Monday, January 12, 2015

Rockets week includes pivotal practice time

Chance Braid - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • A few WHL fans outside the Okanagan will be chuckling over the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 loss Saturday night to the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. It marked the debut of Josh Morrissey and Chance Braid and featured the first time the Rockets had essentially all the players on their roster on the ice following the conclusion of the trade deadline. While it may look good on paper, chemistry has yet to be found and line juggling is common place with three news faces (Draisatli, Braid, Morrissey). Head Coach Dan Lambert and his coaching staff are attempting to find out what works and what doesn't and that traditionally takes more than one or two games to iron out.  
  • Do you need proof that it takes time to form chemistry when new faces are added to the line up? Look back to 2009 when the Rockets acquired Mikael Backlund, Ian Duval and Ryley Grantham. The Rockets managed a 3-2 win over Tri City in the first game with those three wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. They had to score three-third period goals to escape with the win. The Rockets would then go into Prince George and would lose back-to-back games and would lose another two after that - one in overtime - before finally coming together as a group. The most important aspect of the 2009 team was the way they finished the season with eight consecutive wins.  
  • Not like 19 year-old defenceman Josh Morrissey needs defending, but his -3 rating Saturday night can be misleading. Morrissey was on the ice for one of the Tigers shorthanded goals that frankly would normally be stopped by goaltender Jackson Whistle. Morrissey was again on the ice when the Tigers scored into an empty net.
  • The Rockets surrendered two shorthanded goals Saturday night in a 5-3 loss to the Medicine Hat Tigers. When was the last time that happened? Not that along ago actually. The Rockets surrendered two shorthanded goals in a 3-1 home ice loss to the Regina Pats on November 29th.  
  • The guy pictured to the right is 20 year-old Chance Braid. Braid was acquired from the Prince George Cougars just prior to the conclusion of the trade deadline. Not only does Braid fill the final overage spot left vacant by Colton Heffley, the feisty forward provides additional toughness. A similar move was made in 2009 and 2004 when the team acquired Ryley Grantham (09) and D.J Kings (04). Braid is a tough customer with 11 fighting majors last season and 29 over his career. While he had a quiet night in his debut Saturday, look for Braid to make an impact if opposing teams take liberties on the Rockets skilled players.  
  • Josh Morrissey wore sweater #7 for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Winnipeg Jets first round pick wore sweater #10 with the PA Raiders. In Kelowna, Morrissey wears sweater #27. Is he fine with that? He told me he's a fan of hall of fame defenceman Scott Niedermayer, who wore #27  over his 12 hundred 63 games in his NHL career.
  •  How good was that ceremony Saturday night before the game? With the largest crowd of the season on hand (6362 hundred) Bruce Hamilton, Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey were honoured for helping Canada win gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. The response from the crowd with a standing ovation made my hair stand up on my neck. It was also impressive to see a standing room only crowd at the north end of the ice. It really felt like playoff hockey.      
  • Happy Birthday to Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert. Lambo is 45 today. 
  • No 'hockey hangover' for Madison Bowey. The 19 year-old captain had a goal and collected two assists in his first game back after the World Junior Hockey Championship. Bowey now has 98 career assists and is two points shy of 150 for his WHL career.
  • Tyrell Goulbourne is in a fiesty mood. The 20 year-old has three fights in his last 6 games. Prior to that he had only three fights in the first 29 games of the regular season. 
  • Jake Morrissey made a strong bid for retaining the  back up duties with a 35 save performance Friday night in Kamloops. Up until that start, I thought he and Michael Herringer were in a dead heat to see who would sit on the bench and watch starter Jackson Whistle. Herringer's last start was in Kamloops and while it was a win, it was no where near as impressive as Morrissey's appearance that included stopping 6 of 7 Blazers in the shootout.
  • Leon Draisaitl has scored in three straight games with the Rockets. If you include his statistics from last season with the PA Raiders, the 19 year-old has goals in 10 of his last 11 regular season games.
  • Draisaitl's longest goal scoring streak last season was 5 games. That streak came in the final month of the regular season.
  • In his last 22 regular season games, Draisaitl has points in 20 of them.

No comments: