Friday, October 31, 2014

Western Conference re-match doesn't live up to hype

Kris Mallette - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • Kris Mallette walked gingerly off the ice Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum following the Kelowna Rockets 5-0 win over the Portland Winterhawks. Visually, it looked like he had won a thousand games in the Western Hockey League as a coach. No emotion outside of a small smirk on his face.Something tells me the assistant coach was doing cart wheels inside, though, after earning his first WHL coaching victory. In a rematch of last year’s Western Conference final, Mallette saw Jackson Whistle make 29 saves for his 6th career shutout and third of the season. Rourke Chartier scored twice while Justin Kirkland (1+2=3) and Austin Glover (0+3=3) each had multiple point games.
  • Whistle’s 29 save shutout win was the first for a Rockets goalie on the road since February 25, 2011 when Adam Brown made 27 saves in a 1-0 victory in Red Deer. The shutout also snapped a streak of 198 consecutive home games for the Winterhawks with at least one goal.
  • The Rockets opened the scoring just 51 seconds into the game, but the Winterhawks had the better scoring chances in the opening period. The fact remains, Jackson Whistle was far superior to his counterpart Bolton Pouliot at the other end of the ice. The Winterhawks had two power play chances in the first period and manufactured several quality chances on net, but thanks primarily to Whistle, the home team found themselves down 2-0. While Justin Kirkland’s goal with 7 minutes left in the first period made the score 2-0, it was one Pouliot should have stopped. It wasn’t the back breaking goal, but a veteran goalie has to make that save. A soft, low shot on the ice to the short side took a lot of momentum away from the Winterhawks, who at that point of the game deserved a better fate. 
  • Chase De Leo, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan were used a ton over the first 40 minutes of the game. The teams’ top three players get a regular shift, see power play time and even contribute on the shorthanded unit. While that’s all well and good, using those players too much can prove to be fatal, specifically if you don’t have the lead. The Winterhawks had little pushback in the third period once the Rockets built up a 3-0 lead.
  • You have to give the d-pairing of Cole Martin and Joe Gatenby a lot of credit for keeping the Winterhawks top line at bay.     
  • Rourke Chartier had a two goal game and now has four multiple goal games this season. All four multiple goal games, oddly, have come on the road.
  • Austin Glover had three assists last night giving him 15 points in 13 games this season. Glover now has more points than he did in the last two seasons combined. Because of injury, Glover played in just 55 games the last two seasons, accumulating 12 points. Of Glover’s 15 points, ten have come on the road.      
  • Tyson Baillie snapped a five game goal scoring drought with his 11th goal of the season.  
  • It is hard to believe but the Winterhawks haven't won a home game (0-5-0-2) this season. The Winterhawks lost only 6 times in 36 home games last season
  • I was looking forward to watching the match up featuring draft eligible Nick Merkley vs. Portland's Paul Bittner, but like the game, it didn't materialize into much. Merkley was the more dangerous of the two but managed just one assist. I thought Bittner was a stud last season and played a significant role in knocking off the Rockets in last years Western Conference final but he played a rather quiet game.

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