twarynski now has three career hat-tricks in his career including two this season while scoring consecutive goals in four straight games. 
  • The Rockets have been excellent starters from the opening face-off this season and Wednesday was no exception. Twarynski opened the scoring just over 4 minutes into the game and the home team was off to the races for its 9th consecutive win at Prospera Place. The Cougars scored two late third period goals in garbage time to make it look respectable, but the home team was never in danger of losing this one. The Rockets improved to 9-3-0-0 against teams in the BC Division and are now 4-0-0-0 against the Cougars. The two teams won't meet again until three games in February including two at CN Centre.
  • Is Dillon Dube better when Kole Lind isn't in the line-up? Odd statement yes, but if you look at the statistics it appears to be true. Dube scored a shorthanded goal in the first period that may be the best goal of the season by any Rockets forward. I thought Twarynski's shorthanded goal against the Medicine Hat Tigers Saturday was sweet, but Dube's 'shorty' was even better as he beat all five Cougars on the ice before scoring with a wrist shot to the top left corner of the net. Dube has points in 7 of his last 8 games and is shooting the puck way more now. In the last three games his shot total is 18. It should come as no surprise that the Calgary Flames second rounder has goals in 6 of his last 7 games and is only five goals shy from the 20 he scored a season ago.
  • Lind missed his 6th straight game while Eric Gardiner sat out his 12th consecutive. Those are two top 6 forwards that are missing from the line-up. That's a huge loss for any team.
  • I thought rookie Colum McGauley played his best game in a Rockets uniform. McGauley was way more involved in the play and made some nice passes. The 17 year-old was also awarded a penalty shot but failed to score. 
  • Liam Kindree has points in 8 of his last 10 games and continues to create offense playing with Dube and Twarynski. At one point in October the skilled forward went 10 games without a point. That's not good. Frankly it was concerning for a player who is crafty in the attacking zone and holds the highest hockey IQ of any of the Rockets first year forwards. Whoever moved him to the top line deserves a pat on the back. A skilled player like Kindree has to play with top end players, not with grinders. 
  • It was good to see Cal Foote find the back of the net. It was his first goal in 10 games. With the type of shot Foote possesses, he shouldn't go through those types of dry spells. With an assist Wednesday night, the captain is now two shy of 100 for his career.
  • Nolan Foote returned to the line-up against the Cougars after being hurt against the Lethbridge Hurricanes November 17th. Nolan also celebrated his 17th birthday Wednesday night. 
  • The game again featured American born goalies going toe-to-toe. James Porter, from Idaho, faced fellow 17 year-old rookie Isaiah DiLaura, who was born and raised in Lakeville, Minnesota. Porter was a 7th round bantam pick while DiLaura was a 8th rounder.
  • The Rockets now head to Spokane for a date with the Chiefs Friday night before playing their final home game before the Christmas break Saturday against the visiting Kootenay Ice.   
  • A terrific conversation before the game tonight with Czech Republic born forward Marek Skrvne. When approached to do an interview, he was apprehensive. Once we sat down and talked, the 18 year-old was terrific. Well spoken, smart and his English was excellent. It was one of the most impressive interviews I've conducted with a first year player this season.  
  • The Rockets closed out November with a record of 8-3-1-0 in 12 games. One word - impressive!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Basran enters Rockets record books

