Thursday, April 30, 2009

Random Pic's

A pic from inside our car near Banff Thursday night. Yep, its snowing in Alberta on April 30th. I call it a good omen. In 2003, the Rockets first trip to the league final against Red Deer, it snowed.
The Rockets are receiving some solid support from local businesses along Harvey Avenue.
B-P's also joins the hype.
Rockets director of player personnel Lorne Frey 'stars' on Monday's Shaw TV broadcast. The picture is taken of the monitor below our radio broadcast location.

Rockets Pick Two Forwards

The Kelowna Rockets had the 17th overall pick in today's Western Hockey League bantam draft and selected Abbotsford BC resident Jason Siebert. Siebert is a right winger.
In round two the Rockets picked centerman Colton Heffley from my hometown, Swift Current Saskatchewan.

Before I Hit The Road...

  • The Kelowna Rockets won't beat the Calgary Hitmen in too many categories, but the Rockets have the bragging rights in one area. After the Western Hockey League trading deadline the Rockets ended up with more wins and more points than the Hitmen. The Rockets were 22-4-1-3 after the trade deadline, good for 48 points. The Hitmen were 21-3-0-2 after the trade deadline, good for 44 points. But lets not forget that the Rockets played 30 games after the deadline while the Hitmen played just 26 times. Both teams were solid from January 10th on.
  • Since 2000, five teams have won the Western Hockey League title with 47 wins or fewer. The last team to win the league title with the same number of wins as the Rockets had this season were the Vancouver Giants, who had 47 victories during the regular season before beating Moose Jaw in 2006. The 2005 Rockets won a WHL title with just 45 wins during the regular season. Medicine Hat had 40 wins in 2004, while Kootenay had 38 victories before capturing the title in 2002. Kootenay also had 44 wins before winning the league in 2000.
  • The Rockets can't touch the Hitmen when it comes to points, wins and goals scored.The Hitmen had 12 more wins and 13 fewer losses than the Rockets during the regular season.
  • The Rockets scored 63 fewer goals and allowed 19 more against than the Hitmen.
  • The Hitmen scored 36 more power play goals than the Rockets during the regular season, and also had 21 more chances with the extra man.
  • The Hitmen had nine players with 50 or more points while the Rockets had just five.
  • The Rockets had five - 20 goal scorers this season. The Hitmen had 7.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Speaking to Richard Doerksen On The Myers Hit

Here is my conversation with Richard Doerksen this afternoon on the Tyler Myers hit.

"First of all we spent a great deal of time upon our return to the office Tuesday reviewing the hit. Obviously any time a major penalty is accessed in our league it comes under review to warrant or to determine if their should be a suspension. In reviewing this particular hit, and being in the replay booth where we had the option of watching it immediately after the hit occurred, our assessment of the penalty is it should have been a double minor for checking from behind similar to the hit on (Evan) Bloodoff of Kelowna where Toigo is accessed a double minor for checking from behind. When we originally brought in checking from behind we had a two minute penalty, a major and a game misconduct or a match penalty. We felt that sometimes players turn at the last second and the player coming in to make a hit has no alternative and unfortunately gets him in the back, so we did not think it was fair that if that player was injured, he (the offending player) would be thrown out of the game, consequently we adopted the double minor for checking from behind so that player would still be penalized but he would not be thrown out of the game. In reviewing this particular situation, certainly it is our opinion, and that includes the director of officiating, assistant director of officiating and the two referee's that had a chance to see it on tape later, that the correct call should have been a double minor for checking from behind. Of course I am deeply concerned any time a player gets injured in our league, but to keep consistent with my past decisions, we have not suspended a player for receiving a double minor for checking from behind if that player did turn just before he got hit. While their is no suspension on this play, I think it needs further discussion at our league level and we may have to consider changing that stance in the future and discuss whether we should suspend the player if the player gets hurt very seriously from a double minor penalty."

It's been suggested that the penalty was looked at differently because it was the playoffs, but you don't buy that?

"Anyone who knows me, knows that is not the situation. I have suspended players in the past in our championship series. I've suspended players in each round of the playoffs before, and while we don't want suspensions in the playoffs, if they are warranted, we definitely will".

It's been suggested that because Myers is a marquee player that you looked at this differently:

"People can think what they want. It doesn't come into play who the player is. It could have been Craig Schira hitting Tyler Myers and we would have had the city of Kelowna in an uproar as to why a suspension wasn't being given if Tyler Myers was injured. I have to deal with these situations on a consistent basis and on this particular situation I felt a double minor would have been the correct call, consequently a suspension will not be handed out".

Richard Doerksen is the Vice President of Hockey for the WHL.

Fan-tastic

This was the view in front of Prospera Place this morning as hockey fans stood in line to grab tickets for games three and four Monday and Wednesday of next week.

Myers Will Play In Game One

The Western Hockey League will not be suspending Rockets defenceman Tyler Myers for a hit on Vancouver Giants Craig Schira in game six. Myers was given a five minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind in that game.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kelowna Rockets-Calgary Hitmen Connections

