- Move over Portland Winterhawks....you've got company. The Kelowna Rockets picked up a pair of wins against the defending WHL champions over the weekend by getting great goaltending one night and then played with raw emotion in a 6-3 win a night later. The Rockets took far to many penalties over the weekend, but when your penalty killing unit doesn't surrender a goal and goes a perfect 16 for 16, pushing the envelope isn't necessarily a bad thing. Beating the Winterhawks in back-to-back nights was truly impressive. No matter how those wins were manufactured, what we saw on the weekend was tremendous goaltending, timely scoring and the belief that this group can indeed be an elite team. But caution must be taken. This is not a one trick pony. This isn't a one line team. Not one man can carry the remaining 23 players on the roster. It has to be all in or little will be accomplished. If it happens consistently, the Kelowna Rockets will win games.
- Which win over the Winterhawks was most impressive? Jordon Cooke starred both nights but was especially good Friday in a 6-2 win. Cooke was incredible at times and was full marks for being named the games first star in both games. Cooke stopped 77 of 82 shots for a save percentage of .939. Those two efforts alone should get him consideration for WHL Goaltender of the Week.
- What is with Riley Stadel? Holy smokes! What a slap shot. The 17 year-old already has four goals this season and is playing with loads of confidence. It may have to do with his performance in last years playoffs. With MacKenzie Johnston and Jesse Lees going down to injury, the then 16 year-old was thrown into the fire by assistant coach Dan Lambert in an opening round playoff series with Seattle. Coach Lambert had no other choice. Where Stadel found that booming shot is beyond me. Confidence is wicked. If you lose it, you are half the player you should be. If you have it, you are playing well above your head. Several NHL scouts were watching Saturday's game and took a second glance at their line up sheet to see who the kid was that was wearing sweater #3.
- I don't know what you saw, but I really liked Kris Schmidli's play. Frankly I didn't think he was very good up until this weekend. The 17 year-old rookie played a tenacious game and was rewarded with two assists. His face-off win on Damon Severson's goal was duly noted on our broadcast.
- Nick Merkley. Yikes. What a player. What did you think of the pass he made between two Winterhawk defenders for Ryan Olsen's goal to make it 5-3? That was a special play from a special player. 'Merks' isn't playing like an ordinary 16 year-old. The Calgary kid is coming into the WHL to make an immediate impact.
- Nine of the Rockets 31 goals this season have been scored by defenceman. Riley Stadel, Damon Severson and Madison Bowey have all found the back of the net multiple times.
- Zach Franko has registered a point in every game this season. That translates into a six game point streak. Franko's longest point streak last season was six games. He did it twice.
- Myles Bell is doing what he is suppose to do. Score goals at crucial times. Bell had two goals Friday and followed that up with a massive marker as the Rockets rallied from being down 2-0. If I am Myles Bell, I am shooting from absolutely anywhere. When you possess that type of release and fire the puck with that type of velocity, no shot is a bad shot. Saturday's goal that the 20 year-old scored was a good example. Low percentage shot, yes, but it found the back of the net. Only Jamie Benn and Chuck Kobasew come close to the type of shot that Bell has in his tickle trunk.
- It was nice to see Ryan Olsen score his first goal of the season. Going five games without a goal for Olsen shouldn't happen. The 19 year-old shoots the puck to well. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. My belief is the more skilled his line-mates are, the less affective he becomes. Weird but true.
- For the record, defensive defenceman Cole Martin is a +8, the best on the team. Thanks for asking.
- Cole Linaker has two goals this season and should already have four. A missed open net on a nice backhand move Friday and a tremendous chance on a Justin Kirkland pass Saturday night failed to translate in a goal. But if I'm Linaker, I am still smiling. Those chances are being created and now its a matter of capitalizing on them.
- What will this team look like when Carter Rigby and Mitch Wheaton return to the line up? How hard pressed will the coaches be in pulling someone out of the line up. It is a great problem to have and forces every player to ramp up their game or face the prospect of being a healthy scratch.
- If you think the Winterhawks are no where near the team they were last year, think again. They are still solid and will win many games this season. Like the Rockets, they too had several players out of the line up. Let's hope both teams have 'all hands on deck' when they meet in back-to-back games in PDX in late December.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
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