Friday, September 30, 2011

Raising a banner is never a bad thing

The Kelowna Rockets open the home portion of their schedule Saturday night by welcoming the Vancouver Giants.
The Rockets are celebrating their 17th season in Kelowna after moving from Tacoma, Washington for the start of the 1995-96 season. In the big picture the Rockets have been a member of the WHL for 21 seasons. This is the first of eight meetings between the Rockets and Giants. The Giants make a return visit on October 20th before the Rockets visit Vancouver for the first time on October 23rd. These two teams met eight times last season with the Rockets going 2-2-0-0 at Prospera Place, out-scoring the Giants 21-17. Following Saturday's game the Rockets host Tri City Wednesday before playing back-to-back games on the road with stops in Tri City and Spokane next weekend.
The Rockets raise a BC Division banner to the rafters prior to Saturday's puck drop after earning their 3rd divisional title in franchise history. The Giants, up until last season, had won the previous five BC Division crowns. The Rockets and Giants have combined to win eight of the last nine BC titles. The only hiccup was in 2004-2005 when the Kootenay Ice, now in the Central Division, won the title.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wild coach on Bulmer

"He looks strong. There are still details in his game that we have to try to correct. Defensively...the one thing I would like to see from him is a commitment to improve.With the puck he has a lot of potential. He gives us something. He is a big strong guy with very good puck protection skills and has the ability to play the type of game we like to play."

You still have nine games in the regular season to make a decision on him?

"No rush really. Everyday, practice, game, everyday is a tryout for these guys and an opportunity to prove themselves."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brett Bulmer comments

Here is a message I received from Brett Bulmer after scoring his first professional goal in an NHL pre-season game for the Minnesota Wild.

"I am very humbled to be a part of the team right now and happy about the opportunity I am getting. I am trying to get better and learn every day".

Good work Brett.

Adolph sidelined indefinitely

On September 9th, 2010 the Kelowna Rockets announced that Kyle St. Denis was being shutdown by doctors after suffering a series of concussions.
Just over a year later the Rockets again reveal that another player will have to sit out the first three months of the season before being evaluated after Christmas.
The player in question is nineteen year-old Max Adolph, who suffered a concussion in a pre-season game. That concussion came on the heels of three concussions suffered last season which limited the Saskatoon resident to just over 30 games.
Best of luck to Max Adolph in his future, whether it is back in hockey or if he elects to pursue some type of schooling in Saskatoon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Things that make me go hmm....

  • What a game Saturday night. If you were a hockey fan in Everett, you got your money's worth. The road team was leading 4-2 late in the game with many people heading to the exits when the Tips score two quick ones and tie the game. Overtime features a penalty shot which Adam Brown stops and then 14 skaters participate in the shootout before the Rockets end the two hour and 41 minute marathon. Unfortunately every game this season won't feature that type of excitement.
  • Are you as concerned as I am about Brett Bulmer? Bulmer, who is just 19, remains with the Minnesota Wild and is making a strong push to make the teams opening day roster. Amazing what Bulmer can do when he puts his mind to it. He's a much better player than some may realize if his heart and mind are in the right place. That is what makes Bulmer a frustrating player to watch sometimes. You know the potential is there, it just doesn't always come out.
  • While Bulmer is making some noise at Wild camp, should we be shocked if Mitchell Callahan returns for his 20 year-old season? It does happen where a signed player returns to junior if the team that drafted him is deep at both the NHL and AHL level. The Wings are a good example of that. Craig Cunningham is the best example of a player who was signed but sent back to junior where he was promptly dealt to Portland by the Vancouver Giants.
  • A stat I am going to keep this season is first goals. It's a statistic, in my opinion, that holds a lot of weight. Scoring the first goal of the game tells me you are engaged, ready to play and are not passive in your approach. Scoring the seventh goal in a 7-1 win does little to show me the character of a player. Stand up and be counted for early by helping your team proves a point. Tyson Baillie showed us that Saturday night by being the first player to turn the red light on.
  • For the record, Baillie has the bragging rights of scoring his first WHL as a 15 year-old. Baillie does not turn 16 until November. As previously mentioned, Shane McColgan scored his first WHL goal, also as a 15 year-old.
  • I am pleased to report the Tips home opener went off without a hitch. I understand new employees that work behind the scenes were finding their footing, and from what I witnessed, they did a terrific job. Thumbs up to Tips Director of Business Ops Zoran Rajcic for making it a great night even for the visiting broadcasters.
  • It is nice to get positive feedback on the first broadcast of the season. Let me thank the Everett Silvertip fans for making so much noise during the game that one listener said "it sounded like a playoff game". When the atmosphere is outstanding in the building, like it was Saturday night, everything about the product is better. It feels better in the building and it sounds better to those that are listening on the radio. It sounds like an event you want to be a part of. No noise in the building is deafening as it yells out - BORING!
  • Gord and I had a quick chat with the new pbp voice of the Tips, Travis Huntington. If the Tips players preform with the same passion and energy that Huntington brings to his job they should have a good season. A new face with a zeal for the game is never bad for an organization.
  • Is Twitter where it's at when it comes to new media? I'm a believer. Blogging still has it's place, but Twitter has really caught my eye. If I want information, Twitter is my first choice. If I want to sit down with a cup of coffee in my hand, I will jump from blog-to-blog.
  • I use Twitter strictly for information, mainly put out by broadcasters or journalists. If you want me to follow you on Twitter and then you post things about your sick dog, you are wasting my time and the unfollow button will be promptly selected. If you have yet to follow me on Twitter, I encourage you to do so at the right side of the page. But in saying that, if I am not providing you with the information you need, gas me. It's what I would do.
  • Up until Saturday, the last time the Rockets won their first regular season game of the season was in 2005.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thoughts from Saturday's one goal win

