Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alumni Update-Kris Lazaruk

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Kris Lazaruk played just half a season with the Kelowna Rockets, but the personable goaltender is now leading the University of Calgary Dino's into the playoffs. Here is the interview I had with him during a quick stop at Father David Bauer Arena.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Alumni Update-Dylan Hood

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Here is the convo I had with Dylan Hood. Hood played five seasons in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Moose Jaw Warriors. 'Hoody' is now at the University of Calgary. Ya, even he is surprised to be getting a higher education. Good on him!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Saying goodbye to February with a setback

You couldn't have asked for a better scenario. Down by a goal with less than four minutes left in the game, Kelowna Rockets leading scorer Shane McColgan found himself on a breakaway while trying to kill a penalty. Unfortunately, McColgan's shot rang off the goal post and ricocheted into the corner as the Rockets fell 2-1 Sunday afternoon to the Calgary Hitmen. Despite a late power play of their own, and with the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, that glorious chance was as close as the Rockets would come to sending the game into overtime.

Goaltender Jordon Cooke was asked to hold his team in the game early and the 18 year-old did just that. Cooke was solid in the first period when the Hitmen produced the bulk of the quality scoring chances. The Rockets, playing their fourth game in five nights, looked like it, before oddly enough finding their game in the third period. Tied at one goal apiece, the Rockets dictated the play in the early stages of the third, forcing Hitmen head coach Mike Williamson to call a time out. The Rockets out-shot the Hitmen 12-5 in the final frame, but outside of McColgan opportunity, getting inside quality chances were hard to come by.

If fatigue was a factor Sunday, mental fatigue was evident on the Rockets power play. Little if anything was manufactured off of it, including a 5 on 3 for about a minute a forty seconds. The Rockets went 0 for 4 in the game and didn't look as sharp as it had in the past. In the seasonal series against the Hitmen, the power play went 0 for 11.

The loss was the Rockets 29th setback of the season. Last season the Rockets lost 28 times.

The Rockets won four of 13 games against Central Division teams this season. The Hitmen are now 9 and 2 against the BC Division this season.

Brett Bulmer ended the month of February with four solid games. Bulmer scored his team leading 29th goal of the season Sunday. The 19 year-old had 9 goals in the month of February and led the team with 12 points in 13 games.

The game featured three fights with Carter Rigby, Mitchell Chapman and Damon Severson getting into scraps. Chapman was playing in only his second game after missing nine straight with an injury. Severson was involved in only his second scrap of the season after a pushing and shoving match, involving several players, happened at the conclusion of the second period.

The Rockets concluded the Alberta road trip with a 1-2-0-1 record and were out scored 16-13 in the four games. Now the team has three road games left in the regular season with stops in Kamloops, Vancouver and Spokane.

After playing 13 games in 23 days, the Rockets have this week off before meeting Kamloops in a home and home series next weekend. It is hopeful forward Filip Vasko will be back in the line up when the Rockets are in Kamloops Friday or possibly in the line up Saturday when the Blazers make a return visit to Prospera Place.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Former Rockets player battles drug addiction

Just this past autumn Brady Leavold’s life was chaos.

He was fighting a burgeoning heroin addiction spawned by years of abusing Oxycontin, a synthetic version of the drug. His engagement to fiancé Brittany was gone, he was trying to maintain his relationship with his three-year-old daughter Brooklyn and two-year-old son Brode and his hockey career seemed over.

His mortality was approaching.

“I’m lucky to be alive. I feel very fortunate and lucky to be alive,” Leavold said. “Very thankful I had the courage to put myself through rehab because I don’t know if I’d be standing here today.”

Leavold, 24, signed to play with the Killer Bees on Feb. 6 after 2 1/2 years away from the game and over three months of sobriety. Between his last game in the winter of 2009 and his first with the Bees, his life descended into addiction and a broken career.
He had signed to play this season with the Wichita Thunder but “sabotaged” himself in early August and “went on an absolute tear,” using “everything and everything” he could obtain. At that point, Leavold likely had two choices: continue down the path of addiction and possibly die, or get clean and rebuild.

He chose the latter, enrolling last fall for one month at Maple Ridge Treatment Centre in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. While he was there he met other people with similar issues, people who could do more than just offer their sympathy.

One of those people was his roommate, former Washington State and CFL football player Adam Braidwood, once the No. 1 pick in the league’s college draft. Leavold now calls Braidwood his “best friend in the world” and they talk almost daily.

Braidwood, 27, was recovering from an addiction to prescription medicine. Unlike Leavold, however, Braidwood said he was clean and there to manage stress in his life. In 2010 Braidwood was charged with aggravated assault and forcible confinement, then while out on bail was arrested for domestic assault.

The two athletes bonded over their experiences and the pain of knowing they had severely wounded their careers and lives.

“He’s my biggest support I think and he’s the one who really changed my life,” Leavold said. “I can’t say enough about that guy.”

Since Braidwood was in a different stage, he could explain to Leavold how to fight his addiction rationally.