  • Kelowna Rockets forward Ian Duval should know something about the Calgary Hitmen. Duval played with the franchise for 125 games before being traded to Moose Jaw earlier this season. Duval collected 88 points in those 125 regular season games with the Hitmen, helping them to the Eastern Conference final last season before losing out to Lethbridge.
  • Duval's only career hat trick came as a member of the Hitmen. Duval scored three times October 27/07 against the then expansion Edmonton Oil Kings.
  • Duval will be celebrating a birthday in this series. Duval will turn 21 on May 7th, which is game five of this series. Teammate Lucas Bloodoff will turn 20 on May 5th, which is the day between games three and four in Kelowna.
  • The two starting goaltenders in this series have something in common. The Rockets Mark Guggenberger and Hitmen netminder Martin Jones share the same birth date. Guggenberger was born January 10,1989 while Jones was born January 10, 1990.
  • Rockets defenseman Tysen Dowzak also blows out the candles on the same day as Hitmen forward Brandon Kozun. Both celebrate birthdays on March 8th.
  • Hitmen head coach Dave Lowry and Rockets assistant coach Jeff Finley played for the same NHL organization. Both are alumni of the St. Louis Blues. Lowry played five seasons with the Blues from 1988 until 1993. Finley played 6 seasons with the Blues from 1998 until 2004.
  • Name the two first round NHL draft picks of the Calgary Flames that have played for the Kelowna Rockets? Mikael Backlund was selected by the Flames in 2007 and Chuck Kobasew was picked in the opening round in 2001. Backlund was selected 24th overall while Kobasew was picked 14th overall.
  • Name the two members of the Kelowna Rockets that have been to a Western Hockey League championship series? Both are coaches. Head coach Ryan Huska won 3 WHL titles as a player with the Kamloops Blazers, while assistant Ryan Cuthbert won a league title as the captain of the Rockets in 2003.
  • What two players in this series - one from each team - were involved in a Western Hockey League trade together? Rockets forward Kyle St. Denis and Hitmen forward Jason MacDonald were part of a six player deal when the Regina Pats dealt them to Kelowna for Kirt Hill, Kaspars Sauletis and Troy Ofukany. The Rockets also picked up Justin Bernhardt in that deal.
  • MacDonald played just 40 games in a Rockets uniform. MacDonald scored just two goals with the Rockets, against Chilliwack and Portland.
  • Kim Sylvester is the office/store manager for the Kelowna Rockets. Big deal you say? Well she is also the mother of Calgary Hitmen rookie forward Cody Sylvester. Cody is a 8th round bantam pick of the Hitmen from 2007.
  • Rockets forward Cody Almond and the Hitmen's Carson McMillan could be teammates in the near future. The two are draft picks of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Almond was drafted in the 5th round in 2007 while McMillan was selected in that same draft in the 7th round. Oddly enough the Wild signed both players to pro deals recently.
  • The Phoenix Coyotes also have two players participating in the WHL final. The Coyotes hold the rights to Rockets forward Colin Long and to Hitmen rear guard Michael Stone.

Schedule And Cougars New Coach

Here is the schedule for the WHL final.
Games one and two are in Calgary Friday and Saturday with games three and four in Kelowna Monday and Wednesday. The odd part of the schedule is a game five will be played the following night after game four. Ouch!

On a side note, Jim Swanson of the Prince George Citizen is reporting that Dean Clark has agreed to a 5 year contract to guide the Prince George Cougars.

Backlund Climbs Beanstock to Beat Giant


  • Mikael Backlund has been dubbed as a big time player in the big game, and the sweet skating Swede left no doubt in any ones mind that he will play in the NHL next season. Backlund scored two beautiful goals and then notched the game winner at the 4 minute mark of overtime, lifting the Rockets to a 5-4 win over the Vancouver Giants, eliminating their arch rivals in 6 games.
  • Backlund's game winner came on a deflected wrist shot that came from the left point from teammate Tysen Dowzak. Dowzak's rising shot appeared to hit Backlund's body or stick and changed directions, beating Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith to the blocker side. The officials on the ice called it a goal, yet the play was reviewed with the use of video replay.
  • You couldn't have had two better minds in the video replay room looking at the game winning goal than Kevin Muench and Richard Doerksen. Muench is the Director of Officiating for the WHL while Doerksen is the Vice President of Hockey for the WHL. After looking at replay after replay, it showed no conclusive evidence that the goal was re-directed into the goal by a high stick. After over 4 minutes of waiting to see if the goal would indeed count, the Prospera Place faithful again went into a frenzy when it was determined that the goal would stand.
  • Backlund's hat trick was the first by a Rockets player in the playoffs since Simon Ferguson scored three times in a series against Tri City in 2004.
  • What a comeback! Tyler Myers is ejected from the game in the third period on a hit on Giants defenceman Craig Schira. The Giants score one power play goal during the five minute major to take a 4-2 lead with just under 12 minutes left in regulation time. Despite the two goal deficit and the loss of the teams top defenceman, Jamie Benn scored a power play goal to make it a one goal game before Cody Almond's seeing eye snap shot beat Sexsmith just 33 seconds later.
  • The hit by Myers on Schira left the Giants defenceman on the ice bleeding. Schira was hit heavily by Myers while on the forecheck. Schira appeared to pick up the puck, was about to skate to his right, before changing directions as Myers applied contact. The end result had Myers hitting Schira from behind, sending the veteran d-man crashing into the glass and slumping into the end boards. Schira suffered a reported broken wrist and needed stitches as his visor appeared to cut him in the face.
  • With Myers in the dressing room for the remainder of the game, the Rockets defensive core bent but didn't break under the pressure. Tysen Dowzak, Tyson Barrie, Brandon McMillan and Collin Bowman stepped up their game to a level only seen in this playoff series, keeping the Giants at bay as the forwards worked feverishly to find a way to get back into the game.
  • The Rockets game six win in the Western Conference final brought back memories of the last time the team advanced to the finals in 2005. In a series against Kootenay, the Rockets won game six in overtime with Shea Weber scoring the game winning goal. That season the Rockets advanced to the finals before beating Brandon in 5 games.
  • The Rockets now have another banner to hang high above the Prospera Place ice. The Rockets are Western Conference Champions for the third time in franchise history.
  • The Rockets face the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL final. The two teams met twice during the regular season, with both games in Cowtown. The Rockets suffered a 4-3 loss and beat the Hitmen 2-1. The one goal win came after the trade deadline with Mikael Backlund in the lineup.
  • Here are some audio highlites from last night's game: www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1799.MP3&nid=919626

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wow!!

Mikael Backlund's game winner at the 4 minute mark of overtime lifted the Kelowna Rockets to a 5-4 win over the Vancouver Giants Monday night. The Rockets had to wait before celebrating as the goal was under video review.
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The Rockets now face the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League final. Game one is Friday night in Calgary.