  • Let's be honest. Import Filip Vasko did more Saturday night for the Kelowna Rockets in one game than the teams two European forwards were able to accomplish all of last season. Vasko won a game for his team by scoring the shootout winner in the Rockets 5-4 victory in Everett. Vasko, the Rockets seventh shooter, beat goaltender Kent Simpson with a nice back hand to spoil the Tips home opener.
  • Nineteen year-old Spencer Main had a strong game, scoring once and adding an assist. Main may have had the best move in the shootout by making a last second decision to go back hand after Simpson gave him nothing on the forehand.
  • Main scored ten goals all of last season. All ten were scored on home ice. It was Main's first road goal since scoring in Moose Jaw on December 12, 2009 in a 2-1 shootout win.
  • Is Tyson Baillie for real? The 16 year-old opened the scoring with a nice shot that beat Simpson high over the glove. It was Baillie's first career WHL goal. What I liked about the goal was the time in which it was scored. A scoreless tie and two rookies get the visiting team on the board first. Now that's impressive. Sixteen year-old Austin Ferguson earned his first career WHL point with an assist on Baillie's goal.
  • The Tips should be pretty happy with the one point. The Rockets had a 4-2 lead with less than 2 and a half minutes left in regulation time before two quick goals sent the game into overtime.
  • He won't get much credit at the end of the night, but 18 year-old Myles Bell logged a ton of ice time in his Rockets debut. I am not sure he garnered that much ice time in Regina but he was used in several key situations in Saturday's win.
  • Adam Brown gave up four goals in the game, but he again made some terrific saves. The biggest came when he stoned Tips forward Josh Birkholz on a penalty shot that was awarded in overtime. Birkholz was given the luxury after Bell hauled down the 20 year-old on a partial breakaway.
  • I love when the referee's have the 'bojangles' to call a player for diving. It happened twice as the Tips were called for 'embellishment' in the second and third periods.
  • A solid tilt between Rockets forward Jessey Astles and 19 year-old Tips tough guy Jesse Mychan. As the saying goes, it's not how you start but how you finish. Astles waited patiently before landing a couple of solid shots.
  • I've always enjoyed watching Tips d-man Ryan Murray, but Saturday night wasn't one of his better games. Three penalties seemed uncharacteristic for one of the league's smartest young players.
  • Shane McColgan returned from the training camp of the New York Rangers, but his flight plans had him land in Kelowna rather than nearby Seattle. The Rockets leading scorer from last season was a scratch. Brett Bulmer remains at the training camp with the NHL's Minnesota Wild.
  • Colton Sissons wore the 'C' Saturday night but he hasn't necessarily been anointed the honor for the entire season. That will be decided once Bulmer returns from training camp.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rockets win in shootout

Filip Vasko scored the game winner in the Kelowna Rockets 5-4 shootout win over the Everett Silvertips.

Game notes vs. Tips

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open their 21st season in the WHL tonight with a date in Everett against the Silvertips. The Rockets are celebrating their 17th season in Kelowna after spending five years in Tacoma, Washington. This is one of two stops in Everett this season. The Rockets make a return visit on January 15th. The Tips make two stops at Prospera Place on January 18th and March 14th. These two teams met four times last season with the Rockets sporting a 4 and 0 record. While the Rockets out-scored the Tips 15-8 in the seasonal series, three of the four games were decided by a single goal. After tonight’s game, the Rockets home opener is next Saturday October 1st against Vancouver before hosting the Tri City Americans on October 5th. Three of the teams first five games are against teams based in the U.S Division.