“When you’re on a substance for a long period of time your mind isn’t working properly, so he tended to think with a lot of emotion,” Braidwood said. “For me, I was at a different phase. I wasn’t really emotional about the whole process, so I kind of gave him some perspective and I think that really helped him.”

THE DOWNFALL

The hole in Leavold’s resume is gaping.

During the 2008-09 season Leavold played 31 games for the Victoria Salmon Kings in the ECHL and four with the AHL Norfolk Admirals. The next season he played twice for the Tilburg Trappers in the Netherlands before returning to Victoria for two games.

Then… nothing.

An internet search turns up no answers other than that he signed to play with Wichita this season but never did. There’s no report anywhere about what Leavold did with his career, and it seemed like he fell out of the hockey world.

But what Google won’t reveal what happened to him during that span, Leavold is willing to share.

“What happened is I got hooked on painkillers,” Leavold said. “It took my life from me pretty good. It took hockey, it broke up my fiancĂ©, my kids and everything. I’m a pretty open guy so I really just decided to come back and give this another shot because I forgot how much I love playing hockey.”

During the 2008-2009 season with Victoria, Leavold suffered a serious right knee injury and was prescribed Oxycontin. But when the injury healed, Leavold continued to use, despite a history of never using any drugs up to that point.

He played briefly during the next season with Victoria but failed a physical because of the knee injury. He went to play in the Netherlands with the Tilburg Trappers but decided to leave after two games before a brief return to the Salmon Kings. He was suffering from withdrawals and went back to his hometown of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia and started to see the end of his career.

“It was not fun. I was barely able to walk, just couldn’t sleep,” Leavold said. “It was probably the worst time of my life to be honest with you.”

Leavold did try to get clean at that point and worked as trainer for young players, though he never brought any of his issues to the rink. It wasn’t enough to support himself, however, and he leaned on his family, who he credited for keeping him off East Hastings St. in Vancouver, an area known for its high density of homeless people and drug addicts.

“I did a lot of bad things the clean and sober Brady wouldn’t have done,” Leavold said. “It’s unfortunate but it’s in the past and I’m so happy to be here.”

By last fall, Leavold thought he was ready to return with Wichita. But he wasn’t.

A WELCOMING TEAM

More than three months after finishing rehab, Leavold is fully sober and is relishing the chance he has.

“I’m just so grateful that (Bees coach) Terry Ruskowski is giving me an opportunity here,” Leavold said. “I’m really excited to play and I think the fans are going to like how I play.”
Leavold’s chance isn’t coming without a few strings attached. He’s tested regularly and had to sign an agreement he wouldn’t use again.

The Bees’ bus has no alcohol, and if the team has a get-together with him around, any temptations are kept away. Before he was signed, Ruskowski was aware of the situation and spoke with Leavold to make sure he wanted to get his life on the right track.

“I always feel a guy should have a second chance,” Ruskowski said.

“It’s important to Brady, it’s important to me. It’s important to people to know if you’re serious about changing your life around, I’m willing to give you a chance to do that, to support you in any way I can,” he said. “I may have a gruff outside figure but I love my boys and I’ll do anything for them to make them a better person. Bottom line, I’ll do anything for them.”

Bees players are also aware of what’s going on with Leavold. Some of them, like center Brandon Campos, know better than others.

Campos and Leavold are lifelong friends and grew up together in Port Coquitlam. Campos saw what happened to his friend as addiction took hold and cost him his engagement and career.

“It’s one of those things you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Didn’t really see it coming,” Campos said. “I’ve known the guy his whole life. It’s tough to see the path that he took to get here.”

While Leavold tries to stay clean, he and Ruskowski use the story of Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton as an inspiration. After his career was derailed by addiction, Hamilton recovered to become an MVP and one of the best players on a two-time pennant winner.
They know that Hamilton’s path, however, hasn’t been smooth. He’s suffered two well-publicized relapses, proving that once addiction gets a hold it never really goes away.

“It’s a possibility (it could happen to Leavold). I don’t know what these guys are going through because I’ve never had those kind of problems but I’m sure they’re going to have a situation where they’re going to be tested,” Ruskowski said. “We’re trying to build his character up and his ability to say no in those different kind of scenarios.”

RECOVERING

Like Ruskowski, Leavold is confident in his sobriety but fully aware that one day doesn’t guarantee another. He doesn’t drink and doesn’t use any painkillers, even over-the-counter medicines like Advil. Besides the support group of players like Campos, he is an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous.

There’s also the support of Braidwood, who stays on him daily to stay clean. At 6-4 and around 270 pounds, the aspiring MMA fighter Braidwood could do serious damage to Leavold if he wanted.

“I had some legal problems so I had it made up in my mind I wasn’t going to use and I know he was still craving and stuff,” Braidwood said. “I said if he was going to use he’s putting my recovery in jeopardy and I wasn’t going to be too happy about that.”

More seriously, Braidwood has other concerns for Leavold. And praise.

“I ended up caring quite a bit about Brady by the end of our rehab stint and I wanted to see him do well,” Braidwood said. “He seems really focused and he grew up a lot. I think he grew up more in a month than I see most people grow up in a few years.”