***A late night has me posting my thoughts on the game and series Tuesday morning. ***

Game Notes vs. Giants

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants are meeting in game six of the best of seven Western Conference Championship Series. The Rockets have a 3-2 lead after a 1-0 shutout win in game five Saturday night. Ryley Grantham provided the lone goal in the win. The Rockets have won games one, four and five while the Giants grabbed games two and three. If a game seven is necessary it will be played tomorrow night in Vancouver. These two teams are meeting in the WHL playoffs for the first time since 2005. That season the two teams met in round one with the Rockets winning in six games. These two teams also met in 2003, with the Rockets eliminating the Giants in four straight in round one. This season the Giants beat the Rockets in 5 of the 8 meetings, yet the Rockets won the last three games. Overall the Giants out-scored the Rockets 30-23 in the eight games. The Rockets were 9 for 40 (22.5%) on the power play in the seasonal series while the Giants were 11 for 48 (22.9%) with the extra man.

I Didn’t Know That: Mark Guggenberger has not allowed a goal in 121 minutes, eight seconds after back-to-back shutouts in games four and five…The Rockets longest shutout streak of the season came in late October in back-to-back games with the Chilliwack Bruins. The Rockets were a 5-0 winner October 22nd before earning a 6-0 shutout against Chilliwack October 24th. Adam Brown earned the goose egg in both games…. The Rockets franchise record for shutouts in a playoff series is held by Derek Yeomans. Yeomans blanked the Seattle Thunderbirds during a second round playoff series in 2005. All three of Yeomans shutouts were in Seattle…..Jamie Benn is one point shy of the Rockets franchise record for points in one playoff season. Jesse Schultz holds the record after putting up 28 points in the 2003 playoffs… The Rockets have opened the scoring in four of the five games in this series…These two teams are playing their 6th game in 10 nights. If the series goes a full seven games that will be 7 games in 11 nights…The Rockets are playing their 16th playoff game tonight. That means the Rockets are playing their 88th game of the season tonight if you include the 72 game regular season schedule…Ian Duval has 12 points in 15 playoff games this season after recording just 3 points (1+2=3) in 16 playoff games with the Calgary Hitmen last season…Duval has four goals in this series with the Giants, one better than teammate Jamie Benn… After recording 5 points in the first two games of this series, Mikael Backlund has failed to register a point in three straight games…Collin Bowman’s assist on Ryley Grantham’s game winning goal in game five was his first playoff point in 11 games. Bowman’s last point, an assist, came March 25th in game four of an opening round series with Kamloops….

What’s Happened So Far? The Rockets have out-scored the Giants 13-9 in the first five games. Of the 22 total goals that have been scored, fifteen have been even strength. The Rockets are 3 for 20 in the series on the power play (15%) while the Giants are 4 for 24 (16.7%). Of the 22 goals scored in the first five games, 17 have been scored in the final 40 minutes of the game. Only four goals have been scored in the first period, with a single goal coming in overtime. The Rockets have out-shot the Giants 128-97 in the first four games.

Game Six Success: The Rockets have played just one game six in this playoff season. The Rockets were a 6-2 winner over the Tri City Americans in a second round playoff series.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ugly Never Looked So Good


  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For the Kelowna Rockets', Saturday night's 1-0 win in Vancouver was pleasing to the eye. Let me clarify that. The game five win wasn't exactly a masterpiece, but at the end of the night beating the Giants in back-to-back games was gratifying. The victory gives the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference final heading into game six Monday night at Prospera Place.
  • It marked only the second time this season that the Giants have lost back-to-back games.
  • The game featured some early fireworks with two fights, yet neither tilt ignited a spark nor took momentum away from the opponent. The two teams settled down and played a fatigued looking opening period with Rockets tough guy Ryley Grantham opening the scoring at the 18:25 mark with a chip shot that beat Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith over the shoulder. It was Grantham's 3rd of the playoffs, and first game winning playoff goal of his career.
  • The key in the win was a 5 on 3 power play the Rockets were able to kill off in the third period. Brandon McMillan is sent off for hooking, and while trying to kill the penalty, Tyler Myers was sent off for shooting the puck over the glass. During the 5 on 3, the Rockets recorded seven blocked shots and got some timely saves from Mark Guggenberger. And when the Giants weren't fighting Rockets defenders away for a quality chance on goal, they were fighting the puck themselves. Both Evander Kane and Casey Pierro-Zabotel missed glorious chances to score, but either had the puck roll off their stick or they shot the puck wide of the net. Kane had such a good chance at the side of the net to tie the game that he lifted the puck directly into the waiting catching glove of the Rockets veteran netminder.
  • Isn't it ironic that the Giants failed to score on a 5 on 3 in game five, a situation eerily similar in game three when the Rockets were granted the same convenience, failed to score, and lost the game 3-2.
  • Guggenberger has now recorded back-to-back shutouts, and has not allowed a goal in 121 minutes and 8 seconds. Lance Bouma scored at the 18:52 mark of the third period in game three.
  • The Giants were shutout in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2004 season. The Giants failed to score a goal September 28/04 against Kootenay (2-0) and were shutout by Seattle Oct 10/04 (3-0).
  • AM-1150 had a time clock on Tyler Myers. Myers played 27 minutes and 45 seconds. No wonder he was named the games first star.
  • The Rockets have opened the scoring in four of the five games in this series.
  • Another well called game by Chris Savage and Derek Herman. Both were solid. Again the key to their performance was not being whistle happy. What I liked about both referee's was their communications skills with the players and coaches and the calm, controlled way they call the game. No dramatics were required. Even when the Giants scored on a goal that apparently was kicked in, both veteran officials took their time before reviewing the goal with the use of video replay. After discussing the call with all four parties on the ice ( two referee's and two linesman) the conclusion on the ice was that the puck was kicked in. To make sure the on-ice call was correct, video replay was used. Video showed that the on-ice officials were bang on.
  • For the second straight game neither team was able to score a power play goal. This series is simply being won playing even strength, a far contrast to what the Rockets faced in a second round series with Tri City where the power play played a huge factor.
  • Former Vancouver Giants forward Kenndal McArdle made a stop in the broadcast location for a intermission interview. McArdle had 11 goals in the playoffs with the Giants in 2007.
  • Tommy Thompson, the head scout of the Minnesota Wild took in Saturday's game. I spoke to Thompson about the recent signing of Rockets forward Cody Almond. Thompson had high praise for Almond's efforts in game four. While he failed to hit the score sheet, Thompson liked Almond's work ethic.
  • For the first time in this series I noticed Calgary Hitmen personnel scouting the two teams. The Rockets wouldn't have given them much information to work with, as they looked anything but the team that dominated the Giants in a game four 3-0 win. But as stated before, a wins a win.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Great Intermission

Everyone got a kick out of this at last night's hockey game. We've all seen this before, but man it doesn't get old. Nice work Rockets game night staff!

