Sunday, October 19, 2014

Americans upset the apple cart

Tri City Herald Photo credit
  • In what can only be described as a dream way to start the regular season, the Kelowna Rockets 10 game winning streak came to an end Saturday night courtesy of Eric Comrie and the Tri City Americans. With a few favorable bounces - which I will explain later – and the 19 year-old goaltenders strong play, the Americans earned a 5-2 win, handing the defending WHL regular season champions their first loss of the young season.  The Americans wanted desperately to upset the apple cart and become the first team to hand the Rockets a defeat. Mission accomplished.
  • “Coming to the rink every day, being able to not dwell on the negative was a positive for us. We still have a lot of work to do. We are not where we want to be.  We are happy with where we are at, but for sure we have some holes in our game that if we want to continue on this new streak that we are going to start, we have to shape up”, Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette told me on the AM 1150 post game show.      
  • Comrie’s best save came in the dying moments of the second period when he robbed Rockets forward Kris Schmidli from close range. Tyson Baillie made a perfect pass out front to an undetected Schmidli who fired a one-time shot at the Winnipeg Jets prospect, who niftily turned it aside with a quick left pad save. That stop kept the score 2-2 heading into the third period.
  • The Rockets had to earn every goal they got while the Americans were able to use a favorable bounce to earn their first lead of the game. Forward Lucas Nickles attempted to centre the puck in front of the Rockets net only to have it hit a defender and slowly, and I mean agonizingly slowly, crawl it’s way between Jackson Whistle’s pads and into the back of the net.  
  • The Americans spent the majority of the first period watching the Rockets carry the puck inside the offensive zone.  The visitors spent a large quantity of time firing pucks at Comrie and dominating play. The Americans had a rare chance at the other end of the ice but it was a terrific start for the Rockets, who played a better all around game then they did the night before in a 3-2 win in Spokane.
  • With about 7 minutes left in the third period the Rockets were granted a power play after Americans d-man Parker Wotherspoon was fingered to the box for tripping. With the score 4-2, it gave the Rockets one last real good chance to make it a one goal game. Instead the power play unit, which is the best in the league statistically, fired blanks and ended the night going 0 for 3.       
  • If the Rockets were to lose, which would eventually happen, which team would you chose to fall victim too?  Heaven forbid Lethbridge come into your own barn and end the streak on home ice. You wouldn’t want the streak to end against arch rival Vancouver or Kamloops would you? If the streak ended against Prince George, the ‘New Ice Age’ would have celebrated it for a week!              
  • Parker Bowles had a strong game for the Americans. I thought he was the most dangerous player on the ice for the home team. Now 19, Bowles is especially creative in the offensive zone and makes good decisions with the puck. Undrafted, you would think with a strong season playing with line-mates Lucas Nickles and Brian Williams, the former Okanagan Rockets sharp shooter can get a longer look from an NHL team.
  • Tomas Soustal, the Rockets European rookie, scored his first career WHL goal Saturday night. Soustal made no mistake with a one- time shot from the slot that beat Comrie to the blocker side with about seven minutes left in the second period to tie the game at two. Soustal received high praise from the coaching staff for his efforts on both nights. It was nice to see Soustal score, but it was also cool to have rookies Tate Coughlin and newcomer Lucas Johansen pick up the assists.   
  • Nick Merkley was held off the score-sheet for only the second time this season. Tyson Baillie and Captain Madison Bowey also failed to hit the score-sheet.
  • What kind of night was it for the Rockets in the defensive zone? Cole Martin, who was a +61 last season, ended the night a rare -2.  Tyson Baillie was a -3. That probably hasn’t happened since his rookie season if at all.          
  • If it makes you feel any better, the only other undefeated team in the Canadian Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds lost 6-4 Saturday night to the Belleville Bulls.  
  • If you missed it, like I did, Myles Bell signed a pro deal with Albany this past week. That is the American Hockey League affiliate of the New Jersey Devils.
  • Oddly enough, on the night the Rockets 10 game winning streak ended, former coach Ryan Huska earned his first pro coaching victory as the Adirondack Flames found the win column for the first time this season.

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