Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You need a little hockey luck to win a championship

Let's face it; you need a little luck or good fortune along the way to win a WHL championship. Oh sure, good goaltending, timely scoring and character players need to emerge to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, but if the 'Hockey God's' aren't looking upon you favorably you are severely hooped.
Use the Kelowna Rockets as an example. In the 2013 playoffs, the Rockets suffered far too many obstacles in order to obtain the ultimate prize. The injury to captain Colton Sissons in the second last game of the regular season was a back breaker. Many fans wondered why it had to happen late in the season and why to the teams’ heart and soul player? And why was the injury so significant? Why did Carter Rigby and Mitch Wheaton have to suffer shoulder injuries that were so serious, neither could play in the first round of the playoffs? Why did MacKenzie Johnston get knocked out of the opening round playoff series with Seattle before Jesse Lees suffered a similar fate in game four? It forced the Rocket to use just five d-men to get past the T-Birds in a series that should have never gone seven games. It ended up taxing both the forwards and d-man and left them anything put fresh for a second round date with the Kamloops Blazers.
In round two against Kamloops, why did the officiating staff stick it to the Rockets in game four? Why did the team have to compete against more than just a Blazers team who needed no help in generating quality chances even strength? No breaks from the officiating staff and the injury bug biting mercilessly translated into a quick exit from the playoffs and no championship title.
Good fortune was a factor in a WHL title in 2005 though. The Rockets found themselves in the Western Conference final against the high powered Kootenay Ice. In game six at Prospera Place, Ice goaltender Jeff Glass was putting on a clinic. With Kootenay holding a slim 1-0 lead late in the third period and game seven looking like a sure thing back in Cranbrook, the Rockets were granted a power play late in the game. Defenceman Mike Card would take the puck behind the Rockets net and skated with it up the ice. Instead of dumping the puck in the corner, Card surprised Glass by firing a long range shot from center ice that somehow beat the 19 year-old goaltender, tying the game at one. In overtime the Rockets would score the game winning goal. On to the finals they went where they captured the league title with a rather easy five game series with the Brandon Wheat Kings. But why did Mike Card's shot from centre ice beat Glass, who was indestructible through 56 minute?
Fast forward to 2009 when the Rockets faced power house Calgary in the league final. In game six, the Rockets are awarded a power play in overtime after Alex Plante takes a hooking penalty. Tyson Barrie goes on to score the game winning goal sending the Rockets to the Memorial Cup for the fourth time in franchise history. But why was a penalty called on Plante in overtime? Was it good fortune that played a factor in one official calling a penalty in O.T? Had Calgary won that game the series would have gone back to the Saddledome for a game seven where the Hitmen would have been the odds on favorite to wrap up the series.
Again, good goaltending, timely scoring and character players need to emerge in order to have a long playoff run into the month of May. But if you don't think a little luck or good fortune along the way isn't necessary in winning a league title and representing the WHL at the Memorial Cup, you are fooling yourself.

1 comment:

jaz301 said...

If rockets had a healthy team I bet they would be the ones facing Portland this Friday instead of Kamloops. I don't think any team can overcome having 1/3 of you starting roster lost due to injuries. You are right you do need some luck to win a championship. Unfortunately for the rockets there was not much luck for them.