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The Rockets 'Rodney Dangerfield' Defence

I like to call the Kelowna Rockets blue line the - 'Rodney Dangerfield Defence'! They don't get any respect.
Or do they?
In this series the top five d-men of Tyler Myers, Tyson Barrie, Tysen Dowzak, Brandon McMillan and Collin Bowman are a combined +8. Myers and Barrie lead the pack at + 4. The Giants top five d-men are a combined minus 8.
Myers has been busy keying on Giants sharp shooter Evander Kane. While Myers has just one point in this series, an assist, Myers is a +4 and has taken just four minutes in penalties. What's more impressive is when you look at Kane's numbers in this series. Kane has just one goal, is a -3 and has collected 10 minutes in penalties.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Desperate Measures=Dominant Performance

  • Shoot first, ask questions second. It wouldn't be the motto the RCMP tell their recruits before sending them out into the force, but it was the Rockets only option in a 3-0 victory Thursday night. The Rockets shot from every angle and every area, with the greasy effort producing favorable results. With as skilled a team as the Rockets have, playoff hockey is all about will, not skill.
  • Cody Almond was trigger happy, and against an elite team like the Giants, delivering the puck at the net every chance you get is never a bad option. I find it frustrating when the Rockets attempt to make the picture perfect passing play, only to turn the puck over without getting a shot on goal. That rarely happened Thursday night, and the credit has to go to the coaching staff for pointing that out to the players.
  • Olivia Newton-John would have been proud. Let's get physical! The Rockets let their body do the talking Thursday night by initiating contact. It was the first time in this series that the home team upped the play in the physical department.
  • The best 'greasy goal ' of the night came from Jamie Benn! What? How can Jamie Benn score a greasy goal? Colin Long did all the dirty work in the corner by getting the puck to the front of the net where Benn grabbed it, coddled it, before going to the backhand and beating Sexsmith to make it 3-0. That goal sealed the deal for the home team, tying the series at two wins apiece.
  • Mark Guggenberger was as great as his name sounds. Guggenberger was especially sharp in the first period when the Giants fired 8 shots his way. Guggenberger's best save came on a Craig Cunningham shot on the power play that Gugg's snagged with a solid glove hand save.
  • Rockets forward Ian Duval's tremendous speed was the difference in breaking away from a Giants defender to open the scoring. Duval, who would like nothing more than a trip to Calgary late next week, picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated hard to the net before beating Sexsmith between the legs.
  • Did Colin Long know that the assistant general manager of the Phoenix Coyotes was at Thursday's game? It infact was pointed out to him before the game, and it showed in his best effort of the playoffs. Long was solid, picking up two assists, and was arguably the Rockets hardest working player. But where's the love? Long failed to receive a game star, but we pumped his tires as much as we could in the post game show. I wasn't necessary critical of his play in an earlier posting, but I was wondering what was wrong. Long, as usual, answered the bell with a solid game. Good on him.
  • Did you notice that all three goals were scored by older players? Ian Duval (20), Jamie Benn (19) and Lucas Bloodoff (19) all hit the score sheet. Long (19) had two assists.
  • Curt Gogol has a pretty decent shot. He used it in the third period and let a lazer beam go towards the Giants net. He didn't score, but caught our attention in the broadcast booth.
  • I thought Kyle St. Denis provided some additional jump for the Rockets. In only his second game back from injury, St. Denis used some good outside speed and was another threat that the Giants had to be aware of.
  • Tyler Myers received the games second star for his efforts in shutting down Evander Kane. And what a job he did. Myers was in Kane's face all night long. The two were forced off the ice with coincidental minors after a good collision in the corner late the third period.
  • Kane does not hesitate when bring his hands or stick high when being checked. In what appeared to be a mid-ice collision with Ryley Grantham, Kane got his stick high, hitting 'Granny' either in the throat or chin. Kane got a minor penalty.
  • The officiating in game four was solid. Few questionable calls were made, or borderline penalties that drive you crazy. Emotions were high yet the game was under control. Both Pat Smith and Devin Klein read the game correctly. Nice work.
  • The Rockets second period not only resulted in two goals, but 18 shots on net. In the final two periods the home team would allowed just 6 shots on goal. The defensive effort was as good as the offensive upside.
  • The 3-0 shutout was the Rockets first playoff shutout since May 6, 2005. Kristofer Westblom and Derek Yeomans shared the shutout in a 3-0 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings in game one of the Western Hockey League final.
  • It marked the second time the Giants have been shutout in the playoffs. The Giants suffered a 1-0 loss to Spokane in game four of their Western Conference semi final series.
  • The biggest crowd of the playoffs took in Thursday's game. Six thousand 268 were on hand for the 3-0 victory. Let's hope even more show up for game six Monday night.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • I ran into Graham Lee and Dave Dakers at Tuesday nights hockey game. Lee is the President and CEO of R.G Properties, the owners/operators of Prospera Place. I wonder if he is still mulling over the addition of a new scoreboard, or if he feels the existing one with the small monitor is sufficient enough?
  • Lee should seriously consider additional space in the media/broadcast location at Prospera Place. I am thinking little thought was put into how big the press box should have been when the arena was built in 1998 for play in the 1999 season. How inadequate is the press box? Just look at the temporary riser that the Rockets have installed in the corner of the arena to house the print media for this series. Good on the Rockets for providing that space, but it just shows how the press box needs to expand in the very near future.
  • If Prospera Place indeed gets an upgrade, they may want to look at improved lighting as well. I really noticed a difference when comparing Pacific Coliseum, the home of the Giants, with the dim lighting at Prospera. Granted, Pacific Coliseum received a new lighting system with the 2010 Winter Olympics closing in, but a brighter atmosphere on the playing surface wouldn't hurt the cause at the home of the Rockets.
  • It was nice to see Giants co-owner Pat Quinn at Tuesday's game, but does Ron Toigo make many road trips? That makes me go hmm.
  • After looking at video on the game winning goal in game three, the shot appeared to beat Guggenberger high to the glove hand side, not short side as stated in an earlier post.
  • Jamie Benn’s 25 points in this years playoffs has already exceeded the total of the leading point getter in last years playoffs. Calgary’s T.J Galiardi had 24 points to lead the WHL in scoring in 2008. The last player to register over 25 points in the playoffs was Vancouver Giants forward Michal Repik, who had 26 points (10+16=26) in the 2007 post season.
  • When is Jamie Benn going to get really angry in this series? Remember when he plowed over Giants defenceman Jon Blum in a regular season game with two solid hits? An angry Jamie Benn is good news for the Rockets, and bad news for Vancouver.
  • Is Colin Long hurt? I have been asked that question numerous times in this years playoffs, including once by a player from the opposition. With just two goals in 13 games - one being an empty netter - its a fair question. Long has failed to register a point in three games in this series. My belief is he's healthy, yet has been snake bitten in the post season.
  • I guess the same could be said for Giants forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel. The overager has just one goal in his last 8 playoff games. That goal was the overtime winner in game two.
  • Benn is three points shy of the Rockets franchise record for points in one playoff season. Jesse Schultz holds the record after putting up 28 points in the 2003 playoffs. Benn has 25.
  • Six-first round bantam picks are participating in the WCCS. Tyson Sexsmith (04), James Wright (05) and Evander Kane (06) are first round picks for the Giants. Tyler Myers (05), Tyson Barrie (06) and Shane McColgan (08) are first round bantam picks of the Rockets.
  • Two of the three games in this series have been decided by a single goal.
  • For the first time in this series the team which scored the opening goal of the game didn’t win. That was the case Tuesday when the Rockets' Cody Almond scored.
  • For the first time in 9 playoff games the Rockets lost despite out-shooting their opponent. The Rockets out-shot the Giants in game three, yet fell 3-2.
  • I received a neat e-mail from Cathy Thorburn today. The mother of Rockets athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn is cheering loud and proud back in New Brunswick. Cathy told me she can't watch the games because Shaw isn't available in that neck of the woods. She has to settle for listening to Gord McGarva and I call the play-by-play on the Internet. At least we have one listener in this series.
  • A former Kelowna Rocket will play in this years Western Hockey League final. Jason MacDonald is part of the Calgary Hitmen, the Eastern Conference champions. MacDonald was part of a six player deal with Regina that included the playing rights to Kyle St. Denis.