Roman Basran gets a hug from fellow rookie James Porter- Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • Roman Basran. Welcome to the Kelowna Rockets record books. The rookie goalie received his first career WHL start Saturday night against the Medicine Hat Tigers and delivered a flawless performance in a 4-0 win. Basran became the first 16 year-old, ever, to earn a shutout in his first career start with a 38 save performance. And yes, with a huge smile on his face he accepted the first star award at games end. Basran, a third round bantam pick of the Rockets from 2016, made several sensational saves and had Tigers leading scorer Mark Rassell's number all night long. The 20 year-old forward, who had his 8 game goal scoring streak snapped, often looked to the heavens when denied by the rookie goaltender. 
  • Basran became the first Rockets 16 year-old goaltender to start a game since Josh Lepp way back in the 2001 season. Lepp, a first round bantam pick, also faced 48 shots on October 3, 2001 but his outing didn't go so well. Lepp allowed 7 goals in a 7-5 loss to the Portland Winterhawks.
  • While Basran enters the record books, he isn't the first rookie goalie to earn a win in his first career start. Adam Brown, at the tender age of 17, won his first career start October 11, 2008 against Prince George in a 8-1 win. Brown was forced to make just 11 saves in the victory. Brown started his rookie season with 7 consecutive wins. Impressive. Jordon Cooke, also 17 at the time, made 35 saves in a 4-3 shootout victory in Everett October 10, 2010 in his first career start. Like Basran, both Brown and Cooke both saw game action in a relief appearance prior  to getting their first official start. Basran relieved James Porter in Vancouver in a 6-1 road loss last Saturday.
  • The youngest goalie ever to see game action in a Rockets uniform is Jake Morrissey. On December 16th, 2012, as an emergency call-up, Morrissey entered the game in relief of an injured Jackson Whistle in the third period. Morrissey made 7 of 10 saves in a 6-2 loss to the Calgary Hitmen.  Morrissey was only 15 at the time. 
  • Let's remember, Basran comes with much fanfare. The 16 year-old was a third round bantam pick in 2016, the highest selection the Rockets organization has made at that position since using the 4th overall pick in 2001 to claim Josh Lepp. Lepp, sadly, did not become the goaltender director of player personnel Lorne Frey envisioned. Lepp would be traded away to Red Deer before ending his career in Moose Jaw. Since Josh Lepp, Frey has been shy of taking goalies early in the draft. Jordon Cooke was a 4th round selection in 2008 and appears to be the best goaltender they've ever taken, considering the Leduc, Alberta product was a second team all-star at 19 and a first team Western Conference all-star and WHL goalie of the year at 20. We should also mention Cooke was the CHL goaltender of the year in his final season of major junior hockey.      
  • The Rockets just don't play 16 year-old goalies. They just don't like them on the roster. They are better served playing midget and Basran is no exception. The plan was for the Delta, BC product to start the season in the BCMMHL with the Okanagan Rockets, but those plans went down the toilet when 19 year-old Brodan Salmond was injured. Traditionally older goaltenders are employed by the Kelowna Rockets, with 19 and 20 year-old's being a staple in these parts. Kevin Swanson, Shane Bendera (did not play as a 20 year-old), Kelly Guard, Mark Guggenberger, Kristofer Westblom, Adam Brown, Jordon Cooke, Jackson Whistle and Michael Herringer have all played as overage goalies. In no less than six of the examples above, those goalies were all acquired via trade. Derek Yeomans would have played with the Rockets as a 20 year-old too, but he was dealt to the Seattle Thunderbirds for defenceman Clayton Barthel in a pre-season deal in 2006.
  • Ok, enough about the goaltending. Last night's 4-0 win over the Tigers was a game where Medicine Hat dominated territorally, yet the Rockets were clearly the more opportunistic team. Generating a season low 16 shots on goal, Basran made timely saves, Liam Kindree opened the scoring and the penalty killing unit was nothing short of terrific. The Tigers were granted 7 chances with the man advantage, but the PK unit kept them primarily to the outside. What surprised me was the visitors propensity to feed defenceman David Quenneville on one-timers. I get the fact that the 19 year-old can shoot it a ton, but the Rockets sniffed that play out time and time again and blocked numerous shots that the New York Islanders 7th round draft pick was trying to unload towards the goal. The shot blocking clinic was impressive, especially from Liam Kindree, Connor Bruggen-Cate and James Hilsendager to name a few.
  • Carsen Twarynski's shorthanded goal in the second period was magical. It was a work of art. Watch it on video replay. The just turned 20 year-old scored his team leading 15th goal of the season on a tremendous individual effort. It was a power move that few can pull off. It should be WHL Plays of the Week worthy. Twarynski is 5 goals shy of his career high of 20 set two seasons ago with the Calgary Hitmen. Oh, how about his hit in the third period on Tigers forward James Hamblin? Clean and crushing!!
  • Congratulations to Dillon Dube for hitting the 100 assist mark in his career. The 19 year-old now has points in 8 of his last 10 games and has goals in 5 of his last 6 games. 
  • The Rockets have won 8 consecutive games at Prospera Place. The last loss came back on October 20th in a 3-1 setback to the Portland Winterhawks.
  • The win last night moved the Rockets 7 points up on Vancouver in the fight for second place in the BC Division. The first Royals remain 6 points ahead having played two more games. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rookies answer bell in road win

