- They had the game in their grasp but they let it slip away. The Kelowna Rockets came on strong in the final 40 minutes but ending up surrendering the game winning goal with 65 seconds left in the third period in a 2-1 loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen. While the visitors were the better team in the first period, dominating the territorial play, the Rockets regrouped and out-shot the Hitmen 35-14 the rest of the way. Giving up the game winner was a tough pill to swallow when the Rockets, in a worst case scenario, should have left the building with no less than a point and probably deserved two.
- One of the main reasons why the Rockets suffered their first regulation loss at home this season was the play of Hitmen goaltender Chris Driedger. Lulled to sleep in the first period by facing only four shots, the veteran goaltender made several solid stops including a point blank chance against leading scorer Tyson Baillie in the second period and then a solid save on Ryan Olsen in the third period. Driedger was full marks for being named the first star. Without him the Hitmen would have started the BC Division road trip with a loss.
- No star in the building, I thought Ryan Olsen had a really solid game. Olsen was physical, was shooting the puck from close range and arguably played his best game of the season. I liked the fact he was rewarded with taking two key face-offs in the Hitmen zone in an effort to find the tying goal after the Hitmen took a late 2-1 lead. Speaking of 19 year old's, I thought Henrik Nyberg was more involved physically, which too was a good sign. That said, he still needs to be better.
- Jackon Whistle received a rare home start and had a relatively easy evening. As mentioned earlier, despite spending a good portion of the first period in their own zone, the Rockets didn't surrender many quality scoring chances against. The Hitmen threatened the Rockets with their speed and buzzed around the offensive zone but honestly didn't get much accomplished. At the end of the period the shots were 7-4 for Calgary.
- Rookie Justin Kirkland found himself playing with Myles Bell and Zach Franko and the line worked well. Kirkland hit a goal post on a nice pass from Bell in the second period and then scored a shorthanded goal on a miscue at the Hitmen blue line to tie the game at one.
- Just too casual. The Rockets surrender the opening goal of the game after losing the puck behind their own net while enjoying a power play. Hitmen forward Elliott Peterson willed the puck into the net after taking not one....not two....but three swipes at it before it beat Whistle. It was a gift goal that you can't surrender at any time, especially against an elite team like Calgary where goals at the other end of the ice are likely hard to come by.
- The game winner was also the result of a bad clearing attempt. It was a comedy of errors when Rourke Chartier is unable to clear the puck, defenceman Mitch Wheaton breaks a stick on the first of two goal mouth scrambles and then Jackson Whistle is down on his belly when the second goal mouth scramble ensues and the puck enters the net. It was an ugly shift at a bad time in the game.
- With the game tied at one, the Rockets could have been granted a power play late in the game but the officials elected to put the whistle away in an effort to allow the two teams to decide it. The biggest infraction that wasn't called was a hit Rourke Chartier received inside the Hitmen zone along the side boards. The non-call doesn't agitate me to a great degree considering the game was relatively clean and the two teams were showing off their abilities in the third period by skating end-to-end for long stretches without a whistle. Calgary forward Calder Brooks is also hooked when he attempts to fire the puck into the open net with the Rockets threatening to tie the game. Again, no call on the play and the two referee's put their whistles in their pockets. The non-call resulted in one more quality chance with just seconds on the clock when Zach Franko cuts around a Hitmen defenceman and just missed Ryan Olsen, who is going hard towards the net.
- Lots of positives to take out of the game. A great adjustment by the Rockets after a not so good opening period. Shutting down the WHL's top power play in four chances should be noted. I think the Rockets played a determined game through the final 40 minutes and took it to the Hitmen. The best team in the Eastern Conference will leave Kelowna today knowing full well the home team deserved better.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The one that got away
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