Game Three in Pictures

Tyson Sexsmith gets some TV time after being named the games first star.
The towels start waving after the Rockets opening goal.
Nice to see Kyle St. Denis back on the ice in game three.
This sign caught my attention last night. My camera didn't pick it up well from my vantage point in the broadcast booth. What it says is 'Wah Wah Wah, We Don't Think Your Sexy". That message is directed at Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith, who's nickname is Sexy.
You don't have to be a boat enthusiast to appreciate this machine. This beauty was on display in front of Prospera Place before game time.
The Giants bus sits quietly behind Prospera Place.
A nice touch by the marketing department of the Kelowna Rockets. Anne-Marie Hamilton is likely the driving force behind this. Well done!

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gritty Forward Becomes Goal Scorer

  • In the playoffs one player with a marginal skill set is often times able to stand up and score timely goals. That player for the Vancouver Giants is rugged winger Lance Bouma. Bouma's goal with 68 seconds left in regulation time lifted the visitors to a 3-2 win, and a 2-1 lead in the best of seven Western Conference championship series. Bouma now has 7 goals in the playoffs, two of those in this series. The spark plug had just 9 goals all of this season, much of which was spent on the injury list.
  • Bouma's goal came after an odd man rush developed inside the Rockets zone. Bouma elected to shoot, and with a rolling puck coming off the tape of his stick, beat goaltender Mark Guggenberger high to the blocker side - short side.
  • When I say Bouma has a marginal skill set, all I am saying is he knows his greatest contribution is made when he crashes and bangs body's, and if he can chip in offensively, great! In a pre-game interview I spoke highly of Bouma's play in games one and two and told Don Hay I thought he was his best player. Don't believe me? Check out the audio. Would I want Bouma on my team? Ya!! www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1759.MP3&nid=915622
  • The goal was the eventual back breaker for the Rockets, but a 5 on 3 power play chance with about 17 minutes left in the third period in a 2-2 game was the real killer. With both Brent Regner and Craig Schira in the penalty box, the Rockets were able to generate several quality chances on Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith, yet the veteran shut the door with some big saves. For the first time in this series Sexsmith won the battle of the goaltenders, and after looking average in games one and two, was a difference maker in his teams second win of the series.
  • The Rockets ended the game 1 for 6 on the power play, but it felt like they failed to score on all six attempts. The reason? The power play goal they did get came courtesy of Jamie Benn being in the right place at the right time by coming out of the penalty box and gathering up a loose puck in the neutral zone. Benn skated in alone on Sexsmith, beating him between the legs on the clear cut breakaway.
  • I thought Ryley Grantham had a solid game for the home team. Grantham was involved physically, was in a series of pushing matches after the whistle, and even got into 'verbal warfare' with Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith after marginal contact was made between the two as Sexsmith played the puck behind the Giants net.
  • Rockets head coach Ryan Huska pointed to his team failing to get significant secondary shots on Sexsmith. While the Rockets fired 35 shots on net, Huska didn't feel the quality was good enough to beat a goaltender that got better as the game wore on.
  • I thought both Evander Kane and Casey Pierro-Zabotel had quiet games. Neither were a force offensively, as Craig Cunningham and Bouma took charge. What's scary is if those two come alive, what type of trouble are the Rockets in for?
  • After looking stellar playing together with Cody Almond, Mikael Backlund and Ian Duval couldn't create the magic they had in games one and two. It wasn't because of a lack of trying, but Jamie Benn and Colin Long appeared to be a greater threat offensively in game three.
  • It marked the first time in the playoffs that the Rockets suffered a loss at home. The Rockets are 5 and 1 at Prospera Place in post season.
  • Giants co-owner Pat Quinn took in Tuesday's game. He was low profile, elected to watch the game from a luxury box.
  • It was nice to see Kyle St. Denis return to the Rockets lineup in game three. The 19 year-old forward saw a limited role, but it was just nice to see #23 in Kelowna Rockets colours. St. Denis had missed 25 straight games with a concussion.
  • Be sure to check back later this morning for pic's and video from game three.

