Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Five reasons for optimism
2) Scoring goals for the Rockets didn't come easy last season. In fact, the Rockets scored the 17th most goals of the 22 teams in the WHL. That will need to change, especially considering they played in 37-one goal games in 2011-2012. In tight games the inability to score will come back and bite you every time. Colton Sissons (26) and Carter Rigby (21) are the top two returning scorers from last season when it comes to turning the red light on. Zach Franko needs to score more often this season and newcomer Ryan Olsen should improve significantly on the 15 he potted as a 17 year-old sophomore. If J.T Barnett and overager Dylen McKinlay can be +20 goal scorers, this team could be knocking on the door of a 40 win season.
3) You can't win without solid goaltending. Jordon Cooke is tired of playing second fiddle to Adam Brown and now gets his chance in the spotlight. Cooke is the first drafted goaltender since Kristofer Westblom that has shown significant promise. The workload the 19 year-old is about to face is immense, but he has the backing of management and the coaches that he can get the job done. More important than that, his teammates believe in him. Make no mistake, Cooke will have some rough patches along the way, but the Leduc Alberta produce will show, much like Cole Cheveldave of the Kamloops Blazers did last season, that he can be a starter and elite goaltender at the WHL level.
5) Restoring home ice advantage. Regardless of how you play on the road, all good teams win at home. The defending league champion Edmonton Oil Kings won 29 times on home ice last season. Portland was the most dominant with 31 victories and Moose Jaw looked good in their new arena with a 30 win season. Even BC Division champion Kamloops had 25 home ice wins, which meant they lost only 11 times at the ISC. When was the last time the Rockets lost fewer than 11 games on home ice? It was 2008-2009, when the Rockets suffered just seven setbacks at Prospera Place and won the league title that year.
(All photos used on this entry are courtesy of Marissa Baecker)