Thursday, October 25, 2012

A shootout loss that felt so good

  • At the end of the night it will be registered as a shootout loss, but Wednesday nights 4-3 setback in Medicine Hat was anything but a setback. Oddly, it still felt like a win considering how the team battled back and earned a single point and how they manufactured close to 60 shots at Tigers starting goaltender Cam Lanigan. It was an eye popping experience to see the Rockets dominate play for extended periods of the game. The only thing standing between the Rockets and two points was the play of the 20 year-old goaltender. When the buzzer sounded, the Tigers were fully aware they stole one away from a team, which on this night, looked far superior. 
  • The Rockets were able to get off to a quick start and dominated territorial play in the first period. But hockey can be a cruel sport. Despite the territorial advantage, the Rockets found themselves trailing 2-0 after allowing only four shots on goal. Instead of getting discouraged, the team battled back and didn't move away from the game plan that enabled them to register 20 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes.
  • Despite giving up a second period power play goal on an ill advised charging penalty by Colton Heffley, two unanswered goals in the final frame showed the ability of this group to chip away at a lead and come back. Madison Bowey's power play goal made it 3-2 before Zach Franko would score the equalizing goal with only seconds on the clock with Jordon Cooke on the bench for the extra attacker.
  • The Rockets could have won the game in overtime after they were awarded a power play with 44 seconds left on the clock. With the 4 on 3 chance, Colton Sissons was robbed by the right pad of Lanigan on a pretty passing play. That save enabled the Tigers to send the game to a shootout where their individual skills took over.
  • This game specifically showed where the shootout is a joke. The Rockets, in a team game, controlled the majority of play through the first 65 minutes. They were clearly the better 'team'. But when the shootout is thrown into the equation, a team game turns into an individual skills competition where the Tigers top shooters were able to pull one out of the fire.
  • Timely saves are everything. While Jordon Cooke wasn't spectacular, his save on Tigers forward Hunter Shinkaruk with time ticking down on the second period was huge. Had Shinkaruk scored, the Tigers would have gone into the dressing room up by three goals. Instead, the deficit was two heading into the third period.
  • The defensive core continues to shine brightly for this team. A year older, the mistakes made are significantly fewer than one season ago, when errors were clearly evident. Sure, their are mistakes made, but again those are minimal.
  • Without Ryan Olsen for a third straight game, Zach Franko again flourished without his line mate. Franko controlled play and looks nothing like the player that struggled in a disappointing 18 year-old season. Whether Franko was playing with Henrik Nyberg or Filip Vasko, the Winnipeg product was full marks for the goal, assist and second star status.
  • With the effort the team is playing with at this point in the season, I would hate to be a player sitting out. Who do you take out of the line up when everyone is healthy? And if you are a player struggling on the 4th line, you are now being forced to push the pace in an effort to avoid being a healthy scratch.
  • If I have one criticism after Wednesdays game, it would be the power play. It went 1 for 7, but did score a crucial goal in the third period in an attempt to get back in the game. If the team can execute more consistently with the man advantage they are going to be real tough to beat. It is abundantly clear that if the Rockets want to beat the best teams in the WHL, the power play unit has to be dangerous. Right now the Rockets are a greater threat to score even strength than burying teams when they take bad penalties.
  • Dylen McKinlay had his career high 6 game point streak snapped Wednesday. McKinlay is a welcome addition on a line with Colton Sissons and Myles Bell. Bell had his team leading 9th goal and 21st point of the season.
  • Up next, a date with the Red Deer Rebels Friday night. The Rockets make two stops in Red Deer this season, making a return visit in mid December. As strange as it is, these two teams meet three times in the next month and a half. Red Deer is in Kelowna November 9th.

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