Monday, March 17, 2014

Playoff Primer: Rockets/Americans

Rourke Chartier accepting awards 
  • Playoff experience. Is it a big deal? If it is the Kelowna Rockets have a significant advantage heading into game one of their Western Conference quarter final series Saturday night against the Tri City Americans. The Rockets have 235 games of playoff  experience. The Americans by comparison have just 171 games under their belt. The Rockets top forward when it comes to playoff experience is Colton Heffley (25). Damon Severson has 25 games of playoff war scars on the blue line. The Americans most experienced playoff performer is Mitch Topping who has 29 games with Tri City and the now defunct Chilliwack Bruins. 
  • Rourke Chartier, pictured to the right, is hungry for a long playoff run. The 17 year-old was hurt in game three of an opening round playoff series with Seattle when he was hit by defenceman Evan Wardley. Chartier never returned from the back injury.   
  • These two teams met four times in the seasonal series with the Rockets winning all four games. The Rockets out-scored the Americans 20-5 including 12-1 at home. Jordon Cooke played in three of the four games but surprisingly 16 year-old Evan Sarthou played in three of the four meetings for the Americans. 
  • The story in the seasonal series was the Rockets ability to score in the first period. In four games the Rockets out-scored the Americans 9-0. 
  • Outside of the 7-0 win in the final meeting of the season where the Rockets went 4 for 4 on the power play, the Americans were a perfect 9 for 9 in the three other games on the penalty kill.
  • The Americans give up a lot of shots. In the four games, the Rockets out-shot them 186-83. That is an average of 47 shots on goal per game the Americans goaltenders were facing.   
  • This series features two of the top goaltenders in Jordon Cooke (Rockets) and Eric Comrie (Americans). Again, Cooke has more playoff experience with 11 games played while Comrie has just one game after appearing in a relief appearance against Spokane in the 2011 post season. Don't forget Comrie didn't participate in the playoffs last season after he was shutdown in February to undergo hip surgery.  
  • This series features several Tri City Americans that have connections with Kelowna or the general area known as the Okanagan. Jessey Astles is a former player with the Rockets. Astles was taken in the 6th round by Lorne Frey back in 2008, the year the team picked Shane McColgan in round one and Jordon Cooke in round four. 
  • Tri City forward Parker Bowles is a former member of the Okanagan Midget Rockets. Justin Marrek is a West Kelowna resident and Lucas Nickles is from Salmon Arm. 
  • These two teams were separated by 50 points in the WHL standings. The Americans were in a similar position in the 2012 playoffs when they too enjoyed a 50 point difference on the 8th seeded Everett Silvertips in round one.  The Americans would win in a four game sweep but game four was decided in overtime.
  • Marek Vrdon has just six WHL playoff games of experience but has 3+3=6 in those six games.
  • The story in last seasons playoffs was the play of Tyson Baillie. In my opinion the teams playoff MVP, Baillie had 8+8=16 and was the teams leading scorer. When it came to clutch goals, Baillie was the man. All indications he will be ready for Saturday night's opener.   
  • This is the fifth playoff meeting between the two teams and the second time they have met in round one. In 2010, The Americans beat the Rockets in five games in round two.Three of the five games in the series were decided by a goal.  The series was tied at one win apiece before the Americans won three straight including the series clincher in Tri City in overtime.
  • The Rockets met Tri City in the second round of the 2009 playoffs. The series went 6 games with the Rockets advancing to the Western Conference final against Vancouver. Many forget the Americans won the first two games on home ice before the Rockets won four straight. 
  • The Rockets were so decimated by injuries in last seasons opening round playoff series, Nick Merkley and Justin Kirkland both made their WHL debuts. Even 16 year-old Dalton Yorke dressed after MacKenzie Johnston went down in the opening round series to Seattle. Merkley was 15 at the time while Kirkland had just completed his 16 year-old season of midget hockey. Even 16 year-old Austin Glover had a chance to dress in 7 playoff games with the loss of captain Colton Sissons in the second to last game of the regular season.  
  • The Rockets are in a much healthier situation this year than last season as they enter the playoffs. Carter Rigby and Mitch Wheaton were out with shoulder injuries before the puck even dropped. 
  • Jackson Whistle saw action in one playoff game last season. It was in game three of the Rockets-Blazers series. Cooke was yanked after the first period and Whistle ended  up taking the loss in a 5-4  overtime setback.
  • The Rockets played in 11 playoff games last season. Of those 11, seven were decided in overtime.  
  • These two battled in the 2004 post season again in round two. It went six games with the road team winning the first four games before the Rockets won games #5 and #6. In the 1996 playoffs the two teams met in round one with the Americans winning in six games.

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