Sunday, December 30, 2007

McEwan's Season in Doubt

  • James McEwan’s season may be over. The 20 year-old captain of the Kelowna Rockets is undergoing surgery in Vancouver this morning after suffering a sever cut to his forearm in last night’s game against the Vancouver Giants. McEwan’s arm was cut during a 1st period fight with Giants enforcer Garet Hunt. It’s uncertain if McEwan was cut by the skate blade of Hunt or the linesman as the two fell to the ice. McEwan originally went to the penalty box after the tilt was over, and then noticed the severity of the cut, and was rushed to the hospital. Only surgery today will determine if any tendons were cut in the unfortunate accident. The injury came while McEwan was celebrating his 200th WHL game.
  • It was nothing unusual to see McEwan and Hunt fighting in last night’s game. It was the 6th time the two have squared off in just two short seasons.
  • While we are on the subject of fighting, I have to give props to 19 year-old Rockets defenseman Colin Joe. Joe stood up for teammate Myles MacRae, who was hit heavily into the boards by Garet Hunt in the 3rd period. Joe was overmatched going into the fight with Hunt, and took a huge right hand to the head that knocked Joe to the ice. While the fight was lopsided, Joe deserves credit for even thinking of dropping the gloves with a skilled fighter like Hunt. Some question Joe’s smarts in getting into hand-to-hand combat with Hunt, but I call Joe’s attempt to defend a teammate as nothing short of courageous.
  • Cody Almond was the best Rocket in last night’s game. While Almond scored both of the Rockets goals, the 18 year-old was involved in the play, was strong defensively, and got into a nice fight with Giants forward Lance Bowma. When Almond competes hard, he’s an impact player. On this night he was worthy of 3rd star status.
  • The Giants power play feasted on the Rockets poor penalty killing unit. Four of the Giants five goals were scored on the power play. The power play goal that took the Rockets out of the game came when the Rockets had scored to make it a 3-2 game. Rockets forward Matt Brusciano would take a late 2nd period penalty, and the Giants would score with the man advantage, taking a 4-2 lead into the second intermission.
  • Without Luke Schenn and Tyson Barrie to quarterback the power play, Rockets head coach Ryan Huska elected to use Cody Almond and Kyle St. Denis on the point. The five forward’s on the power play was a different look, and the puck movement was impressive.
  • Two Giants really impressed me last night. Newcomer Garry Nunn showed some good speed, energy and skill. Nunn left the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies for the WHL this season, and the move has paid off for the former line-mate of Rockets forward Jamie Benn. Nunn is a little guy out there, but in today’s WHL game, even the small-skilled players can excel at this level. Nunn is a good example of that.
  • Who is Craig Shira? The Rockets know full well after Shira scored two power play goals in last night’s win. Shira was acquired by the Giants from Regina this season, and logged a ton of ice time as the Giants played without Jon Blum, who is playing for the U.S at the World Juniors. Schira was worthy of the number one star.
  • While last night’s game saw the Rockets on the losing end of a 5-2 game, falling to a team like Vancouver isn’t all bad. It gives the Rockets a wake up call on what it takes to play with the top end teams in the WHL. I am not discrediting the Rockets recent success on a Eastern Conference road trip, but games against Prince Albert and Saskatoon just don’t hold a candle to the type of work ethic, intensity and error free hockey a team must play in order to have success against the top end team’s in the WHL. The Giants are undoubtedly still the team to beat out West.
  • The Rockets elected to stay in Vancouver overnight, and will ring in the New Year here before busing into Chilliwack for Monday night’s game against the Bruins.
  • It's sad that a busy WHL schedule often times doesn’t allow us the opportunity to know the personnel on the opposing team. But with the Rockets spending the night in Vancouver, I didn’t have to rush out of the building to catch a waiting bus. Instead I had a great conversation with Giants Equipment Manager Grant Ferguson. Over the years I have crossed paths with Ferguson, but have never talked to him. When I broke into the WHL in 1995, Ferguson was with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He would eventually move on to the Victoria Salmon Kings before returning to the WHL with the Giants organization. My conversation with Ferguson was a lengthy one, and gave me a better appreciation for an individual who I’ve seen for years, but have never taken the time to chat with.

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