- Boy, does this feel familiar! The Kelowna Rockets are down two games to nothing in their second round playoff series with the Kamloops Blazers. It was over a week ago that the team was in the same spot after dropping two overtime games in an opening round playoff series with the Seattle Thunderbirds. The first two games against the Blazers are different though, considering both (4-2 and 5-1) were decided in regulation time. That and the Blazers are a much better team than the T-Birds and capitalize on a good portion of the mistakes you make. It all adds up to two huge games in Kamloops Tuesday and Wednesday. The Rockets need a win in order to host another playoff game Friday night at Prospera Place.
- The key story in game two was the Rockets inability to find the back of the net. They (Rockets) had ample chances to score but had problems beating Blazers goaltender Cole Cheveldave. I thought it was Cheveldave's brilliance in the second half of the game when the Blazers were carrying a 2-1 lead that allowed them to earn a 5-1 win. The 19 year-old made some terrific saves to keep it a one goal game before Chase Souto scored a stoppable shot five minutes into the third period to give the visitors a 3-1 advantage. Again the Rockets pressed, but couldn't solve Cheveldave in an effort to draw to within a single goal.
- The third goal by Suoto was the back breaker. The fourth and fifth goals to make the score look lopsided are irrelevant. They came late in the game when bouncing back from a two goal deficit just wasn't going to happen against a strong Blazers team that can play solid defense with the best of them. For the Rockets to have any chance in this series they need to be in a position to be either ahead or behind by a single goal late in the game. With a depleted line up, the Hail Mary pass won't work. Using the football analogy, they need to be in field goal range to have a chance at winning.
- Who scores the Blazers first two goals Sunday night? Both come off the stick of 20 year-old players. Brendan Ranford, who looks like Hannibal Lecter (Ok, not quite) with that cage he is wearing, has been playing with the desperation and pure desire the Rockets forwards have to mimic in order to have success. To this point they haven't matched Ranford's effort, which may be a good reason why only three goals have been manufactured in the first two games. The game winner in game two is scored by 20 year-old Dylen Willick. The older players step up and win games for you at this time of the year. Plain and simple.
- Things went so well for the Blazers in the first two games that even rookie Aaron Macklin looks like a goal scorer. Macklin has two goals in this series. The High River, Alberta product had just one goal in 62 games during the regular season. He's a grinder and does his best work in the corners but is providing his team with offense.
- Can the Rockets beat the Blazers in Kamloops in games three and four? Sure they can, but Jordon Cooke has to be better than Cheveldave. It is a cold hard fact that Cooke must be a game changer. The 19 year-old was exactly that in game one. Sure, he surrendered a bad fourth goal in a 4-2 loss, but how many great saves did he make in that game? He clearly faced more quality shots than his counterpart and saved his team from embarrassment after a horrendous start. A night later, in game two, Cheveldave was simply the better goalie.
- Both teams played without two of their top players. The Rockets leading playoff point getter Tyson Baillie was serving a suspension for a hit in game one on Blazers forward Colin Smith. Smith also didn't play in game two as he recovers from that hit. After watching it over and over, Baillie deserves a one game suspension, but nothing more. Smith is shooting the puck by cutting into the slot where traffic is often prevalent. As a player, he should take some responsibility for expecting to be hit in that area as he cuts across the slot. Did Baillie lay into a player that opened himself up to be clobbered? You bet he did. But Baillie did not leave his feet nor did he hit Smith in the head. The fact remains, my opinion doesn't count. The WHL head office will make the decision on the length of the suspension.
- It was nice to see both Carter Rigby and Mitch Wheaton back in the line up on the weekend. Wheaton surprised many when he was inserted into the line up for game one and then Rigby didn't look out of place when he came back in game two. Both received clearance to play after suffering shoulder injuries in January. After receiving medical clearance that no long term damage could happen, both decided to suit up and give it a try. Both players have been welcome additions on a team that is still forced to dress two 16 year-old's and a 15 year-old forward in Nick Merkley.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Down but not out
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