Random Pics From Vancouver

Guggs in warmup. Being a goaltender, I tend to take more than my share of pictures of them.

The waving towel that fans received before game one in Vancouver.
You will notice lots of friendly banter between fans in the WCF. This fan took the opportunity to walk up to the broadcast booth at Pacific Coliseum and show me his banner. If we can't even slightly chuckle at his attempt at changing the Rockets logo, in my opinion you are wound up just a little too tight. If I see any interesting banners in game three or four, I'll be sure to post them

This is a pic of the seats covered with white waving towels before game one Saturday night.

I love this photo. Rockets tough guy Ryley Grantham doesn't stretch in the corner. 'Granny' prefers to limber up right at the centre ice red line, where he can be seen and heard.

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

      • I find it strange that Rockets forward Ryley Grantham has not been involved in one shoving match in the first two games of this series. 'Granny' is most affective when he is sticking his nose in other people's business. What surprises me more is the 21 year-old hasn't even taken a minor penalty in the first two games. I don't want him to take a bad penalty, but I want him to be a pain in the arse to play against.
      • He was pass happy during the regular season, but Ian Duval is getting the message that shooting the puck is a good option. Duval has goals in four straight games and has 8 goals in this years playoffs. Jamie Benn has 8 playoff goals! You can't criticize Duval for his contribution in this years post season. He's been a special player playing with Mikael Backlund.
      • Thirteen goals have been scored in this series, with 8 of those coming even strength. Five goals have been scored on the power play, three by the Giants and two by the Rockets.
      • I find it interesting that of the 13 goals scored in the first two games, 11 have been scored in the final two periods. Only one goal has been scored in the opening 20 minutes with another goal coming in overtime in game two.
      • The Giants last win in Kelowna came January 21st in a 6-4 victory. Mikael Backlund scored his first WHL goal in that game.
      • How have the Rockets done in game three situations? The Rockets won game three in Kamloops in overtime by a 4-3 score in the opening round and managed to earn a 7-2 win over Tri City in game three in round two. The last time the Rockets lost game three of a playoff series was last season when they fell 3-2 in overtime to Seattle in an opening round series.
      • Can you name the number of Kelowna Rockets alumni participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Six former players are battling for Lord Stanley's Cup. Travis Moen (San Jose), Troy Bodie (Anahiem), Alex Edler (Vancouver), Josh Gorges (Montreal), Duncan Keith (Chicago) and Chuck Kobasew (Boston) are all involved in the second season.
      • The Vancouver Giants introduced waving towels in game one of the Western Conference final, something the Kelowna Rockets are also handing out in game three tonight. The waving towels looked impressive when the crowd was prompted by a message that flashed on the Pacific Coliseum score clock. It should provide for an awesome sight in game three when all 6 thousand get into the act at Prospera Place.
      • Is it a sign of a slow economy? It has to be. The Kelowna Rockets send out a press release yesterday saying 600 tickets have been released to the general public for game three tonight. In the past this would have been unheard of, as a Rockets ticket was the hottest ticket in town. It's still a hot ticket, yet from my vantage point, people are a little tighter with their wallet.
      • Injuries at this time of the year are common place and are kept behind closed doors. The same holds true for broadcasters. I will admit I too am suffering from an injury in this playoff series. I will only say that it is an upper body injury. I've been trying hide it in the first two games of this series, but something tells me Giants play-by-play man Dave Sheldon is catching on. I've been secretly taking cough syrup when he isn't looking and I thought he caught me taking a throat lozenge before game two, but I quickly told him I was simply putting a Timbit in my mouth. I even think he bought the theory that I am suffering from an allergic reaction to the insulation up in the Pacific Coliseum rafters. Stay tuned!
      • Two words. Steve Ewen. The Vancouver Province beat writer occasionally trips over this blog. I appreciate his visit.

      Monday, April 20, 2009

      Game Notes vs. Giants

      Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants are meeting in game three of a best of seven Western Conference Championship Series. The series is all tied at one win apiece after the Rockets opened with a 4-2 win in game one before the Giants earned a 4-3 overtime win in game two. Game four is Thursday night at Prospera Place before the series moves back to Vancouver for game five on Saturday. These two teams are meeting in the WHL playoffs for the first time since 2005. That season the two teams met in round one with the Rockets winning in six games. These two teams also met in 2003, with the Rockets eliminating the Giants in four straight in round one. This season the Giants beat the Rockets in 5 of the 8 meetings, yet the Rockets won the last three games. Overall the Giants out-scored the Rockets 30-23 in the eight games. The Rockets were 9 for 40 (22.5%) on the power play in the seasonal series while the Giants were 11 for 48 (22.9%) with the extra man.

      What’s Happened So Far? The Rockets have out-scored the Giants 7-6 in the first two playoff games. Of the 13 goals that have been scored in the series, eight have been scored even strength. The Rockets are 2 for 9 in the series on the power play (22.2%) while the Giants are 3 for 15 (20%). Of the 13 goals scored in the first two games, 11 have been scored in the final 40 minutes of the game. Only one goal has been scored in the first period, with a single goal coming in overtime. Ironically both teams have registered 59 shots on goal in the first two games.

