Saturday, January 3, 2015

Off ice distractions tough to avoid

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets are waging more of a mental battle these days than a physical one. With significant players away at the World Junior Hockey Championships including a teammate they have never met, focusing on simply playing the game with so many distractions off the ice isn't easy. Making matters worse is the numerous social media reports of a possible deal(s) involving the team. That said, the leadership group is doing the best they can with so much uncertainty around the team. It was that leadership group that pulled through with a hard fought 6-4 win last night in Kamloops. The Rockets rallied from a 4-2 third period deficit to score four times in the clubs 30th win of the season. It wasn't a game of beauty but gutsy enough to earn its 18th win on opposition ice.
  • The turning point came when Blazers forward Luke Harrison was accessed a five minute major penalty for a third period hit on Rockets rookie d-man Devante Stephens. The Rockets went on the power play and scored twice on than extended man advantage and subsequently took over the game. Two power play goals just over a minute apart gave the Rockets a 5-4 lead with Tyson Baillie scoring into an empty net for the two goal win.  
  • While Harrison's penalty was costly, Gage Quinney's shorthanded goal when the Rockets trailed 4-2 may have been the tipping point. Up until that Quinney goal 8 minutes into the third period it looked like the Blazers were on their way to their 14th win of the season. With the Blazers threatening to put the game away with Tyrell Goulbourne in the penalty box, Quinney went around 16 year-old rookie defenceman Dawson Davidson and snuck a low shot past Blazers goaltender Cole Kehler. That goal appeared to give the visitors the jump start they needed. Less than two minutes later, Harrison took the five minute major penalty and the Rockets were cooking with gas.
  • To be honest, a rough outing for Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer. No less than two or possibly three of the four goals were stoppable pucks. I chalk it up to rink rust. Herringer, who has been sidelined with a lower body injury, played his first competitive game since mid November (November 19th) and it showed. Regardless of the effort, Herringer allowed starter Jackson Whistle some much deserved time off. Herringer is now 5-0-0-0 this season as he shares the duties with Whistle and back up Jack Morrissey.
  • Nick Merkley scored twice last night giving him 12 goals on the season. The two goal effort snapped a 8 game goal scoring drought for the 17 year-old. It was his longest goal scoring drought of the season.
  • Justin Kirkland collected an assist extending his point streak to seven games. Kirkland has 4+9=13 over that period.
  • Tyson Baillie now has as many goals (26) as he had two seasons ago when he scored a career high 26 times as a 17 year-old. 
  • The Rockets handed the Blazers their first loss of the season when leading after 40 minutes. The Blazers were 10-0-0-0 up until last night's setback.   

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