I have a bad memory: The Rockets won their 3rd BC Divisional regular season title last season after accumulating a record of 43-28-0-1. The Rockets finished 12 points ahead of the Vancouver Giants for the division title. The Rockets allowed the second fewest goals against in the Western Conference last season (201). Only Spokane allowed fewer with 193. With 22 road wins, only Saskatoon (24) and Portland (24) had more victories on opposition ice. Seventeen year-old Shane McColgan led the team in scoring 21+45=66. Goaltender Adam Brown was named the MVP. The Rockets were eliminated in six games in the second round of the WHL playoffs by the Portland Winterhawks.

Pre-season Success: The Rockets were 6 and 0 in pre-season, out-scoring their opponents 24-14. Sixteen year-old Tyson Baillie led the team in scoring with 3+6=9 in six pre-season games. Twenty year-old Cody Chikie had 2+4=6 in six games. Sixteen year-old defenceman Jesse Lees led the team in plus/minus with a +4.

Leaving the nest: The Rockets are without three of their top four point producers from last season. Geordie Wudrick (43+16=59) went pro with a team in Germany while Tyson Barrie (11+47=58) moved on to the Colorado Avalanche organization. Mitchell Callahan (23+31=54) has likely graduated to the pro’s with the Detroit Red Wings while Evan Bloodoff (22+22=44), who was seventh in scoring, graduated after five years in the WHL. Defenceman Zak Stebner also moved on at the end of the season and is playing with the Saskatchewan Huskies (CIS). Andreas Stene and Gal Koren were released this summer after filling both Import duties with the team.

Who’s Hot: Rookie Tyson Baillie registered a point in all six games he played in pre-season. Baillie is a third round bantam pick of the Rockets from 2010. Baillie, rookie Austin Ferguson and second year forward Colton Heffley led the team in goals in pre-season with three. All three of Ferguson’s goals came in three of the final four pre-season games. Jordon Cooke played in five of the six games, posting a goals against average of 2.30 and a save percentage of .930.

This and That: The Rockets acquired 18 year-old Myles Bell from the Regina Pats Thursday for 19 year-old Colton Jobke, a 2nd round pick and 5th rounder….Adam Brown enters tonight’s game with 85 wins. Brown is the franchise leader in that category…Second year forward Jason Siebert will miss the first half of this season after his broken wrist didn’t heal properly. Siebert missed the final 48 regular season games and the playoffs last season. The Abbotsford product was the team’s first overall pick in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft….The Rockets are playing their 1441st regular season game tonight and will hit the 15 hundred mark when they host Vancouver on October 20th…The Rockets have 19 players on their roster that have been selected in the WHL draft. Only MacKenzie Johnston, Kevin Smith, Cody Chikie, Adam Brown, Filip Vasko, Mitchell Chapman and Colton Sissons were either acquired in trade or listed…Seven of the Rockets first twelve games are on the road…Ten of the Rockets first 15 games are against BC Division rivals…Four-16 year-old players have made this year’s team. Austin Ferguson is joined by Tyson Ballie, Jesse Lees and Madison Bowey…Overall the Rockets are icing eight rookies this season….The American flavor on this year’s team includes Adam Brown from Yorba Linda, California and Colten (Cole) Martin from Arlington Texas…The Rockets are rated as the 7th best team in the CHL heading into this season by a panel of NHL scouts…The Rockets acquired 17-year-old Penticton native Carter Rigby from the Prince George Cougars on September 3rd. The Rockets acquired Rigby ('94) along with a conditional sixth round WHL bantam draft pick in exchange for a third round bantam draft pick in 2012.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bell speaks

I spoke to Myles Bell this afternoon before practice. I will post his comments later.

Does Bell replace Barrie?

Did the Kelowna Rockets fill the void left by Tyson Barrie?

You would be hard pressed to find a d-man who is that creative offensively, but acquiring 18 year-old Myles Bell from the Regina Pats is a step in the right direction.

The Rockets gave up a lot in the deal, or did they? Nineteen year-old Colton Jobke is now a Regina Pat and the trade also involves a second and 5th round pick.

