|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- Jackson Whistle was his usual steady self. Nick Merkley was on his game. Rourke Chartier continues to carry the hottest stick in the WHL. Outside of those three, not much can be said following the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 home ice win last night over the Spokane Chiefs. That trio did all the heavy lifting - again - in the teams' 16th victory of the season. Without their above average efforts, the Rockets would have suffered their first home ice loss of the season. Chartier scored twice while Merkley had a goal and an assists. Jackson Whistle was counted upon far too many times to make big saves against a Chiefs team that will only outwork you but don't have the horses to out-skill you.
- Turnovers were a big reason why the Rockets gave up so many quality scoring chances. The Chiefs would often counter on an odd man rush because the home team was either making bad decisions with the puck or were soft on clearing attempts. Countless times the Rockets were beaten to the puck in their own zone. It didn't look like the Chiefs wanted the puck more. It appeared to be laziness by the Rockets.
- Nick Merkley's 7th goal of the season couldn't be stopped. The 17 year-old one timed a pass from Madison Bowey that would have handcuffed Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. The laser beam from the left face-off circle went screaming past the right shoulder of Chiefs goaltender Garrett Hughson. Speaking of Hughson, I thought he had a strong game and was the best player on the ice for the Chiefs.
- How about those two big hits Merkley had early in the game? What is a player that is a generous 5'10 doing by sending two players off their skates with solid open ice hits? Is no one else outside of Dalton Yorke, who missed Friday's game with an injury, able to run over someone? If you aren't scoring, do something!! The Rockets have players that have been given the physical make up to hit people but they won't do it. It takes work to hit people and sadly, some aren't interested in that.
- If the Spokane Chiefs win 35 games, Don Nachbaur deserves all the credit in the world. The Chiefs were projected to miss the playoffs at the start of the season and it only makes sense considering they lost so many top ended players like Mitch Holmberg, Mike Aviani and Reid Gow. With no high end talent, structure and good old fashioned work are the only two elements that allow the Chiefs to stay in games. It would be fair to say last night that the Chiefs had more jump in their game, which in this case may not be saying much considering how flat 3/4's of the Rockets lineup looked.
- In doing pre-game prep before the game, is it true the Chiefs have just one 1st round (Evan Fiala) bantam pick on their roster? If so, what does that say about Spokane's lack of success at the bantam draft and again how good Nachbaur is at getting the most out of his players?
- The Rockets played this game without Tyrell Goulbourne. Goulbourne was serving a one game suspension for his involvement in a fight with Keegan Kanzig at the end of 5-1 win over the Victoria Royals on Wednesday. Without the 20 year-old sitting in the stands, Kris Schmidli had a chance to play with Merkley and Chartier. While picking up one assist, the 18 year-old was a +3.
- The most improved rookie over the last month is easily Tomas Soustal. The 17 year-old works hard and despite his deficiency in skating, the Czech Republic resident looks tough to play against and power and sure will are two of the reasons why. Soustal is big, 6'3 and 198 pounds, and if he can improve his stride he should turn into a pretty good player.
- The Kelowna Rockets have hit the ¼ mark of the season. After 18 games the team is 16-1-1-0. In the first 9 games the team scored 53 times. In the second 9 game segment the team found the back of the net 36 times. That is a difference of 17 goals or 1.89 fewer goals scored in the second 9 games than the first. The Rockets allowed 24 goals against in the first 9 games before allowing 17 against in the second 9 game segment or a difference of 7 fewer goals against in the second than the first nine games.