Besides avoiding Braidwood’s wrath there is other motivation for Leavold. There’s the obvious goal of staying clean and get the most out of his life. But there is also the matter of his two kids.

He doesn’t live with them but communicates daily with them over Skype. What he wants is for his children to have their father and to see them as a man and hockey player, not one on the verge.

When he returned to the ice on Feb. 9 it was in Laredo for the Bucks’ Kids Day game. It gave him another reminder of why he needs to stay sober.

“For a first game back to see 6,000 kids it was probably the best way that I could have came back,” Leavold said. “It reminded me of why I’m down here, to set a good example for my kids.”

Brian Sandalow covers the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees for Valley Freedom Newspapers. You can reach him at (956) 683-4436 or via email at bsandalow@themonitor.com.

Preparing to face the Hitmen

Zach Franko and Myles Bell prepare for this afternoon's tilt in Calgary against the Hitmen.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rockets receive snowy reception in Medicine Hat



The snow is falling in Medicine Hat. Crews are busy cleaning out the parking lot to the Medicine Hat Arena in time for tonight's game.

Rockets flop back to reality

The Kelowna Rockets looked like a 6th place team in the Western Conference Friday night in Lethbridge. The home town Hurricanes looked anything but a team destined to finish out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference for a second consecutive season. Brady Ramsay scored all three goals on the power play as the Hurricanes out-worked the Rockets in a 6-2 win. The loss snapped Kelowna's two game winning streak while extending Lethbridge's to a modest three games.

The Hurricanes dominated the first period and had it not been for the play of Adam Brown this one would have been ugly early. The Hurricanes played huge stretches of the period inside the offensive zone and the Rockets were content to watch rather than react to what was in front of them. Brown made a sensational save against Russell Maxwell and then positioned himself well on a 2 on 1 by stoning Nick Buonassisi at close range. Despite those two stops, the Hurricanes recorded ten quality chances in the first period alone and carried a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

The Rockets were guilty of being extremely weak in front of their own net. Give the Hurricanes credit for being hungry, but not been strong on sticks allowed the Hurricanes to beat Brown from several in-tight chances. The 20 year-old goaltender was replaced by Jordon Cooke to start the third period. Brown, despite his solid play, gave up five goals on 29 shots.

Much like Brown's numbers don't tell the entire story, the same can be said for the number of shots the Rockets registered towards the Hurricanes net. While 39 looks impressive on paper, the number of quality chances were few. The best came when Brett Bulmer recovered a loose puck inside the Lethbridge blue line, skated in on a breakaway, made a terrific move, only to find the left toe of a down and out Damien Ketlo.

Speaking of Bulmer, criticize him all you want, but the 19 year-old really came to play Friday night. He often dominated play and was consistently the Rockets best forward. At the end of the night he is held off the score-sheet, but in this game you couldn't but help notice his strong play.

It marked the first time in nine road games that the Rockets failed to earn a point.

It must be hard not to start Jordon Cooke on the road. While Adam Brown is clearly the number one goalie, Cooke has lost only twice in regulation in 11 road starts this season. Cooke is 5-2-2-2 in 11 road games.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wow! Enmax Centre in Lethbridge in pictures

Welcome to the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge. About 35 million dollars is being spent on upgrading this facility. The architects got it right. This is the best reno job of any of the facilities I've seen. Moose Jaw's is outstanding (that was a total rebuild), but Hurricanes fans can be proud of this upgrade.
Outside the Enmax Centre. What I like about the new frontage is it doesn't look like an add-on. The glass windows is where the new restaurant will be situated. They are still working on all aspects of the arena, so much so, that the 'Enmax Centre' signage isn't even up on the side of the building.
The blue prints of the arena. Whoever is overlooking this project should take a bow.
This is the visitors dressing room at the Enmax Centre. This is the Hurricanes old dressing room. The Hurricanes are now housed at the end of the arena where the new restaurant is located.
A view of the new press box. Last season I was calling games from the other side of the arena.
A new score clock. Lethbridge needed this about as desperately as Medicine Hat does. Video replay for the fans is a must.
A look inside one of the luxury boxes.
This is the cat walk to the new press box. Construction isn't totally complete, but you get an idea of the set up of the press box that hangs over the ice. We need a replica of this at Prospera Place.
This is a view of the visitors radio booth in the press box.
The new restaurant/lounge. This obviously isn't ready for public use. The plastic around the chairs should be a dead giveaway. Or does the plastic around the chairs remind you of the times when you visited your aunt and had to sit on plastic?
This may not look impressive at first glance, but this is a huge concrete barrier/compound that visiting buses, musicians can use to park their trailers inside this safe blockaded area.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rockets pic's as we roll along

Jesse Lees (front) and Tanner Moar (rear) bring in the stick bag as the Rockets make a stop in Calgary this afternoon for a quick practice before making their way to Lethbridge.
Once inside the Father David Bauer Arena, I ran into Kris Lazaruk and Dylan Hood, two former Rockets that are now playing for the University of Calgary Dino's. Here is a close look at Lazaruk's mask.
Here is the other side.

