Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hulk-Like Performance

  • "You won't like me when I'm angry". I am not sure if those exact words came out of the mouth of Kelowna Rockets forward Jamie Benn over the course of last night's game, but the 19 year-old had a Hulk-like performance in a 6-1 road win over the Kamloops Blazers Tuesday night. Benn scored three times, leading the Rockets to their 30th win of the season and 500th as a franchise since it re-located to Kelowna for the start of the 1995-96 season.

  • Benn scored once on the power play, once shorthanded and once even strength. Benn now has 34 goals on the season, one more than he had all of last season. In case your wondering, it's Benn's second career hat-trick. Benn had three goals against Lethbridge November 1st.

  • It may have been Mikael Backlund's best game in a Rockets uniform. The 19 year-old, playing in just his 11th game, collecting a goal and an assist in the win. Backlund's goal may have been the best of the game, as he skated hard on right wing, protected the puck with his body, yet with a defenseman draped over him somehow lifted the puck high over the blocker side of Blazers goaltender Justin Leclerc.

  • It was great to see Curt Gogol score his first WHL goal. Playing on the Rockets 4th line, Gogol did a nice job of winning a puck inside the Blazers zone and wiring one between the legs of Leclerc to make it 6-1. Gogol made it look like it was his 20th of the season instead of his first. It was simply nice to see a foot soldier be rewarded for his effort and hustle by getting a goal he will always remember. Gogol has done whatever it takes to be a regular, and it was nice to see him on the score-sheet.

  • The Rockets effort Tuesday reminded me a bit of the Vancouver Giants. The Giants often let you play with them for a period or two, and then ramp up their game and bury you with their work ethic and skill in the third. The Rockets and Blazers were scoreless after one period, but the Rockets began to take over by scoring 6 unanswered after the home team opened the scoring early in the second frame. The Rockets allowed just 11 shots over the final 40 minutes while out-shooting the home team 14-2 in the final frame.

  • The Rockets now have points in 6 straight games and moved 8 points up on the Blazers for 4th place in the Western Conference. The Rockets also have 3 games in hand.

  • The Rockets played this game without Kyle St. Denis, who took the pre-game warm up. St. Denis will make his return Friday night against the Everett Silvertips. Forward Ian Duval will also return Friday from a concussion.

  • Defenseman Aaron Borejko sat this one out with a upper body injury.

  • Veteran Tysen Dowzak played in his 200th WHL game Tuesday night in Kamloops. Dowzak's first WHL goal came against the Kootenay Ice in his 17 year-old season. Two current NHL'ers assisted on his first goal. Blake Comeau (Islanders) and Alex Edler (Canucks) drew the assists.

  • Pat Smith was the lone referee in this game, and he was solid. In my opinion Smith is a way better referee when he calls the game alone than under the two referee system. He didn't get involved and let the two teams be the focal point before being proactive once the play got chippy and the score got out of reach. I'll take the 'one referee Pat Smith' over the 'two referee Pat Smith' any day of the week.

  • The Rockets are now 6-0-0-0 against the Blazers this season. Game seven of the 9 game seasonal series is Saturday night in Kelowna.

  • Everett Silvertips head coach John Becanic and his players took in last night's game at Interior Savings Centre.I don't know who is a more personable coach, Becanic or Ryan Huska? Both realize that the media are not the enemy.

  • The funny story of the night came off the ice where Rockets captain Colin Long mistakenly forgot his dress cloths back in Kelowna when the bus left Prospera Place. So Long was forced to call up Blazers forward C.J Stretch, a buddy of his, and asked him if he could bring down a suit that he could wear into the arena once he arrived. Despite the rivalry between the two teams, Stretch helped out his 'California cousin' and brought Long some dress clothes so he didn't look out of place. What a great guy! Who says the Rockets and Blazers can't get along. First the Rockets help the Blazers by providing transportation for their coach and players who are storm stayed in Vancouver following the Christmas break, and now they are sharing clothes with one another. What's next, a block-buster trade between the two teams?
Radio NL is celebrating 25 years of covering Kamloops Blazers hockey by bring together the three radio voices that have been behind the mic calling their games over the years. Kirk Fraser (far left), is joined by Jeff Patterson (middle), and Kelly Moore (right). The three each called a period of Tuesday night's game and will do the same tonight when the Blazers host the Everett Silvertips. I thought it was a very cool idea to bring the three together to share the airwaves and likely reminisce a little on the teams they've covered over the years.
Jamie Benn is named the games #1 star.

