Cody Eakin will play for Canada at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships.
He proved why he is considered one of the best two-way forwards in major junior hockey Wednesday night in the Swift Current Broncos 4-1 win at Prospera Place.
The 19 year-old scored once and set up two others - all in the third period - as the visitors handed the Rockets their first home ice loss in eight games.
What I liked about Eakin was his compete level at both ends of the ice. Eakin is the real deal when he wants to play. He did some of his best work far away from the Rockets goal by winning board battles and scrums in the corners. Eakin took a hard hit from Rockets forward Evan Bloodoff in the third period at the Broncos blue line, but getting knocked on his rear end just shows you where his battle level was Wednesday night.
Missed chances offensively were the Rockets downfall in their 13th loss of the season. The Rockets were uncharacteristically 0 for 6 on the power play against the best penalty killing unit in the league. When called upon, second star Mark Friesen was solid in the Broncos net.
While Friesen was good, Rockets goaltender Adam Brown was equal to the task but had some bad luck to deal with too. Jordan Peddle's goal to make it 3-1 appears to go off the Bronco forwards shin pad before making its way into the net. The only good fortunate Brown had was a possible shorthanded goal by Brad Hoban that was taken away after he stole the puck from Brown behind the net and appeared to stuff it five hole past the goaltender. Apparently the play was whistled dead after Brown made the original save, yet on video replay the puck clearly entered the net as Hoban banged away at it.
It was a long day for defenceman Zak Stebner. Acquired Tuesday from Tri City, Stebner drove from Kennewick earlier in the day and arrived two hours prior to game time. Despite being a -3, Stebner clearly shows a veteran presence on the blue line and makes good decisions with the puck by getting it into the hands of the forwards quickly.
He won't receive many pats on the back after the game, but 17 year-old Reece Scarlett really impressed me on the Broncos back end. Take into account that I don't see the Broncos often, but it looks like the organization made no mistake in taking him in the first round of the WHL Bantam draft a couple of years ago.
Stepan Novotny didn't play Wednesday night because of a bad knee. Novotny did manage to make it up to our broadcast booth for a second period interview. It was good to touch base with the former Rocket, who is arguably the most outspoken-personable European born player to ever wear a Rockets uniform.
I have to mention Kyle Verdino's play and only for the simple reason that I wanted to see if he has improved his game. Often a 7th defenceman in Kelowna, 'Dino' played a no-nonsense game and didn't hurt his team in the least bit.
Forward Colton Sissons was hurt after blocking a shot in the first period and never returned. His status is unknown for Fridays game in Red Deer.
Rookie forward Jason Siebert is also among the walking wounded after an MRI showed a crack in his scaphoid on his wrist. The 16 year-old underwent an operation and is now in the process of recovering.
The Rockets boarded the bus after the game and headed out to Alberta on a five game road trip which begins tomorrow night in Red Deer. Head coach Ryan Huska did not make the trip as he heads out to Toronto Friday to prepare for the start of the Canadian World Junior Teams training camp. In his place, skills development coach Kim Gellert has joined assistant coached Ryan Cuthbert and Dan Lambert for back-to-back games this weekend.