Road Rash

A solid crowd last night in Edmonton. The Oil Kings have to be happy with ten thousand fans coming out to watch them on a Wednesday night.

Oil Kings Kristian Pelss is a pretty special player. The 19 year-old has pro type speed. The Oilers, who drafted him in the 7th round, must be pretty happy with the prospect. Kevin Lowe was among the Oilers brass taking in the game.

Shane McColgan impressed me last night and it had nothing to do with his dynamic play in the offensive zone. The 18 year-old was blocking shots and decided to get into another fight. Playing a scrappy game, McColgan might be changing his game to mirror that of former Blazer Darcy Tucker.

If you told me rookie Carter Rigby would be knocking on the door for 20 goals this season I would have second guessed you. The just turned 18 year-old has really filled the void left by the offensive struggles of second year forward Zach Franko. I expected Franko to score 25+ goals this season. Unfortunately that hasn't happened.

Tyrell Goulbourne's 16 fighting majors is now one shy of Edmonton's Mitchell Moroz for the league lead among rookies.

The Kelowna Rockets boarded the bus in Edmonton this morning and headed for Lethbridge. The team made a brief stop in Calgary for a practice and a bite to eat.

It was great to spent a few minutes catching up with Kelowna Rockets alumnus Kris Lazaruk and Dylan Hood. Lazaruk and Hood were practicing with the University of Calgary Dinos before the Rockets took to the ice at the Father David Bauer Arena. Be listening to AM 1150 tomorrow night from Lethbridge as we hear from Lazaruk and Hood during the first and second intermission.

Technical problems were the norm if you listened to last night's broadcast from Edmonton. Three times I lost connection between the broadcast booth and the radio station. Why did that happen? I have no idea, other than an unstable phone line that resulted in the drop outs.

Check back later tonight for a few more pic's from our travels down to Lethbridge.

Sign here please!

Rockets d-man Myles Bell (right) signs a few hockey cards at the hotel lobby in Edmonton.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beating the beast from the East

The Edmonton Oil Kings were gunning for their 40th win of the season Wednesday night, but the visiting Kelowna Rockets delayed the impending milestone. Brett Bulmer, Carter Rigby and Cody Chikie each scored twice in a surprising 6-4 road win. Or was it surprising? While the Rockets had 27 fewer points than the Oil Kings entering the game, clearly this 6th place team in the Western Conference plays its best on the road, specifically against elite competition. The Rockets have now earned points in eight straight road games.

The first period was dominated by the Oil Kings. The shot clock didn't lie as the Oil Kings out-shot the visitors 15-5. Rockets goaltender Jordon Cooke was solid in net while Tyrell Goulbourne stepped up with his most impressive tilt of the season by taking on Oil Kings tough guy Klarc Wilson. Goulbourne turned a lot of heads with that fight and specifically caught the attention of NHL scouts in attendance. Goulbourne's timing couldn't have been better. Wilson must have been shocked at the final outcome too. Goulbourne's fight and Cooke's strong play were two positives to take out of the period.

The Rockets scored three times in the second period to build up a 4-1 lead. It was aided by a five minute power play after Oil Kings Henrik Samuelsson received a kneeing major and game misconduct after sending Kelowna defenceman Damon Severson to the ice. Originally no penalty was called on the play until the two referee's conferred with the linesmen. Severson gingerly came off the ice but did return. The Rockets would score two power play goals before the Oil Kings made it a one goal game with two quick ones of their own late in the period.

How many teams can say their top two point producers were involved in a fight in the same game? Shane McColgan fought Henrik Samuelsson after his hit on Severson and then Brett Bulmer used a few upper cuts in a tilt against Oil Kings d-man Keegan Lowe in the third.

While we are talking about fighting, why is Brett Lyon and Jesse Astles sitting idly by? Isn't that their role? Does Tyrell Goulbourne have to do all the dirty work? Just asking.

Bulmer now has 26 goals, the same as injured captain Colton Sissons. Rigby now has 19 goals, which is third best on the team.

The loss was the Oil Kings 5th on home ice this season. Only Regina (twice), Tri City, Vancouver and now Kelowna have won on Rexall Place ice this season.

Tyson Baillie earned two assists and was named the games third star. That must have felt good for the Fort Saskatchewan resident to play a prominent role in his home province.

Pic's from Edmonton and Kamloops

Mitchell Chapman and Filip Vasko are on the bike for a workout at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
The nets at Rexall Place have the NHL logo on the back of them. Do you ever notice that the nets at Prospera Place have the Rockets logo on them?
This is a look inside the Rockets dressing room in Edmonton. The set up will look a lot more organized as game time approaches. This pic was taken as the team moved their equipment from another location.
This is how the score clock looks as the Oil Kings and Oilers enter the ice from this side of the arena.
This pic was taken as the Rockets arrived in Kamloops Tuesday morning for quick skate before traveling on to Edmonton. Rookie Austin Ferguson gets a breather as assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert looks on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rolling down the highway

We are seven hours into our road trip to Edmonton and the first stop along the way was at the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops for a 9 am practice. It felt odd to be in the ISC on a non game day as the players were involved in an hour workout. The last time the Rockets spent a morning in Kamloops was in the first round of the 2009 playoffs, when the Rockets eliminated the Blazers in four games.
We arrived so early in Kamloops that none of the Blazers management nor coaches had yet arrived at the arena. How odd was it for them to roll up to the ISC and see the Rockets bus parked at their doorstep? Blazers trainer Colin 'Toledo' Robinson was there to welcome us though. The personable Robinson even had a pot of coffee on for the Rockets coaching staff as we arrived. Nice touch.

