Saturday, February 11, 2012

Good start - bad finish

  • The Kelowna Rockets were sitting pretty after 20 minutes. After about 65 minutes though, pretty turned to painful. The Rockets built up a 4-1 first period lead only to see the Kamloops Blazers slowly chip away with four unanswered goals in a 5-4 overtime loss last night at the Interior Savings Centre. The game winner came off the stick of Blazers captain Chase Schaber, who fired a puck between the legs of Rockets goaltender Adam Brown with about 28 seconds left on the clock.
  • The Rockets virtually capitalized on every opportunity in the opening 20 minutes despite being out-shot 14-8. Early penalty trouble by the Blazers and a power play that looked well tuned, the Rockets again showed they can play against the best teams in the WHL. What this team also showed Friday night was it's youth. Whether the Rockets thought the game was in the bag after one period, or they simply couldn't withstand the pressure as the Blazers applied the gas pedal, the Rockets stopped doing the things that brought them early success. The hitting was gone, the grit disappeared and simple plays were not executed.
  • You could see things going sideways in the second period. Fortunately the Rockets were able to escape with a 4-2 lead, but my belief was the next goal in the third period would determine how this game would end. That in fact was the case. Blazers forward Colin Smith scored a goal less than a minute into the third period and the momentum was clearly on the Blazers side.
  • Out-shooting the Rockets 19-4 in the final frame, the Blazers stormed back to send the game into overtime. With the majority of the play in the Rockets zone, the exception being a third period power play where Kelowna hit three posts, it came as little surprise that the best team in the WHL would eventually win the game.
  • The first response after the loss is looking at the cup half empty. The Rockets blew a 4-1 lead and stopped doing the things that made them successful. But if you look at the big picture, you earned a point against a pretty darn good hockey team, and you did it in their building. Losing in overtime bites. Earning a point in hostile territory without a 19 or 20 year-old d-man in your lineup is still impressive.
  • Other observations. Sixteen year-old Madison Bowey earned his first career WHL fight when he took on Blazers agitator Ryan Hanes in a second period scrap. I thought Bowey had a strong game, but like his teammates looked less confident with the puck in the final 45 minutes of the game. But at 16, Bowey continues to turn heads.
  • Blazers forward Ryan Hanes will do little for his team offensively, but he brings an element that is of more value than many people may think. The 19 year-old began to agitate Brett Bulmer, something that Bulmer routinely is very good at doing himself. When Hanes is able to take the Rockets best player - he had two goals in the loss - off his game, mission accomplished.
  • A solid atmosphere at Interior Savings Centre Friday night. The crowd came alive once the Blazers started to force the issue. Up until that point, the Rockets quieted the crowd with a solid opening 20 minutes. With the Blazers hosting Edmonton next week, you would think, yes you would think, a sell out is a good possibility. When will the doubters believe the Blazers are for real? Or in a worse case scenario the Blazers are a lot of fun to watch regardless of the outcome.

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