Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

  • Nick Merkley led the entire WHL in points for no less than five months of the regular season. Now, the 17 year-old is fourth in overall scoring as Medicine Hat Tigers Trevor Cox/Cole Sanford and Brandon's Tim McGauley have all passed him. "Obviously you always want to be at the top, but if the team is winning that is the biggest thing. I'm a guy that is very competitive and I just want to win", Merkley said. The second year forward has 77 points in 57 games.    
  • McGauley was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades by Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon in the Brayden Schenn deal in 2011. How did that trade work out for both teams? Yikes. 
  • I have no problems with the winners announced this week in the latest Tri City Herald 'Best of the West' poll. I totally agree that Spokane Chiefs bench boss Don Nachbaur is the conference's best coach. How can the Chiefs have close to 30 wins with that roster? Sorry Don, but you are a miracle worker. I also agree Americans 19 year-old Eric Comrie is the best goaltender and the most valuable to his team. Few will dispute that. What's amazing is Comrie's back-up, Evan Sarthou, is next in line. Sarthou has four shutouts in his last six starts. How do the Americans produce top quality goaltenders year after year?  It is an amazing track record. 
  • Even after all of these years, Kamloops Blazers head coach Don Hay still has a hard time digesting losses. I asked him about it last week where the veteran coach still admits losing is a tough pill to swallow."I just hate it when I have to get up the day after a loss. When you wake up after a win, you feel so much better. There is more jump in your step. I think the coaches feel that a lot more than the players. I always tell my players, you have to want to hate losing more than the coaches", Hay added. Something tells me that will never happen. Hay is as competitive as they come and that is why he is regarded as still one of the best.     
  • While Leon Draisaitl has been wowing us with his 27 points in 17 games, the thing that is really impressive is his skills at the face-off circle. "That's where it all starts. Every shift or most shifts. I take great pride and it has been something I have been working on for the last couple of years and I've improved quite a bit in that area of my game", Draisaitl added.
  • Secondary assists can be misleading. It is suggested that the first assist on a goal (primary), not the secondary assist, is the true measure of how a goal was created. That may be true, but how many secondary assists does Draisaitl have this season where he was the driving force behind a scoring chance being created?   
  • The best player I saw last week was Royals forward Greg Chase. I thought he was very good. Chase shoots the puck a ton and generally has it on his stick a lot. I thought he was just slightly better than Warriors forward Brayden Point, who was also very good in his lone appearance in Kelowna this season.  Point too, is always around the puck and plays with determination.       
  • The rivalry between the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals continues to heat up after late game fisticuffs last week between the two teams. Royals head coach Dave Lowry and Rockets coaches Dan Lambert and Kris Mallette were seen jawing at each other after Rodney Southam fought Austin Carroll after an attempted cheap hit on Rockets rookie defenceman Lucas Johansen.  This is what Lowry said about the spirited games they've played in Kelowna this season. "We love playing against Kelowna because its a playoff game every night. The game is fast, its physical and there is lots of emotion and sometimes it gets close to crossing the line", Lowry admitted to me before Friday's 7-3 loss. "I don't have a problem with my team playing with emotion. The team takes on the characteristics of their coach, and I am an emotional coach". You have to hand it to Lowry. He is brutally honest, and for that, I have much respect. 
  • The Kelowna Rockets are 6 wins shy of 50. What does that mean? If they can achieve that mark they will become only the second team in WHL history to record 50 wins in three consecutive years. The only other team to accomplish the feat is the Kamloops Blazers, who won 50 games in 1989, 1990 and 1991. 
  • Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Tim Hunter was an interesting subject to interview when the Eastern Conference team made a rare stop in Kelowna Saturday night. Hunter was guarded in my first meeting with him, but I asked him about his relationship with current Kelowna Rockets athletic therapist Scott Hoyer. The two most recently worked together at Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton where a bond between the two was formed. "I think Scott thought I was this hard nose NHL player when we first met. He sure saw a different side of me when we worked together at OHA and I was washing and folding my own laundry", Hunter said with a chuckle.  
  • The Kelowna Rockets have scored 74 power goals so far this season, six more than all of last season. The team high for power play goals in a season is 117, set by the 2002-2003 team. That season Jesse Schultz scored 22 times with the extra man.Only two players have a chance to dress in all 72 games this season. Nick Merkley and Cole Linaker have played in all 57 games this season. Last season, Linaker played in 70 of 72 games.           
  • I received lots of positive feedback on an interview I did last week with the Director of Transportation for the Kelowna Rockets, Roger Von Dach. Up until four years ago, Von Dach was the Rockets full time bus driver and was there on day one when the team re-located from Tacoma to Kelowna in 1995. Van Dach is my best quote of the week when I asked him if he has ever hit anything with the bus over his 20+ years behind the wheel. "A couple of years ago I hit a deer coming home from Prince George near Williams Lake. I guess all I can say is shit happens".  I was considering editing that comment out when I brought the interview to air Tuesday night in Seattle but it came off of Von Dach's lips so naturally, it was radio gold! 

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