- The Kelowna Rockets are a very good team. The same can be said about the Seattle Thunderbirds. So when the two hooked up in a Tuesday night game at ShoWare Center, the fans got what they expected. No lack of scoring chances, 97 shots combined, a few nice goals and some solid stops by both goaltenders. In the end the Rockets extended their winning streak to nine games with a 4-3 shootout win. Tyson Baillie scored the game winning goal in the 5th round of the 'skills competition'. It marked the third time the team has won in the shootout. All three shootout wins have come on the road.
- What made the shootout win so impressive was how the Rockets battled back after almost losing it. The T-Birds first two shooters scored while the Rockets first, Myles Bell, couldn't find the back of the net. But rookie Justin Kirkland faced the pressure head on and scored to keep the Rockets alive before Damon Severson also responded to essentially tie the shootout at two. After Jackson Whistle stopped T-Birds forward Ryan Gropp, Baillie played hero with the game winning goal by beating Seattle goaltender Danny Mumaugh with a forehand move that enabled the Rockets to earn their 16th victory of the season.
- The Rockets were forced to win the game in the shootout after failing to capitalize on a five minute third period power play. Seattle forward Roberts Lipsbergs was slapped with a five minute major and game misconduct for hitting defenceman Mitch Wheaton from behind. Wheaton was chasing a loose puck against the end boards behind his net when Lipsbergs hit him from behind, sending the big defenceman into the boards face first. After at least a 15 minute delay (could have been longer?) as medical personnel lifted the 18 year-old off the ice with a stretcher, the Rockets struggled mightily on the ensuing power play.
- I wasn't at all shocked that the team struggled on that five minute man advantage, especially after seeing a teammate escorted off the ice after a significant delay. One minute you are playing your heart out and the next minute you are concerned about your teammates well being. What was impressive was the Rockets were able to refocus and pull out the win as Wheaton was sent to the hospital for further medical attention.
- The hit. I saw it twice on the big screen in the building and it didn't look good. In fact, when they showed it a second time in the building, many fans gasped as they watched Lipsbergs hit Wheaton in the back. I viewed another angle of the hit which looks even worse. This was not a good hit. I don't believe Lipsbergs is a dirty player, but he clearly threw caution to the wind in making contact with Wheaton. The European forward will be suspended without question. He has to be. It is the only way the league can send a clear message to Lipsbergs and to others that aggressive force while your opponent is in a vulnerable position won't be tolerated. Is six games enough? The longest suspension in the WHL this season is only four games. Last season, Colin Jacobs of the PG Cougars was suspended for six games for a check to the head of an opponent. The good news is Wheaton was able to travel back with the team but won't be playing anytime soon.
- While he didn't receive a star in the building, I thought Damon Severson was a bright light on the Rockets d-core. The 19 year-old controlled play, made smart decisions with the puck and scored a goal. Severson looked World Junior material against a very good opponent. Frankly, I thought the entire d-core was solid in the one goal win.
- The line that really impressed me was Cole Linaker playing with Tyrell Goulbourne and Colton Heffley. Linaker and Heffley generated a solid forecheck and created several quality scoring chances. It was one of Heffley's best games of the season and he and Linaker specifically were tough to play against.
- Jackson Whistle had a strong outing in goal. Anytime you face 46 shots and stop 43 of them you have to be doing something right. Whistle's best save came late in the third period with a quick glove hand to keep the game tied at three.
- The shots. While the game sheet will say the two teams combined for 97 shots, it is hard for me to believe that. Both teams are gifted offensively, but those shot totals makes it sound like this was a wide open affair where defensive coverage was thrown out the window. As is always the case in Seattle, the shot totals are always generous.
- The Rockets are back in action tonight with a home game against the Victoria Royals before heading back on the bus tomorrow for a Friday date against the Tri City Americans.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Great game/bad hit
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