Friday, January 3, 2014

Clean sweep over Winterhawks

  • Earning eight points in a seasonal series against the Portland Winterhawks over the last three seasons has almost been impossible for any of the 21 other teams in the WHL. The Kelowna Rockets managed that feat though, with four wins against the defending league champions, who without question will challenge again this season for another trip to the Memorial Cup. The Rockets took advantage of a short staffed team and promptly scored six unanswered goals in a 7-2 win Thursday night at Veteran's Memorial Arena. Myles Bell and Tyson Baillie lead the charge with two goals and two assists in the teams 16th straight road win. That consecutive win streak is two off the league record. After further review, the league record is indeed 18 straight road wins by the Calgary Hitmen in 2000.
  • Despite the lopsided score at games end, the first period in particular saw Portland with the slight edge. For the Rockets to give up 18 shots in the opening 20 minutes is almost unheard of. It rarely happens and was a clear indication of how slow of a start the team had. I thought Jordon Cooke struggled early and Winterhawks starter Brendan Burke made some solid stops. Fortunately at periods end the visitors found themselves in a two-two tie.
  • The Rockets took over the game in the second period. You could see the momentum shift as the league leaders ramped up their game. For a second straight outing the Rockets were able to chase Burke after Carter Rigby's ugly goal at the side of the Winterhawks net somehow snuck through.
  • It was nice to see Jesse Lees score his first goal of the season. A 10 goal man from a year ago, Lees clearly plays in the shadows of Damon Severson, Madison Bowey and Mitch Wheaton. Playing with d-partner Riley Stadel, both players have the ability to shoot the puck and find the back of the net. If Lees can round out his offensive game, the team has six legitimate blue liners that can score.
  • Did I expect the lopsided scores? I didn't think the Rockets would manufacture that much offense against the Winterhawks, not on back-to-back nights. If the games would have been closer many so called 'experts' would have been laughing at the Western Conference leaders that they were barely able to get by a Winterhawks team without four key players. But don't let any one tell you that the defending champions are in trouble despite giving up 16 goals in two games. Those people are full of hot air and don't deserve your attention. Only the true hockey fan knows that once all of Portland's players are in place - Matt Dumba included - the defending champions aren't going down without a fight.   
  • The Rockets now average five goals per game on the road. That is the best of any team in the 22 league circuit.        
  • The Rockets goal differential is now +76. That is +35 better than second place Portland +37 better than third place Edmonton.
  • Myles Bell is exactly on pace for the 38 goals he scored one season ago. Despite the slow start, 21 goals after 35 games is an impressive total for the 20 year-old who has regained that confident swagger. His wrist/snap shot is the best I have ever seen. It is lethal from the blue line. Both his goals came on the power play. 
  • The win keeps the Rockets ten points up on the surging Victoria Royals. Like the Rockets, the Royals keep winning. The two teams hook up two weeks from now on the Island.
  • Lots of NHL scouts at this game. That's what winning does. It gives draft eligible players on the roster a chance to show off their talents. The Flames and Jets were well represented.
  • Up next is the second of three games in three nights with another road game in Vancouver Friday night. The two teams met last Saturday at Pacific Coliseum in a 4-2 win. You can join Gord McGarva and myself for the pre-game show on AM 1150 at 7 and the play-by-play at 7:30.


g.k said...

Hey Regan keep up the great blogging, we sure enjoy all the insight on the team on their travels. Can you tell me what other Rocket teams have been ranked #1 in the country before this season, I believe the 2005 edition were up there for a while but can't recall if any of the others made it!!

Regan Bartel said...

2004 team was also #1 ranked in January of that season.