Kaedan Korczak - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets coaching staff challenged the rookies to make an impact prior to Saturday’s 3-2 road win in Vancouver. Those first year players delivered in spades. Where do we start? How about 17 year-old goaltender James Porter who appeared to get increasingly better as the game went along. Named the first star, Porter made 30 saves as he helped his team snap a two game road losing streak.  
  • Marek Skrvne. Last weekend he scored his first career goal at the Langley Events Centre in a 6-1 loss. Fast forward six days later and the first year forward is involved in his first career WHL fight with Giants tough guy Darian Skeoch. Being a betting man, my belief is A) Skrvne has never Googled Hockeyfights.com or B) Skrvne has never been involved in a hockey fight of any kind growing up in the Czech Republic. What I saw from Skrvne was impressive as he stood up for teammate Kyle Topping after he was dumped by Skeoch just inside the Giants blue line. Skrvne, clearly unaware of the 6 foot 4, 216 pounds reputation, grabbed a hold of the much larger player, took off his gloves first and attempted to throw a punch. Skeoch threw no less than four solid lefts back, leaving Skrvne crumpled on the ice. But that’s not the point here. Skrvne answered the bell. The 5 foot 9 forward stepped out of his comfort zone, big time,  because he was challenged to make an impact. He showed up, didn't cower and his teammates loved him for it.  
  • Kaedan Korczak. Since returning from the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek/Fort St. John, the 16 year-old may have come back with a slight loss of confidence. That didn’t appear to be the case Saturday night though. The pride of Yorkton, Saskatchewan played a solid game on defence. Korczak was more proactive in shooting the puck from the blue line than passing it and was involved in his first career WHL fight. Korczak dropped his gloves with fellow 16 year-old Giants defenceman Bowen Byram.  Korczak showed he can handle himself as he made short work of Byram, with both defenders typically doing their best work with the gloves on, not off. Again, that isn’t the point here. The Rockets first round bantam pick from 2016 showed he can 'muscle up' if he needs and his thumbs up to the Rockets bench with a huge grin on his face after the fight was over was a tremendous ending to the spirited tilt. 
  • One pass. Yes, just one pass that caught my eye came from rookie Libor Zabransky. The 17 year-old rookie was sent a pass from his d-partner behind his own goal. Zabransky didn’t panic, took it to the side of his net and ripped a tape-to-tape pass onto the blade of Kyle Topping at centre ice. Topping skates in on an odd man rush and almost scored. What I liked about that one sequence was Zabransky’s poise with the puck. No panic. No sheepishness with it. Composure with the puck and a beautiful outlet pass that was marvelous to witness. It may be a small play for some but a significant progression as Zabransky adjusts to a smaller ice surface with bigger, older players. Again, another rookie making an impact. 
  • The Rockets took too many penalties in the game. The Giants were awarded eight power play chances. Fortunately the teams commitment to getting into shooting lanes, blocking shots and simply harassing puck carriers was nothing short of excellent. The end results had the penalty killing unit going 7 for 8 and scoring a shorthanded goal.  Carsen Twarynski celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday night by scoring his 14th goal of the season just 90 seconds into the hockey game. 
  • The Rockets are now 11-1-1-1 when they open the scoring.  
  • After two sub par efforts in a 6-1 loss to the Giants last Saturday and a 6-2 setback in Spokane Wednesday night, it will be interesting to see what this latest win does for the Rockets heading into Saturday’s home game with the high flying Medicine Hat Tigers. If the rookies can again rise to the occasion by doing anything for the greater good of the team, I can’t see why another win isn’t attainable.  

Friday, November 24, 2017

Rockets vs. Giants preview

James Porter - Shoot the Breeze Photography
Rockets/Giants Preview: This is the third of eight meetings between the Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants this season. The Rockets are 1-1-0-0 after a 5-4 overtime win back on November 10th before losing 6-1 back on November 18th. The Rockets power play is 3 for 8 (37.5%) in the seasonal series while the Giants are an impressive 5 for 7 (71.4%). In the last 26 regular season games between the two teams, the Rockets are 22-4-0-0. Following tonight’s game, these two teams don’t meet again until January 13th.  The Rockets are coming off a 6-2 loss Wednesday night in Spokane. Connor Bruggen-Cate and Carsen Twarynski scored in the setback. This is game three of a three game road trip for the Rockets (0-2-0-0), who host Central Division Medicine Hat tomorrow night. The Rockets have points in 6 of their last 9 games and overall have won 4 of their last 6 games.  

