- It was only a pipe dream in late October, but five months later the reality is the Kelowna Rockets are BC Division regular season champions. The Rockets used four power play goals in a 5-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers Friday night while the Vancouver Giants suffered a 8-0 home ice loss to the Prince George Cougars. A win by the Rockets and a loss by the Giants allowed the visitors to capture their first BC Division title since the 2004 season. Despite winning the WHL title in 2005, the Kootenay Ice were division champions that year. Winning the title this season stopped a run of five straight division titles for the Giants.
- The Kamloops Blazers may now be convinced that Adam Brown is the best goaltender in the Western Conference. Brown was peppered with 19 shots in the first period but the Blazers were unable to get one by him. The best scoring chance in the opening period likely came from Kamloops forward Thomas Frazee who was robbed from in close by Brown's quick glove hand. The majority of the period was spent inside the Rockets zone, yet despite only generating nine shots on goal, the visitors went into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.
- As good as the Blazers were in the first period, where was the push back when Rockets forward Jessey Astles hammered Blazers d-man Josh Caron with a huge open ice hit at the Kamloops blue line? No one, not one player appeared to be interested in coming to Caron's aid. Instead the Blazers watched idly by as their warrior, who will go through the wall for any of his teammates, picks himself up from the ice and skates slowly to penalty box after receiving a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass.
- That 'first period of frustration' boiled over early in the second period when the Blazers became unglued. Sixteen year-old Chase Souto attempts to engage Rockets rookie European Gal Koren in a scrap inside the Blazers zone. Souto receives a two minute minor for roughing while Koren walks away from the altercation without a penalty. Then Kamloops forward Brendan Ranford is being escorted to the penalty box after a pushing and shoving match behind the Rockets net when he cross checks linesman Kris Hartley in the chest. After reporting the incident to the referee, Ranford is kicked out of the game. The Rockets score two power play goals and have a 3-0 lead. Ranford will be suspended by the league for his actions.
- Tyson Barrie was named the games first star for his goal and two assist effort. All three of his points came on the power play as the Rockets finished the night going 4 for 9 with the extra man.
- Shane McColgan again had a strong game and was full marks for his three assists. Despite failing to be named a game star, McColgan was tough to play against and appeared to really get under the skin of the Blazers. In fact, from the broadcast booth it looked as if one of the Blazers on the bench spat at McColgan in the third period as the home team continued to unravel. I can tell you one thing, if that happened on the Rockets bench and the coaching staff knew who it was, that player would likely be sitting out the next game for that inappropriate conduct.
- Geordie Wudrick scored his 40th goal of the season becoming the first Rockets player since Jamie Benn to score over 40 goals in one season. Recent Rockets to score over 40 goals in one season include Benn, Justin Keller, Jesse Schultz, Chuck Kobasew, Jason Deleurme and Brett McLean.
- The Rockets 40th win was the 8th time the Rockets franchise has accomplished the feat. The last time was in 2008-2009 when the Rockets won 47 times.
- Adam Brown tied Kelly Guard's team record for wins with 83. Brown now has a goals against average of 1.60 and a save percentage of .947 in the month of March.
- Congratulations to Rockets rookie forward Gal Koren for scoring his first WHL goal. Koren's marker made it a 5-1 score.
- I was a bit surprised at this, but the Blazers elected to hold their team photo after Friday's loss. It was tough for the players and coaches to crack a smile. Two chairs in the front row of the team photo were left vacant. Blazers owner Tom Gaglardi and GM Craig Bonner will likely be photo shopped in at a later date.
- The two teams close out the seasonal series Saturday night at Prospera Place.
- Fifteen year-old Jesse Lees and Tyson Ballie were with the team in Kamloops. Neither played though. Lees is the Rockets 1st round pick from last summers WHL draft while Baillie was selected in the third round.
- Eighteen year-old d-man Mitchell Chapman returned to the lineup Friday after missing 11 games with a concussion.
- Sixteen year-old Tyrell Goulbourne rejoined the team for the three games this weekend.
- I understand that the Kamloops Blazers Booster Club presented Rockets head coach Ryan Huska with a plaque before the game for his efforts in representing Team Canada as an assistant coach at the most recent World Junior Hockey Championships. The Booster Club does this occasionally to recognize the accomplishment of former Blazers alumni.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
BC Division regular season champions
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