Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Character win on the road

  • The good teams don't give up when things look bleak. The Kelowna Rockets showed last night in Swift Current that even a hot goaltender can be beat if you are determined enough. Just when it looked like the home town Broncos were on their way to another home ice win, the Rockets scored three goals in a span of 2:39 in a 4-2 victory. The Broncos scored what appeared to be the back breaker with a shorthanded goal with just over five minutes left to play. But cue the comeback. Zach Franko would score the tying goal before Ryan Olsen would get the game winner on the power play with 1:08 left on the clock. Colton Heffley, playing his final game in Swift Current, sealed it with an empty net goal. 
  • The win extended the teams winning streak to seven games and extended their road winning streak to eight games. Now with 23 wins, the Rockets have the bragging rights of having the most victories in the WHL. The two points at the I-Plex also moved the BC Division leaders into a two way tie with Portland for first place in the overall standings.
  • The Rockets had to use late game heroics because of the terrific play of Broncos goaltender Eetu Laurikainen. The 20 year-old goaltender made no less than ten big stops in the game. The visitors dominated the third period by throwing 21 shots at the Swift Current net and carried the play for a large portion of the final 20 minutes. It looked like Laurikainen was going to steal this one and was full marks for being named the first star.
  • Not outdone, Jordon Cooke was his solid self. Cooke made several significant saves, including a big one against Broncos forward Jake DeBrusk on a power play in the second period to keep the game tied at one. Cooke also had a sweet glove hand save against DeBrusk again in the third period.
  • It was a battle of the Merkley's - Jay and Nick - Tuesday night and the younger Merkley delivered. Nick Merkley created some good things in the attacking zone and was in on Olsen's game winner.
  • This was Zach Franko's best game of the season. The 20 year-old was on the puck, making smart plays and was clearly the best forward on the ice. Franko had great success buzzing around the Broncos net with the help of Kris Schmidli. The concern with Franko is his ability to repeat the  performance tonight when the road trip continues in Moose Jaw. 
  • Speaking of Kris Schmidli, the European forward was involved in a second period fight and helped Franko score his tying goal in the third period. Schmidli also had several great chances to score but Laurikainen was on his game.    
  • Tyrell Goulbourne scored his first goal in 12 games. The 19 year-old should also have been credited with an assist on Colton Heffley's empty netter to make the score 4-2. They ended up giving the helpers to Cole Martin and Rourke Chartier.
  • The penalty killing unit should take a bow. The Broncos had the second best power play unit in the WHL at home and the Rockets shut them down on three occasions.  
  • It was my first chance to see Broncos rookie sensation Julius Honka. It was a tough night for the Finn, who ended the night with a -2 rating. It was a tough night for a d-core in general, which typically doesn't spend a significant amount of time in their own zone. Because of a solid fore-check, specifically in the third period, the Rockets forced the 'big three' into playing a good portion of the period - and the game - inside their own end. 

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