Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rockets spoil Cougars opening weekend

  • What a weekend in Prince George!! I don't think I've utter that phrase before, but it was a weekend to remember for so many reasons.  The Rockets won back-to-back games against the Cougars. A near sell out crowd greeted the two teams Friday night as 5 thousand 659 fans jammed into CN Centre to watch the visitors earn a 7-2 win. A night later, the Cougars tried to bully the Rockets out of the building and ended up losing 8-2. More on the rough reception a little later. The Rockets out-scored the Cougars 15-4 on the weekend while scoring seven power play goals in the process. The team is now 3-0-0-0 in the early stages of the 2014-2015 season.
  • After handing the Cougars a 7-2 loss in their home opener, the Cougars attempted to set the tone physically in game two. A fight nine seconds into the game, spearheaded by Cougars forward Aaron Macklin was a sign of things to come. Just 2:24 later, another fight involving Prince George's Tyler Mrkonjic and Kelowna's Dalton Yorke. The fight that had Rockets head coach Dan Lambert steaming was when Cougars Jordan Ross got involved with Rockets forward Justin Kirkland. The game was just 8 and a half minutes old and three fights were already recorded on the score-sheet. Lambert began shouting at Cougars bench boss Mark Holick over the plexi glass over the liberties the home team was taking on his players. The Rockets promptly retaliated by scoring five power play goals in the 8-2 victory.
  • The Rockets scored seven power play goals against the Cougars in the two games and now own the best unit in the WHL with an efficiency rate of 40.9%.      
  • The Cougars played near the edge and some times went over the line in both lopsided games. Two kneeing incidents had Carter Rigby grimacing in pain in game one before Tyson Baillie also felt the wrath of a knee in game two. Fortunately both players were uninjured.
  • Speaking of Baillie, the 19 year-old had a solid weekend with three goals and two assists in the two games. Baillie is now tied for the WHL leading in scoring with 8 points.
  • Jackson Whistle stopped 85 of 89 shots on the weekend and now boasts a goals against average of 1.67 after three consecutive starts. The Rockets were able to chase Cougars goaltender Ty Edmonds in game one and rookie Tavin Grant in game two.
  • Madison Bowey returned to the line up Saturday night and promptly earned three assists. Bowey was named the games first star. 
  • Five different Rockets enjoyed multiple goal games on the weekend. Colton Heffley, Rourke Chartier, Riley Stadel, Tyson Baillie and Justin Kirkland all enjoyed two goal games. 
  • The weekend was highlighted by the near sell-out crowd Friday night. Hockey thirsty fans lined up when the ticket office opened in an effort to purchase the hottest ticket in town. Under new ownership, the organization is putting its money where its mouth is. New offices, dressing room and improvements to the bus are just a few items the 'New Ice Age' has implemented since they took over the team this summer. The video at the top of this post is an example of what type of effort was put towards the opening pre-game ceremonies. The Cougars ownership got it right at every turn.
  • Cougars President and Governor Greg Pocock was clearly visible over the weekend. Pocock was making sure it went right, from the tailgate party outside the arena to the opening ceremonies and the in-game experience. I spoke to Pocock several times over the two days and he was willing to make my experience the best it could be. I even suggested a PA feed in the visitors broadcast booth would be a nice touch. I can't see why Pocock won't make it happen. The only thing Pocock couldn't control over the weekend was the result on the ice. 
  • The crowd Friday night was outstanding. You could feel the energy in the building as the 56 hundred patrons began stomping in unison. The sound was intimidating. I am told it was common place when the Cougars played in the mid 90's. 
  • The crowd Saturday night was significantly smaller than opening night. Three thousand 78 fewer people were in the building.  
  • I loved the use of live organist. Old school and brilliant.I thought it was great to bring back former captain Tyler Bouck for the ceremonial face-off. Bouck now makes Kelowna his home and works as a salesman at Shaw.  
  • The new 50/50 ticket system paid dividends on opening night. The winner walked away with just under 12 grand.
  • Small detail, but a variety of soft drinks in the press box was duly noted. Tap water was the norm in prior visits.  
  • The Rockets host the Vancouver Giants Wednesday  before playing back-to-back road games in Everett Friday and in Seattle Saturday night. 

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