Monday, December 30, 2013

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Jordon Cooke should take a bow
  • Welcome to Portland. It is great to be back in the best city on the WHL circuit. Vancouver would likely get top rating, but unfortunately the Rockets spend little time there outside of the playoffs. Spending a couple of days in the 'Rose City' is nothing new for us, considering this is the fourth season that the Rockets have played a double header here with both games either at Moda Centre, or split between Moda and Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. This season the team is spending close to five days in a city that has so much to offer.  
  • You have to give the organization credit for electing to travel down to Portland following a road win in Vancouver Saturday night. It would have provided for even more bus travel had the team went back to Kelowna before leaving again Monday for the long 8 and a half/ 9 hour bus ride to Oregon for Tuesday's game. Traveling only five hours down the road from Pacific Coliseum is a better option considering the team has played seven of its last eight games on the road. Everyone should be better for it considering the New Year schedule has the team playing 10 of 15 games on opposition ice.
  • The Rockets used an off day Sunday by relaxing and going to a movie. Anchorman 2 received mixed reviews. The general consensus was a strong start and a sad finish. As one player said to me, "If Anchorman was 35 minutes, it would have been a masterpiece". 
  • The Rockets will officially hit the half way point of the season Tuesday night against the Winterhawks. My first half MVP is goaltender Jordon Cooke. I thought Cooke was the real reason why the team was able to get off to a terrific start. Cooke was named the first star six times, tying him with captain Madison Bowey for the team lead in the three star selection. "Whenever you can come out of the first half with 22 wins it is a great start to the year. To be honest, it was a team effort and not just me in the first half. We get along together well as a group and I just took off from there."
  • Cooke has been named a star in 8 games this season. That ties him with Madison Bowey for the team lead. Both have been named the 1st star six times. Jackson Whistle and Nick Merkley lead the team in second star nominations with four apiece while Zach Franko has the most third star selections on the team with five. 
  • Speaking of Franko, the 20 year-old has five goals in his last eight games. That's a nice run for a player who traditionally doesn't find the back of the net on a consistent basis. In fact, Franko has as many goals in December as the previous two months combined (October and November). Franko is looking forward to back-to-back games against the Winterhawks. "Every time you see the Portland Winterhawks on your schedule...they are the champs. They have always been, since I've been in the league, one of the top teams in the league and its a test to see where we are at. They may be missing a few guys but they are still finding ways to win", Franko added.     
  • It is always nice to have new, yet familiar faces around the team. Ex-Rockets forward Cam Paddock is spending the week with the team, attending practices, team meetings and getting a good grasp of what it takes to coach at the WHL level. Paddock works with elite minor hockey players in North Vancouver and would consider coaching at the major junior level down the road. "I want to gather experience from watching Ryan. The teams I coach at North Shore Winter Club are off until early January so it really works out well."      
  • Here is an interesting stat for ya. Only Kelowna and Portland are top five in the WHL in both home goal differential and road goal differential. The Rockets home goal differential is +32. The road differential is +33. The Rockets and Oil Kings are tied for best road goal differential at +33.
  • Austin Glover is with the team as he recovers from a broken ankle suffered November 16th against Lehtbridge. The 17 year-old is now skating and could be ready to rejoin the team by the end of January. "I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am working on my conditioning and trying to get into game shape, so I am looking forward to getting back. It is a little weak right now, but being on the ice feels pretty good," Glover added.
  • European Kris Schmidli has turned into a pretty decent player. While 19 points in 32 games won't put the fear of god into the opposition, those numbers stack up pretty well if you compared the production/or lack-thereof of other European born players that have worn a Kelowna Rockets uniform. Schmidli's 19 points are better than those of Henrik Nyberg (17 pts), Filip Vasko (12 pts), Gal Koren (3 pts), Andreas Stene (16 pts) and Lukas Matejka (2 pts). Schmidli only trails Stepan Novotny (41 pts), Lauris Darzins (34 pts), Mikael Backlund (30 pts) and Milan Kytnar (22 pts) for points in one season by a Rockets import.    
  • Best sound system in the league has to go to Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum. The music drives through the speakers with unbelievable clarity. My only complaint is a lack of a PA feed for the opposition broadcaster. It should be mandatory for every broadcast location. The same holds true in Saskatoon. The PA announcers in both cities are top quality. It is a shame they can't be apart of the radio broadcast. 
  • The Rockets were on the ice at 10 am Monday morning for a practiced at Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. It's old (opened in 1960), but it still has a certain charm. The seats are the same as they were in the 60's. The score clock at centre ice is old and the score clocks in the corner of the building remain operational even though they were originally designed for the NBA's Portland Trail  Blazers, who called VMC home from 1970 to 1995. As part of the team's 40th anniversary celebration, the Blazers played a pre-season game at Memorial Coliseum in 2009 against the Phoenix Suns.
  • It was the first time I had a chance to see the new ice surface at Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, which is now regulation size. Along with a larger sheet of ice, new boards, glass and benches for the players are part of the upgrades. I never noticed this before but the coaches can now enter through a door at the back of the benches rather than sliding their way, with their dress shoes on, from where the players enter the ice from the home and visiting dressing rooms.  
  • The Rockets play Tuesday's game at Moda Centre (game time is a special 8 o'clock) before moving back to Veteran's Memorial Coliseum for Thursday's rematch.


fax said...

Greetings Regan ... as always - welcome to the "Rose City".

After that glowing review, I am sure the local tourism board will be offering you a summer internship.

Quick question - What would you say has been the most important factor to the Rocket's great start this year?

I'm thinking that fans of both the Rockets and Hawks would agree that it's too bad these two games aren't taking place oh say three weeks - instead of the coming days.

Oh will give the Hawks younger players more ice time against the best team in the WHL.

Keep up the good work - you have one of the best blogs in the business.

Regan Bartel said...

Balanced attack. They find scoring coming from pretty much everyone. Sure, Bell and Baillie find their names on the score sheet quite a bit, but if seven goals are scored the chances are seven different players will score them.