I met Blazers radio voice Jon Keen for a quick coffee as the team took to the ice. Keen is calling a winner and is like a kid in a candy store these days. Calling a winner is a whole lot of fun for a broadcaster and you have to enjoy every minute of it. I think Keen realizes how fortunate he is to be covering an exceptional group of athletes.

I even received a tour of the Blazers dressing room with Keen after receiving approval from the proper authorities. Let's just say, that probably wouldn't have happened 15 year's ago when Rick Ball was calling the play-by-play for the Rockets and Kelly Moore was doing the same for the Blazers. Back then, those two probably never even talked.

I am not down playing the importance of finishing in first place in the overall standings, but it is not the be all and end all to a great season. Many a team has failed to finish first only to have tremendous success in the playoffs. Many have won the regular season crown only to fall flat on their face when the most important part of the season begins. All I know is few people remember who won a regular season title. All anyone remembers is who won a WHL championship.

Rockets d-man Mitchell Chapman was on the ice this morning in Kamloops. An encouraging sign for a veteran who is desperately needed to anchor the blue line. Chapman's big body presence and physical demeanor is an added element that can go a long way against quick teams like Edmonton and Medicine Hat. Add to the fact he is the best shot blocker and oldest d-man on the team, you can't help but notice his absence when he is out of the line up.

I guess I owe Adam Brown 5 bucks. While stick handling a puck at centre ice at the end of practice, Brown bet me five bucks that he would put a puck on the top of the net at the far end of the ice. "I will take that bet", I yelled at Brown from the bench. The 20 year-old quickly picked up the puck with his glove and promptly skated towards the net and put it on top of the net. I guess he didn't say how he'd do it, but he did it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Alberta bound...Alberta bound...it's good to be Alberta bound.


  • Talk about an early start. The Kelowna Rockets bus will roll out of Prospera Place tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at around 6 am bound for the province of Alberta. The team will play four games in five nights against four of the five Central Division teams, which include stops in Edmonton (Wed), Lethbridge (Friday), Medicine Hat (Sat) and Calgary (Sunday). The only stop the Rockets won't make is in Red Deer. Of the four teams the Rockets visit on this road trip, two of them they played just last week. Edmonton came into Kelowna last Wednesday and earned a 6-3 win before following flat on their faces two night's later in a 7-1 loss to the Hitmen. The Rockets also know Lethbridge well, having played them December 7th and January 20th at Prospera Place. They haven't seen Medicine Hat since October 12th when they lost 4-2.
  • The Rockets feature six Alberta born players on it's roster. Tyrell Goulbourne is from Edmonton, Cody Chikie is from St. Albert, Tyson Baillie is from Fort Saskatchewan, goaltendering Jordon Cooke is from Leduc while Myles Bell and Jesse Lees are from Calgary.
  • According to Google Maps, the trip to Edmonton from Kelowna is 896 kilometers. That is about 12 hours on the bus.
  • The road trip starts early with a stop in Kamloops for a morning practice before heading along the way.
  • The Rockets made two treks to Alberta last season. Prior to the Christmas break the Rockets played five games in seven nights, sporting a record of 3-2-0-0. That trip included wins in Red Deer, Lethbridge and Calgary. The team then headed out on a four game swing last February, which included an additional stop in Kootenay, and beat Medicine Hat (3-2 in a shootout), Red Deer (1-0) and Calgary (4-3 in overtime).
  • With my camera in hand, I hope to take a fair number of pictures on the Rockets final 'significant' road trip of the season. So, check back often for updates.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

#7 plays prominent role

(Photo by Marissa Baecker)

  • The number seven played a prominent role in Saturday night's Rockets win over the visiting Red Deer Rebels. Damon Severson, wearing his familiar number seven jersey, scored in the seventh round of the shootout, leading his team to a 4-3 win. Severson's heroics helped the Rockets win in the shootout for the 7th time this season, and if you include his shootout goal, Severson would have seven goals this season after scoring his 6th in regulation time in the come-from-behind victory.
  • The Rockets found themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes despite a solid period. Brett Bulmer was awarded a penalty shot and hit two goal posts but couldn't find the back of the net. Bulmer would be rewarded with two goals in the second period though, before Severson scored late in the third to give the Rockets their first lead of the game.
  • The game went into overtime after Rebels d-man Matt Dumba tied the game with 32 seconds left in regulation. A face-off occurred in the Rockets zone after back-to-back icings by Bulmer and Madison Bowey. Bowey's icing came out of desperation to clear the zone while Bulmer's ill advised attempt at scoring his third goal of the game went wide, putting his team in a tough spot. In a one goal game, chipping the puck to centre ice rather than going for the empty net would have been the best option.
  • The game winning goal in the shootout will be credited to Severson, but the most controversial play came when Rockets leading scorer Shane McColgan scored after cutting back against the grain with the puck and losing his forward momentum. To the surprise of many, the call on the ice stood after a quick video review. You would think Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin was none to pleased with that call. Despite McColgan's shootout goal, the Rebels still had three chances to win it, but couldn't solve Adam Brown.
  • The win snapped a six game winless streak for the Rockets, who hadn't won since a 4-1 road victory in Prince George. The win was the Rockets 25th of the season.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Embarrassing loss" - Coach Ryan Huska

