Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Rockets about to join the chosen few?

  • It’s been 17 years since a WHL team was able to come back and win a playoff series after losing the first three games. The Kelowna Rockets, who have defied the odds all season, look to join the 1996 Spokane Chiefs with a win tonight in game seven of their opening round set with the Seattle Thunderbirds.  The Rockets have won three straight, with two of the three decided by a single goal to pull even in this series.  In game six Tuesday night at ShoWare Centre, Myles Bell scored the game winner from his off wing on a hard wrist shot that beat T-Birds goaltender Brandon Glover to the glove side. It was the Rockets first overtime win after dropping three in a row in the extra session to the pesky T-Birds. 
  • The Rockets got some puck luck in this one, but it had nothing to do with all of the tremendous chances they created in the offensive zone.   It came in overtime with a face off in the defensive zone to the left of goalie Jordon Cooke. Seattle 20 year-old Luke Lockhart won the face-off, but instead of feeding it back to a teammate, fired it at the Rockets goal, beating Cooke between the legs before it struck the outside of the far post and stayed out. Moments later Bell skated with the puck inside the T-Birds zone and scored the game winner.
  • The Rockets played a good portion of the game without defenceman Jesse Lees who was hurt after Seattle’s Justin Hickman delivered a high hit that struck the 17 year-old in the head. From my broadcast location the hit warranted a 5 minute major and game misconduct. Hickman won’t play in game seven because of it.  Lees likely won’t either after failing to play the remainder of game six. The injury left the Rockets with just four defenceman, one of which was 16 year-old Riley Stadel.  Madison Bowey, Damon Severson, Cole Martin and Stadel deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there under tough circumstances.
  • Was the Hickman hit on Lees worse than Connor Honey’s hit in game four on Rockets rearguard MacKenzie Johnston? I think it was worse. Honey’s was considered a hit from behind while Hickman’s was a blow to the head.  Hickman’s hit was right in front of me while Honey’s was at the other end of the ice from my broadcast location.  League disciplinarian Richard Doerksen told me Tuesday there are two criteria for deciding the length of a suspension on check from behind, one of which includes the severity of the injury to the player involved.  The league looks at any checking from behind penalty whether it is a double minor or major infraction.         
  • Clearly the best player on the ice was T-Birds goaltender Brandon Glover. The 20 year-olds stop on Rockets d-man Damon Severson in the first period by flaring out his glove and stacking his pads on the desperation move was fantastic. Glover took away several sure goals and kept the T-Birds hopes alive of winning game six.  Unless I am wearing T-Birds rose coloured glasses, without Glover’s spectacular play, would this game have gone into overtime in the first place? I think not. The T-Birds created scoring chances, but again surrender numerous scoring chances of their own.
  • The 59 shots on net were the most the Rockets have registered this season. The previous high was 58 when Cam Lanigan was lights out in the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-3 shootout win in October.   
  • Rockets 15 year-old forward Nick Merkley picked up his first career point, an assist in a wild first period where six goals were scored. Merkley had a breakaway and no less than four shot on goal. Not bad for a fresh faced forward?  Or does it again illustrate the number of quality chances the T-Birds surrendered in the game?  
  • Cole Linaker is really growing on me. The 17 year-old played big minutes and is outshining many of his older teammates that should prosper under these physical conditions. I also thought Ryan Olsen took his game to the level he needs to in order to be affective. Olsen was stronger on pucks and his desire to get involved was apparent.
  • Five of the six games in this series have been decided by a single goal with four of the six games going into overtime. Do these two teams have anything left for game seven?  We are going to find out when the puck drops at Prospera Place at 7:05 Pacific time in the first seven game series of the 2013 WHL playoffs.     


Sports Nut said...

Way to go guys! You have worked hard to earn a shot at the series. One shift at a time, one period at a time.
You can do it! Go Rockets.

Ryan Manns said...

Any word on how many defensemen we'll have tonight?

Marc S said...

It was a really good series. I was hoping the T-birds would be able to get it done, but they just aren't very good at making the most of their scoring chances. Hopefully that will be an area of improvement for next year.

Good Luck with Kamloops in round 2.