The belief is Bell could play his 18th, 19th and overage season with the Rockets, so in a best case scenario they obtain a three year player.
Draft picks are valuable no question, but they are still access to prospects that could or could not develop into top end WHL players.
Bell is a top end WHL player.
Bell has a heavy shot, makes a quick first pass and can play physical.
The Pats didn't miss when they made Bell a first round pick in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft.
Bell, who is from Calgary, was taken four players after the Rockets selected Shane McColgan 13th.
Last season, Bell played in 66 regular season games and put up 45 points...13 fewer than Barrie. Bell scored 14 times.
I found it interesting that Barrie had 52 points as an 17 year-old while Bell, who just turned 18 in August, recorded 45 points in about the same number of games.
The kid can play.
Wearing sweater #29, Myles Bell will practice with his new team this afternoon and will be in the lineup Saturday against the Everett Silvertips.

Rockets acquire Bell

Myles Bell is a Kelowna Rocket!

Bell was acquired this morning from the Regina Pats for 19 year-old Colton Jobke, a 2nd round pick and a 5th rounder.

Bell will wear #29 when he makes his Rockets debut Saturday night in Everett.

More on the trade in about an hour.

Rockets building through the draft

How the Rockets were built:

1st Rd: Lees, Siebert, McColgan

2nd Rd: Bowey, Heffley, Franko, Main

3rd Rd: Baillie, Martin

4th Rd: Cooke, Adolph

5th Rd: Goulbourne

6th Rd: Astles

7th Rd: Moar

8th Rd: None

9th Rd: Severson

10th Rd: Jobke, Ferguson

11th Rd: Bulmer

Listed: Chikie,Brown, Johnston, Chapman

Trade: Sissons, Smith, Rigby,

CHL Import Draft: Vasko

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Things that make me go hmm.....

  • Kelowna Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton has a few busy days ahead of him. Hamilton will represent the WHL as the Moose Jaw Warriors play their first regular season home game Thursday in a brand new building. Two night's later he is headed off to Victoria for the Royals home opener Saturday night. Add it all up and Hamilton will be unable to watch his own team open the new season in Everett this weekend.
  • The Rockets could be short staffed on defense this weekend if Madison Bowey and Kevin Smith are unable to play. Bowey played in just three of six pre-season games after suffering a knee injury and Smith was the recipient of a knee in a game against the Vancouver Giants Saturday night. No pressure on rookies Jesse Lees and Colten Martin in game one.
  • The Rockets will start the season with four-16 year-old's. The last time the team had that number or more was back in 2006-07 when Tyler Myers, Riley McIntosh, Dylan Hood, Brandon McMillan and Evan Bloodoff were cutting their teeth at 16. That season's youth movement saw the Rockets win just 22 games and miss the playoffs for the only time in franchise history. Hood made the team as a listed player while the other four were all bantam picks from 2005.
  • Just to bring things into perspective, those five-16 year-old's played a lot in 2006-07. Myers played 59 games while McMillan played 55. Dylan Hood played 47 games while Riley McIntosh dressed for 42 games in his rookie season. Evan Bloodoff, who started that season as a 15 year-old, dressed in 59 games.
  • Be gentle on the young defenceman on the Rockets blue line this season. The learning curve is immense and their errors are often easier to identify than the miscues by the forwards. Remember, Tyler Myers was a -21 in his first season of junior hockey.
  • Producing offensively as a 16 year-old doesn't come easy at the WHL level. Here are a few examples of Rockets alumni that have had success at that tender age: Tyson Barrie had 43 points while Rory McDade had 38 points including an impressive 15 goals. Mike Card had 29 points as a 16 year-old defenceman while Kiel McLeod had 12 goals and 27 points, also at 16.
  • Roster's have yet to be finalized, but it is safe to say the Rockets will ice one of the youngest teams in the WHL this season.
  • Sixteen year-old's rarely score in their first WHL game. The last 16 year-old I can remember scoring a goal in a Rockets uniform was Kyle St. Denis, when he was called up from the Vernon Vipers. Shane McColgan scored in his first WHL game, but he was just 15. The goal came in Edmonton.
  • Who takes the first 'hit to the head' penalty? Eighteen year-old Jessey Astles was the only Rockets player to take such a penalty during the pre-season. He was accessed a double minor.
  • 17. That is the number of players on the Rockets roster selected in the WHL bantam draft by Lorne Frey.
  • Colton Sissons, Adam Brown, Carter Rigby, Mitchell Chapman, Cody Chikie, MacKenzie Johnston and Kevin Smith were all acquired through trade or listed. Filip Vasko was a selection in the CHL Import draft.
  • I am excited to be headed to Everett for the season opener. Great building, solid fan base and a great set up for the visiting team. Love the national anthem singer and the dance for your dinner promotion really works there because the fans let go of their inhibitions and let loose. The cruise down the I-5 with a stop at the outlet store is on the agenda.
  • Am I the only one that thinks Tyler Maxwell will score 50 goals this season? The Tips forward had 41 last season as a 19 year-old on a team that struggled in the offensive zone. Something tells me Maxwell won't be celebrating that 50th goal in a Tips uniform though.
  • The five BC Division broadcasters are joining Dan Russell for our regular round-table WHL preview show Wednesday night. It is a chance for us broadcasters to talk about how great our teams are, how they have no flaws and the fans should be ready for a Memorial Cup run. Then Russell asks all of us to give our prediction on who will win the BC Division title. We tend to all cower and suggest anybody but the team we broadcast for will win the division. Saying the team you follow will win it all is bad karma.
  • For the record, the team I usually predict finishing first often fades in the standings. One year I picked Kamloops, only for the Blazers to miss the playoffs. I thought Chilliwack had what it took to win it all one year and they tanked. Who will be my next victim? Find out during Dan Russell's Sportstalk, heard Monday through Sunday on AM 1150 between 9 pm and midnight.