"It is one of the more embarrassing night's I have been apart of". Kelowna Rockets coach Ryan Huska after a 7-1 home ice loss to Calgary.

Rockets game notes vs. Hitmen

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets look at snapping a five game winless streak (0-3-1-1) tonight when they host the Calgary Hitmen. The Rockets haven’t won in regulation time since a 4-1 decision in Prince George on February 4th. On home ice, the Rockets are winless in four games and haven’t won in regulation time in eight straight. The last regulation win on home ice came in a 5-2 win against Spokane on January 4th. The Rockets are playing game two of a three game home stand. The Red Deer Rebels pay a visit tomorrow night before the Rockets head to Alberta for a four game road trip. The Rockets are in Edmonton Wednesday, Lethbridge next Friday, Medicine Hat Saturday and Calgary Sunday. The Rockets have points in 16 of their last 21 road games (11-5-1-4). Overall, the Rockets are 10-7-1-2 in their last 20 games. Oddly enough, the Rockets have just two regulation wins (2-9-0-1 and two shootout wins) in their last 14 games at Prospera Place.

Who’s Hot: Adam Brown is 4-2-1-1 in his last eight starts….The Rockets have a power play goal in five of their last seven road games (7 for 25 or 28%)...Shane McColgan has 3+7=10 in his last ten games while Carter Rigby has four goals in his last six games.

This and That: The Rockets have 287 regular season home ice wins since Prospera Place/Skyreach Place opened in the fall of 1999…From 2002 to 2006, the Rockets lost just 18 of 140 regular season home games….Shane McColgan plays in his 200th career WHL game tonight….McColgan has 24 power play assists, one shy of league leader Kevin Sundher of the Brandon Wheat Kings…. Brett Lyon returns to the line-up tonight after serving a six game suspension for a high hit on Prince George forward Jarrett Fontaine in a 2-1 win February 3rd….Jesse Astles is a game time decision tonight after missing 18 games with an upper body injury. Astles hasn’t played since a game January 6th in Victoria….In eight of their last eleven games the Rockets have been involved in a one goal game…The Rockets have 7 road games remaining and 7 on home ice … Last season the Rockets played in six shootout games. This season the Rockets have been involved in a league high eleven games that required a shootout. The Rockets are 6 and 5 in those eleven shootout situations… The Rockets have two 20+ goal scorers this season. Colton Sissons (26) and Brett Bulmer (22) lead the charge. Last season the team had five 20+ goal scorers…Fourteen of Colton Sissons 26 goals have been scored on the road this season…Brett Lyon has 2+2=4 in eleven games with the Rockets….Defenceman Myles Bell has 30 points this season. Twenty of those points have been recorded on the road…Four members of the Kelowna Rockets are rated in NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings. Captain Colton Sissons is ranked 14th among North American skaters for this summer’s draft. Teammate Damon Severson is rated 46th, rookie defenceman Cole Martin is ranked 146th and Colton Heffley (191) is also rated. …The Rockets were 3-5-0-2 in ten games with head coach Ryan Huska at the World Junior Hockey Championships…In twelve of their last fifteen wins, the Rockets have given up two or less goals per game…The Rockets are 17-14-2-5 with Brett Bulmer in the line-up….Tyrell Goulbourne leads the team with 15 fighting majors. Mitchell Chapman has nine….The Rockets are 1-10-1-1 when giving up five or more goals…Last season they gave up five or more goals in ten games…The Rockets have been involved in 30-one goal games this season. The Rockets are 14-8-3-5 in those thirty games….The Rockets are playing their 1499th regular season game tonight and will hit the 15 hundred mark when they host Red Deer tomorrow night…Birthdays in February. Carter Rigby turns 18 on February 20th while Spencer Main turns 20 on February 27th…Only Zach Franko has played in all 58 regular season games this season…The Rockets have been shut out three times this season. Calgary (2-0), Kootenay (4-0) and Seattle (2-0) have shut out the Rockets on home ice.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No where near good enough