Hockey Hotbed: The Kelowna Rockets are in their 27th year of existence since coming into the Western Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1991. After four seasons in Tacoma, the team relocated to Kelowna in 1995-96, where the team has spent the last 22 years in the Okanagan. The team has four WHL championships (2003, 2005, 2009, 2015) and have missed the playoffs only once in their existence. The hockey club has made four straight appearances in the Western Conference final and has registered 40 or more wins in five consecutive seasons.

Broadcasters Notebook: The Rockets have won 7 straight games on home ice with wins over Portland, Tri City, Prince George, Vancouver, Red Deer, Edmonton and Lethbridge….The Rockets have scored 25 goals in their last 6 games….The Rockets played their 16 hundredth regular season game in franchise history Novembr 3rd in Victoria in a 4-2 win…Carsen Twarynski has 10 goals in his last 12 games….James Porter has started in 15 of the last 18 games…The Rockets are 4 and 2 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind, Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice). The only loss in OT came against the Tri City Americans and Portland Winterhawks…The Rockets are 5-3-1-0 in the second of back-to-back games….November birthdays include Kyle Topping (Nov 18th), Carsen Twarynski (Nov 24th) and Nolan Foote (Nov 29th).

Who’s Hot? Liam Kindree has 2+7=9 in his last 7 games….Kole Lind is riding a 7 game point streak (3+7=10)…Leif Mattson has goals in 7 of his last 12 games.…Kyle Topping has points in 8 of his last 13 games (5+8=13) and has points in 11 of his last 17 games…Gordie Ballhorn has points in 8 of his last 12 games (1+11=12)…Goalie James Porter is 8-2-0-1 in his last 11 starts.

Milestones: Dillon Dube is 1 assists shy of 100 in his career…Carsen Twarynski played in his 200th career game October 28th against the Prince George Cougars…James Hilsendager plays in his 200th career game November 14th vs. Oil Kings.  

Roster Stats:
Player total: 26
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 10   Porter, Foote, Belcourt, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran

NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Road woes continue

Kailer Yamamoto - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • Dan Lambert isn’t afraid to show emotion.  He often expressed himself freely with overflowing joy or disappointment when guiding the Kelowna Rockets to a WHL championship in 2015. That’s why he was so likable. So, here he was Wednesday night at Spokane’s Veteran’s Memorial Arena facing his old team for the very first time as the head coach of the Spokane Chiefs. When the buzzer sounded at games end, Lambert shook the hand of assistant Scott Burt and calmly walked off the bench after a 6-2 home ice win. What couldn’t be detected was the 47 year-old’s satisfaction that he undoubtedly felt from within after beating his old team for the first time since leaving the organization for the NHL's Buffalo Sabres back on July 6, 2015. After two short seasons in pro, Lambert was relieved of his duties but quickly caught on with the Chiefs who had a coaching vacancy when they parted ways with Don Nachbaur. Facing your old team, whether it be a player or a coach for the first time is never easy, but Lambert knows another emotional hurdle awaits him when he visits Prospera Place for the first time on January 10th.        
  • The Chiefs were the dominant team in this one with the shot clock telling the story as the home team fired 46 shots towards Rockets starter James Porter. The visitors, looking at getting back in the win column on the road for the first time since a 4-2 victory in Victoria November 3rd, fired only 11 shots at the Spokane net and only 20 at games end. The Chiefs scored two quick goals in the second period and then sealed the game with two quick strikes late in the third period.
  • Despite being out-played territorially in the opening period and being out-scored 2-0, the Rockets rallied with two quick goals from Connor Bruggen-Cate and Carsen Twarynski :16 seconds apart. But if any momentum was to be gained, neither team was affected by it. The Chiefs would remain in relative control before scoring two late-second period goals to regain a two goal edge.
  • The Rockets welcomed Dillon Dube and Jack Cowell into the line-up Wednesday after both were unable to play in last Saturday’s 6-1 loss in Vancouver. Both were held off the score-sheet, but for a team that lacks depth, those two were solid additions with the team playing its third consecutive game without leading scorer Kole Lind.
  • I think it is safe to say depth, or in the Rockets case, a lack of depth has been clearly evident the last few games. If the big horses (Dube/Lind/Twarynski/Foote) are not galloping at full speed, it is really tough to compete against elite competition. I can’t see how the Chiefs can’t be in the elite category despite struggles on home ice where they have just 5 regulation wins in 12 games. I would say the best rookie this season has been goaltender James Porter and he is significantly ahead of those teammates that are considered to be first year players. Let's hope Lind, Eric Gardiner and Nolan Foote get healthy, allowing those first year players more time to find their footing.
  • Speaking of young players, I really liked what I saw from 17 year-old Chiefs forward Eli Zummack. The Kelowna kid seems to play especially good against the Rockets, scoring the 4th goal of the game late in the second period with one second remaining. Zummack is a second round pick of the Red Deer Rebels and was obtained in the Adam Helewka trade in January, 2016. I thought if the Roockets could get out of the second period only down by one they had a chance to rally, but not adhering to clock management essentially put the game out of reach for the visitors.  
  • While fighting is down in junior hockey, it is always nice to see some rough stuff. With the game 54 minutes old, 20 year-old defenceman Gordie Ballhorn dropped the gloves behind the Rockets net with Chiefs forward Jake McGrew. For McGrew, it was his first fight in the WHL. Ballhorn has only 8 fighting major to his credit, so while slightly older than McGrew, Ballhorn is my no means a pugilist. That said, it is nice to see an older player display some anger and frustration by taking it out on an opponent. 
  • While failing to gain ground on first place Victoria, the Rockets didn't lose any either to the third place Vancouver Giants. The G-Men suffered a 5-2 loss Wednesday night to the surging Lethbridge Hurricanes.  The Rockets face the Giants Friday at the Langley Events Centre with the two teams separated by only three points. The Rockets have played one fewer game. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Rockets face old coach