      Round Two Recap: The Rockets eliminated the Tri City Americans in six games in a Western Conference semi final series. The Rockets lost the first two games on the road before winning four straight to advance to the Western Conference final for the fifth time in the last eight seasons. The Rockets out-scored the Americans 27-16. Overall the Rockets were 10 for 29 (34.5%) on the power play while the Americans were 6 for 30 (20%). The home team won five of the six games. Jamie Benn led the Rockets with 4+9=13 in the six games.

      Round One Recap: The Rockets eliminated the Kamloops Blazers in four straight games in the opening round. Overall the Rockets out-scored the Blazers 17-8 in the four games. Jamie Benn led the Rockets with ten points in the series (3+7=10), while Cody Almond, Tyson Barrie, and Tyler Myers each had five points apiece. Mark Guggenberger started in all four games, going 4-0-0-0, with a goals against average of 1.91.

      Interesting Data: The Rockets have opened the scoring in 7 of the twelve games in the playoffs. After opening up the scoring just once in four games against Kamloops in round one, the Rockets were able to open the scoring in five of the six games against Tri City…The Rockets have scored a power play goal in nine of the 12 playoff games…The Rockets are 9 and 3 in 12 career playoff games against the Giants…Cody Almond was the Rockets leading scorer against the Giants during the regular season. Almond had 4+5=9 while Colin Long was next on the list with 2+6=8. Jamie Benn had Almond led the team in goals scored against the Giants with 4 each. Mark Guggenberger had a goals against average of 2.66 in four starts…The Rockets are now 2 and 1 in overtime in the playoffs. Jamie Benn’s overtime winner in game four of a second round series came on the heels of Cody Almond’s exploits in game three of an opening round series against Kamloops. The Rockets lost game two of this series when Casey Pierro-Zabotel scored with 35 seconds left in the first overtime period.

      Benny and the Jets: Jamie Benn has 35 career playoff points in just 19 games. Benn has 11+24=35. Benn has points in 18 of 19 career playoff games dating back to last season. Cody Almond has points in 11 of 12 playoffs games. Both Benn and Almond were held off the score sheet in game one.

      Who’s Hot: Mikael Backlund has points in six straight games (6+6=12). Backlund also has goals in five of his last six games. Ian Duval has goals in four straight games, and has 5+1=6 over that period. Tyson Barrie has 2+7=9 in his last nine games. Tyler Myers has points in eight of twelve playoff games, yet does not have a point in this series. Almond has goals in four of his last seven games. Jamie Benn has goals in five of his last seven games.

      Split On Opposition Ice

      • As much as you have to give the Giants credit for tying the series at one, I just didn't like the Rockets intensity/urgency level in game two. Maybe I was just spoiled after game one? What I saw from the visitors in game one was a team playing like it was game seven, not game one. Game two unfortunately was well short of the performance the visitors exhibited less than 24 hours earlier.
      • The Rockets allowed the Giants 9 chances on the power play, which is hockey suicide at this time of the year. Many of the penalties were uncalled for fouls, including several high sticking infractions. It again showed me that the Rockets weren't mentally 'locked in' during Sunday's effort.
      • I don't have a problem when the officials call Mikael Backlund for tripping a Giants defenseman in overtime, only if a call is also made when Curt Gogol is hit into the corner by defenseman Brent Regner. Neither came close to a scoring chance, yet Backlund gets the gate in overtime on a marginal call while Regner's suspect hit on Gogol is viewed as just that, suspect.
      • I liked the game winning goal. Why? It was ugly, and is typical of the way overtime goals are scored in the playoffs. A shot from the point hits a Giants forward parked in front of the net, next thing you know, it's a mad scramble and Casey Pierro -Zabotel deposits the puck past goaltender Mark Guggenberger. The Rockets had a similar chance in overtime, yet a Collin Bowman slap shot from the point is snared out of mid air by Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith with no traffic in front.
      • The best Rocket? Mikael Backlund showed the most consistent energy over the course of the game. Long, Benn and Almond provided pressure, but were not consistently causing havoc in the attacking zone. Backlund could have been the goat for two penalties taken late in the game, one in the third period and one in overtime, yet his team was able to kill them off.
      • It's amazing what the Rockets can accomplish when they put their minds to it. Down 3-1 late in the third, two quick goals and the game has to be decided in overtime.
      • The Giants out-shot the Rockets 11-5 in the extra period, thanks largely to two power play chances, but more so out of desperation to get back in the series. While the Rockets wanted game one more than the Giants, and succeeded, the roles were reversed Sunday night.
      • You have to love the play of Lance Bouma. The feisty forward has provided energy for the Giants in the first two games of this series and arguably has been the teams most consistent forward. Evander Kane has looked good in spurts, but in my eyes it's been Bouma leading the charge.
      • The overtime loss was the Rockets first in this years playoffs. The Rockets were able to win overtime games against Kamloops and Tri City. Cody Almond and Jamie Benn were the hero's in those games.
      • The loss snapped the Rockets four game winning streak against the Giants. The Rockets won the last three games during the regular season and game one of this series.
      • The loss also means a game five will be played Saturday night in Vancouver. No matter what happens in games three and four in Kelowna, we are headed back to Pacific Coliseum Saturday night.

