Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rockets Win 7th Straight

  • You have to hand it to Cody Almond for his tremendous play in the second half of the season. Almond, the games first star with a goal and two assists in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Prince George is logging a ton of ice time as a point man on the power play, is manufacturing offense on a regular shift and is contributing on the penalty killer. But why is Almond that much better than he was in the first half? Does team Psychologist Murray Smith deserve any credit for Almond’s second half transformation? Smith met with several players on the teams trip through Saskatchewan in December, and the time spent with Almond may have had a huge impact on his play. Almond’s struggles in the first half had nothing to do with physical ability - the tools are there - but a mental tweaking by Doc Smith has Almond looking like a new player.
  • Speaking of being in a good place mentally, Brady Leavold is playing the best hockey of his career, which is evident by his career high 8 game point streak. Leavold collected another two assists Saturday night, giving him a career high 40 points this season. Playing on the Rockets number one line, Leavold is showing us skill, grit, determination and leadership now that captain James McEwan is out with an injury. Let’s just say the trade for Leavold is the best deal the Rockets made this season. Funny thing is it was the only trade for a player the Rockets made this season.
  • It was nice to see Collin Bowman score his first WHL goal Saturday night in Prince George. Bowman came out of the penalty box, skated into the offensive zone and let a laser beam go, beating Cougars goaltender Ian Curtis high over the shoulder. The shot would have made Bowman’s brother Drayson proud down in Spokane.
  • The Rockets were 4-0-0-0 in Prince George this season, out-scoring the Cougars 27-5.
  • The Rockets have now scored the most goals of any team in the Western Hockey League. The 11 goal outburst Friday quickly moved them to the top of the pack, while surpassing the team’s goal total from all of last season. The Rockets have now scored 13 more goals than one year ago.
  • The Rockets have eight players with 10 or more goals this season. Last year the team had 6 players with 10 or more goals. The big six were Almond, Bernhardt, Lucas Bloodoff, Long, Ray and Myles MacRae.
  • When was the last time the Rockets led the WHL in goals scored? It was the 2002-2003 season when the team scored a league high 311 times. No other team scored over 300 goals that season.
  • A fan suggested to me the other day that this year’s team is the most entertaining to ever play in Kelowna. I couldn’t argue with that suggestion, but I am wondering if we are simply appreciating the skill level this year after seeing a team last season that won just 22 times? While coach Huska is allowing his troops to explore the creative side in the offensive zone this season, look for the Rockets to show even more attention to detail defensively as the playoffs approach. Having fun in the offensive zone is one thing, but having the ability to shut down the opposition with solid defense in the playoffs is another.
  • Whether you are announcing games on the radio, or are the public address announcer in the arena, you need to be on your toes. Saturday night the public address announcer made a major gaff when he began to speak after the Cougars opening goal of the game. Instead of crediting Cougars forward Parker Stanfield – who wears sweater number 26 - with the goal, he looked at the wrong lineup and credited Rockets defenseman Tysen Dowzak with the Cougars first goal of the game. He even went as far as credited another Rocket for the assist before realizing he had made a mistake. Maybe it came naturally for him after announcing 11 Rockets goals the night before in an 11-1 win by the visitors?

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