Sunday, December 29, 2013

First to 30 wins

Photo courtesy: Shoot the Breeze
  • Winning 30 games would be considered a tough season in the Western Hockey League. Winning 30 games in your first 35 regular season games though, is a totally different story. The Kelowna Rockets managed the impressive feat this weekend with back-to-back wins against the Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants. The Rockets dominated the Blazers to the tune of 7-1 Friday night and then went out on the road a night later for a 4-2 victory at Pacific Coliseum. If their was any thought that the team had lost momentum they had gained after a strong first half, that was all erased this weekend with two significant victories. 
  • Saturday night's win in Vancouver came against a Giants team that is no slouch. Playing their first game after the Christmas break, the G-Men looked sluggish out of the gates, which was expected, yet the Rockets were unable to bury them despite several quality chances in the opening 20 minutes. The best scoring chance came when rookie Justin Kirkland missed a sure goal on a slow developing three on one while shorthanded. Instead of being up 1-0, the Rockets manufactured ten shots on net but came away empty handed in the opening frame.
  • Kirkland wasn't the only Rockets player that missed a glorious chance to score. Tyrell Goulbourne was robbed by the out-stretched glove of Giants goaltender Jared Rathjen in a second period set up by line-mate Tyson Baillie. Had Goulbourne scored it would have been a 3-1 game. Instead the Rockets settled for a one goal lead heading into the third period.
  • What stood out for me after Goulbourne was robbed was the reaction of line-mate Tyson Baillie. Baillie skated back to the bench with Goulbourne and patted him on the rear end sending the physical message that it was ok that the golden scoring chance went for not. For me, that is a sign of quality player and a quality teammate. That is also a sign of a team playing with confidence and believing that more quality scoring chances will be manufactured even if one is snuffed out. In other words, their is no need to cry over spilled milk.
  • Baillie scored his 16th goal of the season in the second period to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. Baillie is well ahead of last years scoring pace when he had 12 goals at the end of December. Last season, Baillie didn't score his 16th goal until January 25th.
  • Specialty teams were the story in this one. The Rockets scored three times with the power play and created numerous scoring chances shorthanded. In fact, I haven't seen a game this season where the Rockets have been that dangerous when playing a man short. Cole Linaker would score the game winning goal - shorthanded - 1:34 into the third period.
  • Of the three goals scored on the power play, Madison Bowey's point shot was the most impressive. Making the score 4-2, Bowey drove a hard shot past a startled/screened Rathjen for his first goal in 13 games. That 12th goal ties the career high the 18 year-old set last season.
  • Jordon Cooke earned his 22nd win of the season, which ties him for the league lead in that category. The 20 year-old made two timely saves in the second period when the game was tied at one. That is why is would be considered the Rockets MVP in the first half.    
  • The Giants played a physical brand of hockey against the Rockets, which was a far contrast to the stick checking exploits of the Kamloops Blazers a night earlier. This game took more courage to play in because of the lack of room on the ice. What was impressive was the teams ability not to be frustrated and consequently fall into the trap of taking bad penalties. The only fight came late in the game with Giants forward Tim Traber grabbed a hold of defenceman Jesse Lees after 20 year-old shook free from the grasp of a linesman.
  • Damon Severson returned to the line up for the first time since being a casualty of Team Canada. 
  • Cole Martin is a +80 when you combine this seasons +/- with last seasons impressive +47.
  • Kelowna Rockets alumnus Cam Paddock was behind the bench Saturday night. Paddock is mentoring under Head Coach Ryan Huska and Assistant Kim Dillabaugh. Paddock, who just retired this off season, is coaching minor hockey players in Vancouver and is using this four game road trip as a chance to learn what it takes to coach at the major junior level. You have to give the organization credit for being open minded in allowing Paddock to get this first hand experience.  
  • The Rockets have won 14 straight games. Last season the Portland Winterhawks also won 14 straight. The longest winning streak last season was held by the Saskatoon Blades. The 'Bridge City Bunch', as broadcaster Les Lazaruk likes to refer them as, went 18 straight games without feeling defeat. 
  • Up next is a date between the two best teams (statistically) in the WHL Tuesday night when the Rockets visit the Portland Winterhawks for not one, but two games. More about that match up later.

5 comments:

MG said...

Reagan,

After seeing the Raiders during the past road trip what impact do you think these recent trades will have ? Are the Raider's going for it ?

Regan Bartel said...

They must believe a tweak is needed to get them back on track. They were one of the best teams at the start of the season, but several variables, like sub par goaltending from Cole Chevedave, have let them down. Once their top two players from the World Juniors return, they can make some noise out East.

Regan Bartel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Misener said...

Hi Reagan,

Are we going to hear about the "newest Rocket" Tate Coughlin at some point?

Cheers,

Regan Bartel said...

We sure are. Will have him on pre-game show tomorrow night. Pre-game show starts at 7:30 with puck drop at 8. Later start as we bring in the New Year.