(Photo by Marissa Baecker)
  • The Kelowna Rockets needed a near perfect performance against the Edmonton Oil Kings last night and didn't even come close. The Oil Kings scored five-second period goals in a lopsided 6-3 win before a crowd of six thousand and 27 fans. The 6-3 score was flattering considering the number of big stops goaltender Adam Brown made in the first half of the game. Brown's desperation stop on Oil Kings forward T.J Foster in the second period was just one of many quality saves the veteran goaltender was forced to make. But even Brown's heroics were not enough as the Oil Kings scored four power play goals, three of them in the second period.
  • Amazingly, the Rockets had a 2-0 lead after the first period despite failing to record their first shot on goal until the 13 minute mark. But Zach Franko, who has finally found his game, scored on a penalty shot before adding a power play goal 36 seconds later. The Oil Kings didn't panic despite being down 2-0 though. Instead, they fired 17 shots at the Rockets net, chasing Brown after the fifth goal. Jordon Cooke, pictured above, surrendered a goal in a relief appearance.
  • Franko's three goal effort was the first of his career. Franko joins Brett Bulmer as the two Rockets to enjoy three goal games this season.
  • The Rockets are now winless in five games. The Rockets are 0-3-1-1 over that stretch.
  • The Rockets played this game without six regulars. Cody Chikie was injected back in the line up after missing Tuesday's game in Seattle with an upper body injury. Even with a full line up, the effort wasn't good enough to compete against an elite team like the Oil Kings.
  • How humdrum was the crowd last night at Prospera Place? Did everybody travel to Seattle Tuesday night to watch the Rockets and returned to Kelowna in the early morning hours? Nothing to cheer about will be the likely defense. If the Rockets were looking at getting energy from the home town crowd, they were looking in the wrong direction.
  • It marked the fourth time the Rockets have surrendered 6 goals on home ice. Lethbridge, Red Deer and Portland have also scored six goals against the Rockets at Prospera Place this season.
  • Shane McColgan was involved in a fight last night with Oil Kings d-man Keegan Lowe. Surprisingly it is McColgan's fourth fighting major of the season. McColgan's dance card includes, Kichton, Pouliot, Lowe and Fioretti.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A well deserved point

(photo of Myles Bell by Marissa Baecker)

  • No Sissons, no Chikie, no quit. The Kelowna Rockets were without leading goal scorer Colton Sissons and 20 year-old Cody Chikie last night in Seattle/Kent. But despite being short staffed, with seven regulars out of the line up, the Rockets erased a 3-1 first period deficit and managed to earn a point in a 4-3 shootout loss. This was a gutsy effort for a team that had six 16 year-old's in the line up and two of their top four point producers sidelined with injury or suspension.
  • The Rockets opened the scoring just a minute and 34 seconds into the game on Carter Rigby's 17th goal of the season. The 17 year-old now has four goals in his last five games and is making a strong push for consideration as the rookie of the year. Despite the solid start, several miscues allowed the T-Birds to score three unanswered goals and the Rockets found themselves down 3-1 after one period.
  • Zach Franko scored his first goal in 14 games with a second period marker. Franko gathered up the garbage after teammate Tyson Baillie was denied by T-Birds goaltender Calvin Pickard when driving towards the net. Baillie earned the assist despite playing regularly Tuesday night with Brett Bulmer and Carter Rigby.
  • The game went into overtime and eventually the shootout when Myles Bell scored on a penalty shot with 53 seconds left in regulation time. The penalty shot was awarded after the T-Birds knocked the net off it's supports while the Rockets were on the power play.
  • It was the T-Birds first home ice win of 2012. Seattle had lost eight straight home games prior to Tuesday's shootout. The T-Birds were a 2-0 winner against Moose Jaw on December 30th.
  • The best save for Calvin Pickard came in the second period against Rockets rookie defenceman Madison Bowey. Zach Franko located Bowey on a pretty back door pass, but the 19 year-old goaltender slid across to make a terrific stop.
  • It marked the 30th time this season the Rockets have been involved in a one goal game.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Game notes vs. T-Birds

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play their 57th game of the season tonight when they face the Seattle Thunderbirds. This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The road team has won all three games in the seasonal series. The Rockets lone win came January 29th at the ShoWare Center in a 4-3 triumph. Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Edmonton tomorrow night before welcoming Calgary Friday and Red Deer on Saturday. Eight days from tonight the Rockets are in Edmonton to begin a four game Alberta road trip. The Rockets have points in 15 of their last 20 road games (11-5-1-3). Overall, the Rockets are 10-6-1-1 in their last 18 games. Oddly enough, the Rockets have just two regulation wins (2-8-0-1 and two shootout wins) in their last 13 games at Prospera Place.

Who’s Hot: Adam Brown is 4-1-1-1 in his last seven starts….The Rockets have a power play goal in five of their last six road games (7 for 23 or 30.4%)...Shane McColgan has 3+7=10 in his last eight games.

