Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rockets take significant step forward with road win

  • That's a little more like it. The Kelowna Rockets didn't look anything like themselves in the first three weeks of the season and that's not a bad thing. In a 6-3 win last night in Everett, the visitors energy level was significantly higher, the compete level stepped up a notch and more players were willing to make significant contributions to the teams overall success. It wasn't a complete team effort, but when you beat a significantly improved Tips teams and do it in their own building, it is something to build on heading into weekend games against the Portland Winterhawks.
  • Sub par goaltending was to blame for the Tips horrific start.  Starter Daniel Cotton was in for a rough night after allowing three goals on 8 shots. I mentioned before the first period break that Tips coach Kevin Constantine had to consider putting in Dustin Lotz to start the second, which is exactly what the veteran coach did. The problem for Constantine was Austin Lotz was only marginally better. I don't know if goaltending is an issue with Everett, but it sure was last night. 
  • Speaking of goaltending, Jackson Whistle was steady in his first start of the season. Whistle made some significant saves against a pretty decent forward core for Everett. It sure is reassuring knowing that Cooke or Whistle are equal to the task when called upon. That is one area of weakness on many WHL teams. Goaltending is not a sore point with the Rockets.
  • The Rockets surrendered three power play goals which won't make the coaching staff happy. Entering the game the Rockets had the best penalty killing unit in the league. The Tips power play looked dangerous every time they had the chance. They have a skilled unit that will only get better as the season moves along.
  • I will say, without the power play Everett manufactured very little even strength. That is where the Rockets did most of their good work. Five on five the Rockets were by far the better team with a relentless fore check that specifically had the Tips defence struggling to move the puck up ice. I was some what surprised at how the Tips struggled when going d-to-do. That is one area the Rockets looked significantly better.
  • Nick Merkley is a special player. The 16 year-old scored two-third period goals less than a minute apart to break open a 4-2 game. Merkley's first goal was a beauty that proves the Calgary resident is going to make many WHL defenceman look silly. Merkley's second goal was not as spectacular, but what was impressive was Tyson Baillie's unselfish play to wait for Merkley to join the play, and instead of shooting, Baillie sent the puck over to Merkley for the easy shot into the wide open net.            
  • I really liked Tyrell Goulbourne last night. Clearly it was his best game of the young season. Sure he had two assists, but he was buzzing inside the Tips zone and just brought significantly more energy to the table. In handing in my three stars ballot, I was torn between Merkley and Goulbourne for second star. I just thought Merkley's goals were timely when the game was still in reach for the home team.
  • I really like the Silvertips. They have a good team. I anticipate them being one of the top four teams in the Western Conference by the time the calender turns to January. They have big, skilled forwards and their back end will improve. I especially liked rookie forwards Jujhar Kaira and Ivan Nikolishin.   
  • The crowd. Small. I wonder if attendance across the league is down? Paid attendance was just over three thousand last night in Everett. I saw last week that the Vancouver Giants are attracting just over 5 thousand fans, which is also small. In Kelowna, paid attendance the other night against Victoria was also just over five thousand, yet I would guess 46 hundred fans were in the building.
  • Photos courtesy of Tips photographer Christopher Mast.

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