      Saturday, April 18, 2009

      Backlund Big In Game One Win


      • Mikael Backlund knows little about the Vancouver Giants. What Backlund does know is the Giants were the best team in the Western Conference this season, and they stand in his way of playoff success. Backlund was a force, scoring once and adding two assists, leading the Rockets to a 4-2 win over the Giants Saturday night, helping his team to a 1-0 lead in the best of seven Western Conference championship series.
      • Backlund's goal to open the scoring in the second period on the power play was impressive, but his ability to create a turnover in the Giants' zone before finding Ian Duval at the right side of the net for a picture perfect goal was downright impressive. When you see plays like that, there's no doubting Backlund is a world class player.
      • Colour analyst Gord McGarva pointed it out on our pre-game show that it was a sign of things to come after 'Take A Chance On Me' by Abba was played on the extremely loud PA system at Pacific Coliseum prior to the two teams taking to the ice for the pre-game warmup. He was right!
      • Ian Duval scored two goals, the latter being an empty net backhand, making it a 4-2 final. Duval was a threat offensively courtesy of his ability to outwork the Giants to loose pucks. Duval's ability to score appears to only come naturally when he is working his tail off. If he's dogging it, he does little damage. He was a work horse in game one.
      • Jamie Benn's 10 game point streak came to an end Saturday night. The same can be said for Cody Almond. While Benn, Almond and Long were quiet offensively, the Giants had to focus on them, benefiting Backlund and Duval. Now if the Giants focus on Backlund and Duval, look for Almond and Benn to have success. Having depth offensively is a beautiful thing.
      • Rockets goaltender Mark Guggenberger will want to have the Giants second goal back, yet Tyson Sexsmith could say the same thing about Mitchell Callahan's goal, which squeezed between his legs to make it 2-0. I am staying firm in my belief that Guggenberger needs to play on par with Sexsmith for the Rockets to have success in this series. He did that in game one.
      • Guggenberger earned an assist on the Backlund goal, his second assist of the playoffs.
      • Can I rant? Yes the Rockets won the game, but what's with the Giants getting four consecutive power plays in a game that saw several pushing and shoving matches after the play, yet often times, a Rockets player was fingered to the box. I don't mind if the officials take both players off the ice in a post whistle scrum, but finding one offender when gloves are being shoved in each others faces is just wrong in a series of this magnitude.
      • I have never seen the Giants turnover the puck as much as I did in game one. Several miscues resulted in good scoring chances for the visitors, including some pin point shots off the stick of Lucas Bloodoff.
      • The Rockets defensive core was solid. The three T's were on top of their game. Tyler Myers and Tyson Barrie were their usually selves, but Tysen Dowzak was especially strong. Using his big body, Dowzak played with a burr under his saddle. I asked the question on an early blog entry on which Rockets d-man would stand up to the challenge in this series. Dowzak answered the bell in game one.
      • The Rockets out-shot the Giants for the first time this season. That is no small feat. The Giants were out-shot just 5 times during the regular season.
      • Mitchell Callahan earned his first WHL playoff goal, a slap shot through the legs of Tyson Sexsmith, which gave the Rockets a 2-0 lead.

      Game Notes vs Giants

      Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants are meeting in game one of a best of seven Western Conference Championship Series. Game two is tomorrow night before the series shifts to Kelowna for games three and four Tuesday and Thursday. These two teams are meeting in the WHL playoffs for the first time since 2005. That season the two teams met in round one with the Rockets winning in six games. These two teams also met in 2003, with the Rockets eliminating the Giants in four straight in round one. This season the Giants beat the Rockets in 5 of the 8 meetings, yet the Rockets won the last three games. Overall the Giants out-scored the Rockets 30-23 in the eight games. The Rockets were 9 for 40 (22.5%) on the power play in the seasonal series while the Giants were 11 for 48 (22.9%) with the extra man.

      Round Two Recap: The Rockets eliminated the Tri City Americans in six games in a Western Conference semi final series. The Rockets lost the first two games on the road before winning four straight to advance to the Western Conference final for the fifth time in the last eight seasons. The Rockets out-scored the Americans 27-16. Overall the Rockets were 10 for 29 (34.5%) on the power play while the Americans were 6 for 30 (20%). The home team won five of the six games. Jamie Benn led the Rockets with 4+9=13 in the six games.

      Round One Recap: The Rockets eliminated the Kamloops Blazers in four straight games in the opening round. Overall the Rockets out-scored the Blazers 17-8 in the four games. Jamie Benn led the Rockets with ten points in the series (3+7=10), while Cody Almond, Tyson Barrie, and Tyler Myers each had five points apiece. Mark Guggenberger started in all four games, going 4-0-0-0, with a goals against average of 1.91.

      Interesting Data: The Rockets have opened the scoring in 6 of the ten games in the playoffs. After opening up the scoring just once in four games against Kamloops in round one, the Rockets were able to open the scoring in five of the six games against Tri City…The Rockets have scored a power play goal in seven of the 10 playoff games…The Rockets are technically 8 and 2 in 10 career playoff games against the Giants…Cody Almond was the Rockets leading scorer against the Giants during the regular season. Almond had 4+5=9 while Colin Long was next on the list with 2+6=8. Jamie Benn had Almond led the team in goals scored against the Giants with 4 each. Mark Guggenberger had a goals against average of 2.66 in four starts…Sixteen power play goals were scored in a second round series with Tri City…The Rockets are now 2 and 0 in overtime in the playoffs. Jamie Benn’s overtime winner in game four of a second round series came on the heels of Cody Almond’s exploits in game three of an opening round series against Kamloops. In the bigger picture, the Rockets have won three straight games in overtime, including Lucas Bloodoff’s game winner against Seattle in an opening round series in 2007…. The Rockets scored ten power play goals against Tri City…The Rockets had 16 even strength goals, and a shorthanded goal against the Am’s.

      The Streak Continues: Jamie Benn has 34 career playoff points in just 17 games. Benn has 10+24=34. What’s most impressive is Benn has a point in every playoff game he’s been involved in. Benn is riding a 17 game point streak in the playoffs dating back to last season. Benn has a 10 game point streak in the year’s playoffs, which is tied with Cam Paddock (2003) for the franchise record for most consecutive points in a playoff series. Cody Almond also has a 10 game point streak heading into tonight’s game.

      Who’s Hot: Tyson Barrie has 2+6=8 in his last seven games. Tyler Myers has points in eight of ten playoff games. Myers has 4+9=13 over that stretch. Cody Almond has 17 playoff points in ten playoff games after recording just 3 points in 7 playoff games last season. Almond has a 10 game playoff point streak. Almond has scored goals in three of his last five games.