The Zach attack returns

Kelowna Rockets player profile with Zach Franko.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I've got questions

  • Can the Rockets avoiding another terrible start? Winning just four of their first 14 regular season games one year ago had many on this blog calling for the coaches head. Ridiculous, but true. Had they even played .500 hockey during that stretch they would have had a shot at a 50 win season. Instead they ended up with a solid 43 victories, which claimed a BC Division title.
  • Can the Rockets be a better home team this season? The Rockets earned more points on the road (44 pts) than they did on home ice last season (43 pts). Six of the teams first eight home games last season were losses.
  • Never mind the home record, can they be equally as good on the road? A 22 win season on opposition nice last season was awfully impressive. On more nights than not the Rockets goaltending was lights out in front of a hostile crowd. Adam Brown, in particular, was often named a game star. The Rockets tied Red Deer for the league low in goals allowed on opposition ice (93).
  • Who scores? The Rockets return just one of their top four point producers from one season ago. Geordie Wudrick's 43 goals are gone. So are Tyson Barrie's 58 points. Mitchell Callahan's 23 goals and 54 points are likely dust as the 20 year-old plays pro hockey this season. Only leading scorer Shane McColgan is back (21G and 66 points) among the top four. In total, the Rockets lose 215 points from last season with the departure of Wudrick, Barrie, Callahan and Evan Bloodoff.
  • Can the coaches keep Adam Brown and Jordon Cooke happy? Brown was the workhorse while Cooke awaited the occasional start. This season Cooke wants to play instead of being an innocent bystander. Cooke has his work cut out for him as he attempts to earn more starts in front of last years team MVP.
  • Can rookie Tyson Baillie be an offensive threat during the regular season? The still 15 year-old (doesn't turn 16 until Nov) led the team in scoring in pre-season, but it would be asking a little much for him to be a point a game player against the league's elite. But if Baillie could register close to 40 points, the Fort Saskatchewan product would exceed expectations. You have to remember Colton Sissons had 41 points in his rookie campaign, which included 17 goals.
  • How steep will the learning curve be for rookie defenceman Madison Bowey, Jesse Lees and Tanner Moar? Two of those three are just 16 year-old and newcomer Cole Martin is just 17. With four of seven rookie defenceman in the lineup, the forwards are going to be required to offer a helping hand in their own zone and the goaltenders will have to make a few more saves as these new faces find their footing.
  • I have no science for this, but every year I like to project that a player will earn ten more goals than he scored the year previous. So if that theory, or lack of theory holds true, Shane McColgan should score 31 goals this season, Zach Franko should have 32 goals and Brett Bulmer should respond 28 times. Throw in Colton Sissons with 27 and Cody Chikie with 23 and the Rockets should be causing heart palpitations for opponents in the offensive zone.
  • Cody Chikie must be large, not occasionally, but every night. As a 20 year-old, Chikie has to make an impact every time he steps on the ice. Small with good skating ability, Chikie has to draw the attention of the oppositions top defensive pairing. His 13 goals last season just isn't enough in that valued overage forward spot.
  • Can import Filip Vasko make an immediate impact? It was only pre-season but Vasko (1+4=5) produced and showed he wanted to get involved. Vasko needs just 19 points - 3 goals and 16 assists - to surpass the miserable totals that European's Andreas Stene and Gal Koren put up in a combined 91 regular season games one year ago.