Monday, February 25, 2008

Hunch Pays Off

  • It’s not how you start, its how you wish. Despite being out-played territorially for the majority of the first two periods, the Rockets found themselves in a 1-1 tie heading into the third period. The final 20 minutes saw the Rockets save their best for last as they took it to the WHL’s best team – the Vancouver Giants – and it took an ugly goal from Mitch Czibere to send this game into a shootout.
  • The Rockets best player, goaltender Kristofer Westblom, was his best in the shootout stopping all three shooters he faced. While Westblom was stoning the opposition at the one end, leading scorer Colin Long – the Rockets first shooter – beat Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith with a pretty move to lift the Rockets to a 3-2 win.
  • I love the showboating of Long when he scored on Sexsmith. As he skated near the glass towards the Rockets bench he calmly looked at the crowd as they jeered him giving the appearance that ‘hey that goal was easy’.
  • It was interesting to see the three players selected to shoot for the Giants in the shootout. It wasn’t who I expected. Head Coach Don Hay picked Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Craig Schira and Mike Piluso. Neither of the three shooters could score on Westblom. I thought we’d see leading scorer Spencer Machacek and Michal Repik. That said, I am not about to question a coach that has led his team to first place in the overall standings and a 44 win season.
  • Kristofer Westblom’s performance Sunday night was the Kristofer Westblom of old. The overage goaltender’s rebound control was great. He was quick, bounced back mentally after an early error while playing the puck, and wasn’t beat cleanly on either of the two goals he gave up. The coaches went on a hunch by giving Westblom the start after recording 3 wins against the Giants this season. Sometimes a hunch pays off.
  • The win moved the Rockets within a point of Seattle for 4th place in the Western Conference with 9 games left to play. The fight for home ice advantage in the first round will undoubtedly go right down to the wire.
  • The win snapped the Rockets three game losing streak, and snapped a 6 game winless streak on the road.
  • The Rockets success against the Giants is remarkable. The Rockets have now beaten the Giants five times this season. On top of that the Giants have lost in regulation time to a BC Division team just four times this season. The Rockets have beaten them two of those times.
  • This game took nearly 3 hours to play. While it was a rough affair, with some big hits and a pane of glass that got dislodged on a Craig Cunningham hit on Colin Joe, the main reason behind the snail paced game was the national TV audience watching at home. Sportsnet broadcasted Sunday's game. The telecast didn’t keep Giants fans away though, as a crowd of over 14 thousand took in the game.

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