Dan Lambert - Shoot the Breeze Photography
Rockets/Chiefs Preview: This is the first of four meetings between these two teams this season. The Rockets make a return visit in 9 days with a game in Spokane on December 1st. The Chiefs are in Kelowna January 10th and March 4th. In three of the four meetings last season, the games went into overtime with the Chiefs winning all three. In the last five seasons the Rockets are 4-0-2-0 at Veterans Memorial Arena and 7-1-4-0 in the last 12 regular season meetings overall. The Rockets are coming off a 6-1 loss in Vancouver Saturday night. Marek Skrvne scored the lone goal. This is game two of a three game road trip, which has the Rockets in Vancouver Friday night before hosting Medicine Hat on Saturday. The Rockets have points in 6 of their last 8 games and overall have won 4 of their last 5 games.  

Hockey Hotbed: The Kelowna Rockets are in their 27th year of existence since coming into the Western Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1991. After four seasons in Tacoma, the team relocated to Kelowna in 1995-96, where the team has spent the last 22 years in the Okanagan. The team has four WHL championships (2003, 2005, 2009, 2015) and have missed the playoffs only once in their existence. The hockey club has made four straight appearances in the Western Conference final and has registered 40 or more wins in five consecutive seasons.

Broadcasters Notebook: The Rockets face a team tonight whose coach they are very familiar with. Dan Lambert is in his first season behind the bench of the Spokane Chiefs after being hired June 7th. Lambert led the Rockets to a 2015 WHL championship before leaving the organization for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres…The Rockets have won 7 straight games on home ice with wins over Portland, Tri City, Prince George, Vancouver, Red Deer, Edmonton and Lethbridge….The Rockets have scored 23 goals in their last 5 games….The Rockets played their 16 hundredth regular season game in franchise history Novembr 3rd in Victoria in a 4-2 win…Carsen Twarynski has 9 goals in his last 11 games….James Porter has started in 14 of the last 17 games…The Rockets are 4 and 2 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind, Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice). The only loss in OT came against the Tri City Americans and Portland Winterhawks…The Rockets are 5-3-1-0 in the second of back-to-back games….November birthdays include Kyle Topping (Nov 18th), Carsen Twarynski (Nov 24th) and Nolan Foote (Nov 29th).

Who’s Hot? Liam Kindree has 2+6=8 in his last 6 games….Kole Lind is riding a 7 game point streak (3+7=10)…Leif Mattson has goals in 7 of his last 11 games.…Kyle Topping has points in 8 of his last 12 games (5+8=13) and has points in 11 of his last 16 games…Gordie Ballhorn has points in 8 of his last 11 games (1+11=12)…Goalie James Porter is 8-1-0-1 in his last 10 starts.

Milestones: Dillon Dube is 1 assists shy of 100 in his career…Carsen Twarynski played in his 200th career game October 28th against the Prince George Cougars…James Hilsendager plays in his 200th career game November 14th vs. Oil Kings.  

Roster Stats:
Player total: 26
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 10   Porter, Foote, Belcourt, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran

NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150