|How good is this guy? Nick Merkley. Shoot the Breeze Photo|
Nick Merkley's goal celebrations are like his personality - quiet and unassuming. The 16 year-old rookie, who is called 'Merks' by his teammates, usually has a big smirk on his face when he scores. That's as good as it gets when it comes to any emotion from the Calgary resident, who looks like he's scored a few goals in his day. Merkley found the back of the net twice Wednesday night in a 3-1 win over Spokane, helping his team to a pair of franchise records.
The victory set a new franchise record for wins (53) and points (110). The old record was 52 wins set last season while the record point total of 109 was set in 2002-2003. The team still has a chance to tie the WHL record for road wins (29) which means they need to win their remaining two visits to Kamloops and Vancouver.
Head Coach Ryan Huska admitted on our post game show on AM 1150 that his right hand man predicted at the start of the season his team would win more than last season. Assistant Coach Dan Lambert felt the team could better its 52 win total considering they lost only four players from last years squad. That is a lot of handshakes on the bench between Huska and Lambert at games end. It is 105 'job well done' handshakes between the two over the last two seasons.
Jordon Cooke's greatest attribute? Timely saves. A clutch stop on Chiefs 20 year-old Mike Aviani was massive to keep it a scoreless tie and his effort on a breakaway stop on Dominic Zwerger on a third period turnover was also large. Cooke, in my opinion, is the clear choice as team MVP for his large body of work over the season. Cooke has won 37 times, the same number he won all of last season.
Back to Nick Merkley for a second. Do you realize he is the top scoring 16 year old rookie in the WHL? It should also be mentioned that Justin Kirkland is the second leading scorer in the league when it comes to 17 year old rookies.
Damon Severson is having one heck of a season. Now the fourth most points of any blue liner in the WHL, Severson played a hard game last night and his awareness in the o-zone is uncanny. The 19 year-old's pass to Nick Merkley for his second goal was golden. Watch the video replay and see how he pin points the pass by an outreached Chiefs stick and gets the puck right on Merkley's blade. Severson has been pretty solid since being cut by Team Canada in advance of the World Juniors. Severson has 30 points since the snub in 33 games.
If you missed it, rookie d-man Dalton Yorke was suspended three games for his fight in Everett Tuesday night. It was viewed that Yorke left the bench to scrap with Tips forward Zane Jones after a hard hit on Nick Merkley. The Rockets argue Yorke was the next man up for a line change and simply came on the ice for a change and then the fight ensued.
Ryan Olsen showed some good effort despite his name failing to find the score-sheet. The 19 year-old is currently on his longest goal scoring drought of the season - which has reached 7 games. It is tough to ignore that stat from a former 30 goal man who can't go through huge dry spells for this team to have success in three weeks.
In the last 16 games, the 19 year-old players on the Rockets roster have accumulated 53 points. That is followed by the 17 year-old's, who have manufactured 47 points. The 20 year-olds (all of two of them) have 36 combined points in those 16 games while the 18 year-old's have 23 points. Nick Merkley and Joe Gatenby have 21 points combined when it comes to the 16 year-old's.