Any clue who these Rockets fans are? They wouldn't read this blog would they? Could this picture have been taken during a lacklustre first period? Truth be told, the pic was taken in the intermission. Your on candid camera.You don't see it often, but a female Zamboni driver is cleaning the ice at the Interior Saving Center. The same holds true in Kent Washington.


hocus_lopez said...

Is this team strong enough to make a long run into the playoffs? IMO, it's too early to tell. there are still questions with the D being too young and inexperienced. However, the philosophical underpinnings that this team is built on (that would be Offense, with a capital "O") is starting to come together.

As has been well documented the trades were made to out score the opponents this year (not keep them from scoring). Right now that is starting to happen. The Rockets have 2 lines that could arguably be the #1 line for any team in the league. With the third line startng to gel this becomes a very dangerous team.

What I really like about this team is that the opposition has very difficult decisions in how contain the Rockets O. Do they put the checking line on Benn/Long/Novo or Blacklud/Almond/Duval? Can they ignore Callahan/St D/Bloodoffs?

Unlike last year, the points are coming from a myriad of sources. If they can avoid a red hot goaltender, I expect this "team" to continue to roll, and for all of the guys to make a significant contribution towards team success.

Regan Bartel said...

I will say one thing hocus lopez, the Rockets are sure spending significant time in the offensive zone these days. But in saying that, I especially like how the forwards are coming back in the d-zone. I know it's usually the centerman's responsibility, but Long and Backlund are involved in going deep in their zone to help out when things get hectic.
What are your thoughts on a Benn-Long- St Denis line down the road? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Karen said...

Kelowna also has a female Zamboni driver

Regan Bartel said...

I know they have a female on the ice crew staff, yet I've never seen her behind the wheel. If so...awesome.

hocus_lopez said...

First of all , it's great news St D will be returning. However, like anything, someone can always find a problem with the change. In the case of St D, the issue is where do you play him.

The first and second lines are starting to come to together and show some chemistry (which has been missing since the start of the season). I think Huska will be very reluctant to move too many guys around when he is finally starting to see some consistent scoring/progress. Moreover, the PP is FINALLY starting to click again (remember how great it was at the start of the season, and then after some tweaking it started to sputter. IMO, we're just finally starting to see the resurrection of the Rockets' vaunted PP).

All that being said, Huska cannot waste a talent like ST D. His first few games back will see him taking most of his time on the PP (I think he'll see time on the unit with Long/Benn/Barrie/Meyers) and a few regular shifts.

As for the regular shifts, I can see him playing with Long and Benn. Novo's been good with them, but I believe Long and Benn can help take the pressure off of St D's return. Further, all three forwards can finish and move well without the puck, so they should compliment each other by creating a lot of movement that will be difficult to defend against.

Id'd also argue that the size of Almond/Blacklund/Duval will force the other teams to play their physical checking lines against these players which should open it up for a line of L/B/S (the pound line).

As for the movement of Novo, he's proven to be a good high energy performer that can play at a scoring and checking role. I think he'll do well on any of the top three lines.

Again, I'm just a guy that watches hockey so this is all just wind in sail.

Sherri-lynn said...

Yes Regan we do read your Blog. My dad and I decided to go for a quick road trip to kamloops from Kelowna. It's nice to see we were noticed( I felt like an alien but thats ok. we wear Our Rockets gear with pride) besides the 4 people who talked to us. One was the gentelman behind us who when I asked if he was gonna switch teams he pointed out it was enough to be seen talking with us LOL. One was a secret rocket fan from Kamloops, and his friend from Kelowna. The last and my favorite was after the game Roger the bus driver.I had an amazing father daughter bonding trip and so Thank-you for making it better.