Sunday, December 8, 2013

Weekend success leads into tough work week

Teddy Bear Toss is terrific

  • It was back on the bus this morning for the Kelowna Rockets, heading out east where cold temperatures for a red hot team await them on a six game in eight day road trip. Hopping on the bus blurry eyed came a little easier after back-to-back home ice wins over the Everett Silvertips and Kootenay Ice on the weekend.  Those wins weren’t easy to come by, nor are they ever for a team that continues to receive exceptional goaltending. Jordon Cooke was instrumental in a 3-1 win over Everett Friday before back up – is he really a back up? -  Jackson Whistle was lights out in a 2-1 victory over a fast skating Kootenay Ice.  It is better for the Rockets to be headed on the road riding a 6 game winning streak then going the other way. What they face over the next week and a half will be, without a shadow of a doubt, their toughest test of the season. We will discuss that more on another blog post. 
  • There are so many positives to pick from in those back-to-back wins this weekend.  As mentioned, the goaltending has been phenomenal. Jordon Cooke is dialed in. Cooke was again at his best Friday night in a showdown of two teams with 20 wins on the season. Cooke, the games second star, made several timely stops and was the key in helping the penalty killing unit kill off six shorthanded chances in the game.
  • The power play was good on two of four chances in the tightly contested game. Heading into the weekend the Rockets power play wasn’t very good.  The right pieces are in place to manufacture scoring chances, but getting pucks through to the net was a stumbling block. Firing at 50 percent against the Tips was the key in the two goal victory. Damon Severson’s seeing-eye wrist shot from the point stood up as the game winner.
  • The win against Kootenay a night later provided a different variable for the Rockets to handle. The Ice brought some of the best team speed we’ve seen in the building this season.  Jackson Whistle was the story through the opening 40 minutes by stoning the Ice on several grade ’A’ scoring chances.  In a 1-1 tie heading into the third period, Myles Bell found the back of the net for the winner.
  • Myles Bell scoring is always a positive.  It was the 20 year-olds first goal in eight games. While that isn’t a long stretch for your average WHL player, it is when you found the back of the net 36 times last season. I thought Bell was physical Saturday night with a big hit 30 seconds in on Kootenay Ice scorer Sam Reinhart and played with more determination. Bell has to remember that even if his efforts to score are in vain, he is of great value as the opposition has no choice but to respect that he is out there and his booming shot can be deployed at a moment’s notice.  Carter Rigby was the beneficiary of Bell’s work on the Rockets opening goal. Bell skated into the slot, attracting three defenders towards him. While he lost the puck, Rigby pounced on it and literally, with one hand, shoveled it into the net.
  • I thought Rigby had a much better weekend because he ramped up his physical play. Rigby won’t out-skate you but he will separate you from the puck. In my opinion, he along with Colton Heffley and Tyrell Goulbourne has  to lead in that area every night. If they do, all three are significantly better players.  It is hard to play that type of game because determination and effort is required, but if it happens consistently that trio are major factors in the course of a 60 minute game.  
  • The first ever Teddy Bear Toss took place Friday night and it was a huge success. It will never produce the results of what we see in Calgary, but that’s not the point. Over two thousand stuffed toys were collected for kids at KGH. From the response of the crowd to the quick clean up on the ice, the Teddy Bear Toss was huge hit.

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