Sunday, September 23, 2012

What went right and wrong on weekend

  • My glass remains half full, not half empty after a home and home series with the Kamloops Blazers on the weekend. A 6-5 overtime loss Friday followed by a 3-2 setback at home Saturday night allowed the Rockets to earn one out of a possible four points. Let's remember the Rockets are starting the season playing against one of the best, veteran heavy line ups you can ice in the WHL. Conversely, ten new faces slipped on a Rockets uniform for the first time and simply need more time to gel.  
  • I thought Friday's overtime loss was the most impressive of the two games. Coming back three times from two goals down was a really good sign for Ryan Huska's team. Had they stayed out of the box in the season opener they likely would have left Interior Savings Centre with two points. Oddly enough, while more disciplined Saturday night, a costly roughing penalty late in the third period allowed Matt Needham to score the game winner with 33 seconds left on the clock.
  • Coach Ryan Huska has enough players on his roster to sit someone if disciple issues are a problem. Sometimes sitting a player is the best way for a coach to get the message across. In my opinion, Saturday's late penalty shouldn't force the coach to sit someone, but clearly the infraction won't happen again at that crucial time of the game.     
  • It may have been a combination of things, but I thought the Rockets played a better game Friday night than they did one night later in front of the home town crowd. While the Rockets gave up six goals and 34 shots in the 6-5 overtime loss in Kamloops, I thought they looked less fractured in their own zone. Despite giving up three goals in Saturday's 3-2 loss, the Rockets spent huge minutes inside their own zone and just didn't look like they were on the same page. The Blazers playing more of a structured game which may have had something to do with that.
  • Kamloops forward Colin Smith...terrific player. I remember watching him at 16. He was small and always lost puck battles. Three years later, Smith is a force.
  • Filip Vasko has his first career WHL goal. It took him 52 games to do it, but the 18 year-old had a huge smile on his face when he helped his team to a 2-0 lead. Vasko scored last season, but it came in a shootout win in Everett on opening night. Those shootout goals don't count in the statistics. Technically, this was Vasko's first game this season after being a healthy scratch Friday night in Kamloops.
  • The best Rockets player in the first two games? My pick is goaltender Jordon Cooke. The statistics won't be flattering, but the 19 year-old goaltender was very good. Cooke made several solid stops Friday and continued his strong play Saturday night. 
  • Zach Franko was named a game start on both nights. The 19 year-old picked up third star status Friday with two assists in Kamloops and then had a goal in Saturday's home opener, which again, earned him a star in the building. I like the fact that he is producing offensively and we are seeing his name on the score sheet. It is only two games in, but Franko leads the team in scoring. When you are 19 and a skilled player, his name should be near or at the top throughout the season.
  • The Rockets sellout streak on home ice came to an end Saturday night. The streak was 183 straight games with a sellout. Impressive. As the promotions department said, it was bound to be snapped some time. Now it's time to start a new one.
  • I thought it was a pretty good vibe in the building Saturday night. The noise makers made a huge impact and the fans appeared to really enjoy the game. The music in the building is louder and Sun FM's Ian MacKinnon is doing a great job in the stands interacting with the fans.
  • The loss of JT Barnett is a tough pill to swallow. The 20 year-old was hurt on the first shift of Friday's overtime loss in Kamloops. If you are going to get injured, it's best to fall victim early in the season rather than near or in the playoffs. I was excited to see what Barnett would add to this team. Guess I will have to wait.
  • Remember the Rockets played the first two games without Mitchell Chapman. The 20 year-old was the teams best defenceman last season and would be a physical force out there. 'Chappy' would be playing a shutdown role against the other teams top line. 
  • Most improved player? It is only two games but MacKenzie Johnston really impressed me on the weekend. A good start for a player who has to be feeling confident with a letter attached to his jersey.
  • The Rockets next opponent is the Portland Winterhawks. The Hawks might be without Ty Rattie for one of those two games down in Oregon. Rattie received a major penalty for cross checking Saturday night and may be suspended by the league.
  • The picture at the top of the page is Filip Vasko. The photo is courtesy of Marissa Baecker. 


g.k said...

Regan can you tell me why Lees is not playing?? I disagree with you on the play of Johnston, he is very slow on reacting to the play, & for his size is not physical enough!! I also think the Rockets struggles at home will continue until someone steps up to be the leader of this group, haven't seen this from anyone to speak of yet, who do you think could assume this role?? Also I don't believe the Rockets can wait for Barnett to get healthy again, they need to go out & get another overage, he has a history of knee ailments so who's to know if he will ever fully recover.

Regan Bartel said...

Lees was a healthy scratch for both games. I think they intend to use him possibly as a forward.

Once they know the extent of Barnett's injury maybe they will have no choice but to find a replacement for him, especially if it is long term.

Ryan said...

gotta agree with g.k. about Johnston. Regan seems to have a mackenize colored glasses when watching this guy play. Not sure if its the Sask connection but all the fans i talk to disagree 100 %. Just because a guy gets an A doesnt equal talent on the ice, could be a last ditch effort by a coach to try and get something from him.

rocketsfanktownmemcup said...

pretty disappointing to see so many empty seats at the arena for the home opener... it will only get worse as the season draws on...

i am going tp disagree with u regan, the atmosphere was pretty bland, even in my section it was unusually quiet. seems like the fans are at a library reading the latest hardy boys novel rather then getting into it!

why will lees be used as a forward, wasnt he a 1st round pick as a defenseman

Jared Comeau said...

I disagree that attendance will get worse as the year goes on. Once the city sees that this team is on year 3 of a 5 year rebuilding plan, they will come back. Attendance was about the same in 2001 and 2002, which was 2-3 years before the Mem Cup victory and once people realized something fantastic was about to happen, they showed up.

If you are looking for the arena to be full again, hold tight, it will happen.

As for how quiet it was, It is always like that for the first ~half of the season, not only in Kelowna, but everywhere. It's just the nature of the beast, where you don't really get excited until the importance of wins becomes magnified.

acco said...

Regan, any estimate on when we can expect Chapman back in the lineup?

Regan Bartel said...

A month according to the WHL injury report.