Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rockets keep roll'n

  • The Kelowna Rockets continue to take bad penalties. The good news is, the penalty killing unit is bailing them out. The Edmonton Oil Kings scored once on six power play chances before falling 4-1 to the Rockets last night on home ice. The Rockets used goals from Rodney Southam and Gage Quinney and then added two power play goals from Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker in the win. For Linaker, it was his first goal in 15 games. The Rockets are now the fourth most penalized team in the WHL. It looks odd to see them that high in the penalty minute parade when they lead the entire league with 57 points.
  • Gage Quinney is a way better player than I envisioned. To be honest, I wasn't sure what they were getting when he and fellow teammate Josh Morrissey were acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders last week. Quinney, 19, is not a spare part. Gage Quinney is smart. The quiet as a mouse Quinney makes smart decisions with the puck, moves to areas where he anticipates it going and has a solid battle level when engaging with an opponent to get it. Quinney scored his second goal with the Rockets in his third game but could have had another. After powering past an Oil Kings defender, Quinney went to the backhand and was shutdown by a nice glove save from veteran goaltender Tristan Jarry.
  • Cole Martin had an especially strong game last night in Edmonton. The 20 year-old looked sluggish Sunday in a 4-1 loss in Calgary but came to play against the defending Memorial Cup champions. Martin picked up a career high three assists and was a +2 in the game. He didn't hesitate to shoot the puck and just couldn't be beaten in a one-on-one situation. I was glad to see he was named the games first star because he never gets the credit he rightfully deserves. 
  • I've noticed rookie Tate Coughlin increasing his battle level over the course of the road trip. Often light on his skates, which seems odd for a bigger player, Coughlin played with more bite and almost scored his second goal of the season. Instead it rang it off the goal post. The 17 year-old hasn't scored in 27 games.    
  • I thought Jackson Whistle again was solid. Whistle is significantly different in his approach to stopping pucks, but he battles to keep it out and succeeds. My trust level in him was low at the start of the season, but I have as much confidence in him now as any of the 'so called' elite goaltenders in the WHL. 
  • Nick Merkley ended a mini two game point scoring slump with an assist.
  • Tyson Baille scored his 22nd goal of the season, matching his total from one season ago. Baillie typically scores big goals and prefers to find the back of the net while playing on the road. Sixteen of his 22 goals have come on opposition ice this season.
  • Lucas Johansen had a two point game, his first in his young WHL career. It was Johansen's first point(s) in 21 games.
  • Rodney Southam is growing on me. The 18 year-old is a great teammate. Southam seems to be liked by all and often has a smile on his face. He is a team guy and isn't afraid to stand up for a teammate. While only producing 3 goals and 6 points in 18 games, the Saskatoon resident is a gritty player that every team needs to have in their line up. 
  • It was nice running into injured Rockets defenceman Mitch Wheaton before the game. Since he was watching the game from the press box, I thought it was best to bring him on the radio as a second intermission guest. 'Wheatsie' is a great talker, so filling the intermission with solid content was an easy thing to pull off. While we won't see him on the ice for a couple of months, the fact he will be ready at the most crucial time of the season is encouraging. 
  • Riley Stadel plays in his 150th career game tonight in Red Deer. I would love to see him score. The 18 year-old hasn't found the back of the net in 25 games. He had 6 goals in his first 10 games.    
  • Tyson Gruninger looks like a sure fire beauty. The listed player by the Oil Kings can skate and created some good things in the offensive zone. He also didn't play scared. It is no surprise he scored 30 goals playing midget hockey in Leduc last season. On a first time viewing, I thought the 16 year-old was terrific.
  • Maybe the fans didn't notice, but this game was played with several key components from each team out of the line up. The Rockets were short staffed and so were the Oil Kings. I was looking forward to watching Oil Kings Euro Edgars Kulda, but the 30 goal man was sidelined with injury.  
  • I really like Oil Kings d-man Ashton Sautner. I don't see him play often but the 20 year-old is steady at both ends of the ice....or at least he was Tuesday night. With 53 playoff games under his belt, Sautner would be a massive upgrade for any team looking for help on the blue line. Which brings me to the point of the Oil Kings selling off at the trade deadline. Do they or don't they?

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