Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rome wasn't built in a day and either is a WHL contender

Pre-game gold medal ceremony - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Hockey fans had their first look Saturday night at what is expected to be the new and improved version of the Kelowna Rockets. To say it is a work in progress would be an understatement. With not even one practice together as a complete team, the Medicine Hat Tigers looked faster and more polished in a 5-3 win. The Tigers, who made a significant trade with the Regina Pats on January 5th to acquire 19 year-old's Dryden Hunt and Kyle Burroughs, looked like a more cohesive unit that had played together before. The Rockets, at times, not so much. With Josh Morrissey and Chance Braid making their debuts with their new team, the home team looked slightly out of sync in their 7th regulation loss of the season.
  • The game winning goal was scored on the power play when Tigers import Markus Eisenschmid, who played a greasy game, deflected a point blast from WHL leading scorer Trevor Cox. Was it that goal that was the difference or the back-to-back shorthanded goals the Rockets surrendered in a 61 second span of the second period? Regardless, the Rockets held the lead in the game for only 5 minutes and 43 seconds. Every time the Rockets scored the Tigers found an answer in a game that had a playoff feel to it.
  • Leon Driasaitl gave the largest crowd of the season at Prospera Place, 6 thousand  - three hundred 62, some hope when he scored his third goal in three games to tie the score at three. But fellow German Markus Eisenschmid would get the game winner before Cole Sanford would seal the win with an empty netter to make it a 5-3 final.
  • Outside of Nick Merkley, I didn't see anyone on the Rockets side that matched the work ethic that the Tigers played with Saturday night. A high skill set without a complementary solid work ethic won't produce fruitful results.    
  • Madison Bowey was in the penalty box when the Tigers scored the game winning goal, but the Kelowna Rockets captain had a solid outing in his first game back from the World Junior Hockey Championships.  Bowey had a goal and two assists and was named the games second star.
  • In his Rockets debut, Josh Morrissey earned his first point, an assist, on Leon Draisaitl's third period power play goal. Morrissey ends the night with a -3 rating, but was on the ice for both shorthanded goals. While the Tigers were full marks on the first shorthanded goal, the second one 1:01 minutes later is one that Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle would like to have back as the rising shot from long range that whizzed past his head would normally be stopped.
  • Tigers goaltender Marek Langhamer would also like to have one back after Bowey's wrist shot hit him in the mask and trickled over his head and into the net. Langhamer's best stop was on Nick Merkley on a third period power play.
  • Ideally, a lesser opponent would have enabled the Rockets to adjust better to new teammates/line-mates and the result would have likely been more favorable. Instead the Tigers, who have to be considered one of the favourites to challenge for an Eastern Conference crown, played a solid game and took advantage of the majority of the errors the Rockets created.      
  • With several bodies back in the line up, the Rockets were able to scratch rookies Lucas Johansen and Tate Coughlin. Johansen had played every game this season.      
  • Before the game, Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey and General Manager Bruce Hamilton were honoured for winning gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Bowey and Morrissey received Taylor Made golf clubs for their efforts.

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