- Losing in overtime never feels good. But realistically, if you throw in all of the variables it is hard to feel discouraged after a 6-5 overtime loss last night to the Kamloops Blazers. The Rockets were playing their fourth game in five night's and simply ran into penalty trouble. When you are not sharp mentally, which fatigue plays a factor, you take undisciplined penalties that normally you wouldn't take. I am not here to make excuses, but the game was clearly decided on the power play. Had the Rockets not taken those trips to the penalty box, the chances of the Blazers scoring three even strength goals were slim. I thought the Rockets were the better team five on five. Only when the Blazers had the extra man on the ice were they able to dominate the play.
- Sure, the Rockets gave up two - two goal leads in the third period, but at the end of the day with the schedule this team has endured in January, picking up a point in a building where the home team has lost just four times in regulation is a pretty decent accomplishment. I could come on this blog and be negative after the loss, but honestly I can't. Against elite teams like Kamloops their is a fine line between winning and losing. You can't take bad penalties, you need great goaltending and you need a good response from your own specialty teams unit. The Rockets fell short in those three areas and still managed a point. Tough to leave the Interior Savings Centre feeling glum when you look at the big picture of how the visiting team played.
- The Rockets could have won this game as easily as the Blazers. Zach Franko hits the goal post in overtime on the teams only shot on goal. It was one of three goal posts and two breakaways the visiting team failed to convert on.
- The coaches won't complain about it, but I thought the penalty in overtime was questionable. In a tied game, against two marquee teams, Rockets forward Dylen McKinlay attempts to check Blazers forward Tim Bozon with his stick in the neutral zone. Bozon goes down, what I would consider easily, and the Blazers go to the power play. Good on Bozon for going down. Veteran move. That call essentially put a gun to the head of the Rockets. If the call went the other way the Blazers would have been pleading for mercy. It's a death sentence. Kamloops is an elite team that when given the power play chance, specifically on a 4 on 3, will beat you. In my opinion the tough penalty to take was the slash Carter Rigby took when the Rockets had a 5-3 lead. It gave the Blazers momentum and the game tilted in their favor after that.
- A tough night for the goaltenders. Cole Cheveldave fought the puck and was suspect on Rigby's second period goal which made the score 5-3. Cheveldave even had one squeeze past him, and with a fresh sheet of ice, the puck may have slowly slid past the goal line. It is safe to say Jordon Cooke had his struggles too. JC Lipon's wrister from just inside the blue line less than a minute into the third period would have been stopped 99 percent of the time. Instead the shot beat him blocker side and the Rockets two goal lead was reduced to one. But, lets not forget Cooke's tremendous save against Blazers d-man Marek Hrbas on a grade 'A' chance in overtime. It should have been game over, but Cooke came up large. It was Cooke's first loss in 21 starts. That is a WHL record, even though that achievement isn't technically kept by the league.
- Chase Suoto scored the game winner after he redirected a puck - in the air - from a point shot. I have mentioned on this blog before that I've been impressed by Suoto's improvement as a player. He came into the WHL wanting to be a scrapper, to antagonize and be a disturber but concussions have likely forced him to change his game. The change has been for the better.
- Blazer forwards Colin Smith and Tim Bozon receive a lot of positive press for the dynamic plays they make. What shouldn't be lost is the contribution that Matt Needman and Cole Ully make. Blazers fans can disagree with me if they want, but I thought 5 on 5, Needman and Ully were more affective.
- I predicted this season that Brendan Ranford would score 50 goals this season. The Blazers sharp shooter is no where near that total. It has been a tough season for the 20 year-old, who looked like a 50 goal man last night with 1+2=3.
- It would be interesting to know how many wins/points the Blazers have earned with late third period rallies. They are the kings of the third period comeback. Either they score the tying goal late or score the game winner. In the two wins against the Rockets, the Blazers have scored the tying goal or game winner with 33 second left (3-2 win Sept 22) and the tying goal with 22 second left (last night) in regulation time. Interesting to note that both those goals were scored on the power play.
- These two teams are evenly matched. It would make for an outstanding playoff series where home ice advantage would be crucial. My gut feeling is these two won't meet in the post season though, so enjoy the final five meetings of the season between the two teams.
- For the credibility of the three stars, I think the Blazers organization has to rethink their approach. Whoever selects them must take a more balanced approach. Giving the Blazers all three stars looks bad on them. If you want to go that way, mention that the 'Blazers three stars are' and take that approach. My good friend Jon Keen, who see's the game very well, gave Rockets forward Myles Bell the third star on his broadcast.
- A few more positive notes. The overtime loss still earned a point for the Rockets, who moved within three points of Portland for first place in the overall WHL standings.
- The Rockets lead in the BC Division was reduced by just one, so they still have a 7 point lead on Kamloops with a game in hand.
- With one game left in January, the Rockets are 11-0-2-0 in the month. Can you honestly be critical of that record? If you do, please go see a doctor.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Hard to be doom and gloom after overtime loss
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