This and That: Shane McColgan has 24 power play assists, one shy of league leader Kevin Sundher of the Brandon Wheat Kings…. Brett Lyon was suspended for six games after a high hit on Prince George forward Jarrett Fontaine in a 2-1 win February 3rd. Lyon has already been suspended twice for a similar hit. The 21 year-old has served four games of the six game suspension….In seven of their last nine games the Rockets have been involved in a one goal game…The Rockets have 8 road games remaining and 8 on home ice … Last season the Rockets played in six shootout games. This season the Rockets have been involved in a league high ten games that required a shootout. The Rockets are 6 and 4 in those ten shootout situations… The Rockets have two 20+ goal scorers this season. Colton Sissons (26) and Brett Bulmer (22) lead the charge. Last season the team had five 20+ goal scorers…Fourteen of Colton Sissons 26 goals have been scored on the road this season…Brett Lyon has 2+2=4 in eleven games with the Rockets….Defenceman Myles Bell has 29 points this season. Nineteen of those points have been recorded on the road…Four members of the Kelowna Rockets are rated in NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings. Captain Colton Sissons is ranked 14th among North American skaters for this summer’s draft. Teammate Damon Severson is rated 46th, rookie defenceman Cole Martin is ranked 146th and Colton Heffley (191) is also rated. …The Rockets were 3-5-0-2 in ten games with head coach Ryan Huska at the World Junior Hockey Championships…In twelve of their last fifteen wins, the Rockets have given up two or less goals per game…The Rockets are 17-13-2-4 with Brett Bulmer in the line-up….Tyrell Goulbourne leads the team with 14 fighting majors. Mitchell Chapman has nine….The Rockets are 1-9-1-1 when giving up five or more goals…Last season they gave up five or more goals in ten games…The Rockets have been involved in 29-one goal games this season. The Rockets are 14-8-3-4 in those twenty-nine games….The Rockets are playing their 1497th regular season game tonight and will hit the 15 hundred mark when they host Red Deer on February 18th…Birthdays in February. Carter Rigby turns 18 on February 20th while Spencer Main turns 20 on February 27th…Only Zach Franko and Colton Sissons have played in all 56 regular season games this season…The Rockets have been shut out three times this season. Calgary (2-0), Kootenay (4-0) and Seattle (2-0) have shut out the Rockets on home ice.

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.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Game notes vs. Blazers

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play their 55th game of the season tonight when they face the Kamloops Blazers. This is the fifth of eight meetings between these two teams this season. The Rockets are 1-3-0-0, having been out-scored 14-10. Three of the four games have been decided by a single goal. Following tonight’s game, these two teams meet again tomorrow night in Kelowna. The seasonal series closes with games March 2nd (Kamloops) and March 3rd (Kelowna). The Rockets have points in 14 of their last 19 road games (11-5-1-2) and have won a season high five straight road games. Overall, the Rockets are 10-5-0-1 in their last 16 games. Oddly enough, the Rockets have just two regulation wins (2-7-0-1 and two shootout wins) in their last 12 games at Prospera Place.

Who’s Hot: Adam Brown is 4-0-0-1 in his last five starts….Shane McColgan has 5+18=23 in 20 career games against the Blazers….Brett Bulmer has seven career goals against Kamloops, with five of them scored at Prospera Place…The Rockets have a power play goal in four of their last five road games (5 for 18 or 28%)...Shane McColgan has 3+4=7 in his last six games.

This and That: Brett Lyon was suspended for six games after a high hit on Prince George forward Jarrett Fontaine in a 2-1 win February 3rd. Lyon has already been suspended twice for a similar hit. The 21 year-old has served two games of the six game suspension….In five of their last seven games the Rockets have been involved in a one goal game…The Rockets have 9 road games remaining and 9 on home ice … Last season the Rockets played in six shootout games. This season the Rockets have been involved in a league high ten games that required a shootout. The Rockets are 6 and 4 in those ten shootout situations… The Rockets were 8-5-0-0 in 13 games last January. This season they were 8-5-0-1 during the month…The Rockets have two 20+ goal scorers this season. Colton Sissons (26) and Brett Bulmer (20) lead the charge. Last season the team had five 20+ goal scorers…Fourteen of Colton Sissons 26 goals have been scored on the road this season…Brett Lyon has 2+2=4 in eleven games with the Rockets….Defenceman Myles Bell has 27 points this season. Eighteen of those points have been recorded on the road…Four members of the Kelowna Rockets are rated in NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings. Captain Colton Sissons is ranked 14th among North American skaters for this summer’s draft. Teammate Damon Severson is rated 46th, rookie defenceman Cole Martin is ranked 146th and Colton Heffley (191) is also rated. …The Rockets were 3-5-0-2 in ten games with head coach Ryan Huska at the World Junior Hockey Championships…In twelve of their last fifteen wins, the Rockets have given up two or less goals per game…The Rockets are 17-12-1-4 with Brett Bulmer in the line-up….Tyrell Goulbourne leads the team with 14 fighting majors. Mitchell Chapman has nine….The Rockets are 1-9-0-1 when giving up five or more goals…Last season they gave up five or more goals in ten games…The Rockets have been involved in 27-one goal games this season. The Rockets are 14-7-2-4 in those twenty-seven games….The Rockets are playing their 1495th regular season game tonight and will hit the 15 hundred mark when they host Red Deer on February 18th…Birthdays in February. Carter Rigby turns 18 on February 20th while Spencer Main turns 20 on February 27th…Only Zach Franko and Colton Sissons have played in all 54 regular season games this season…The Rockets have been shut out three times this season. Calgary (2-0), Kootenay (4-0) and Seattle (2-0) have shut out the Rockets on home ice.