Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

  • You've heard of the Headless Horseman, but have you heard of the Headless Braid? A comical photo from last Friday's 3-2 win in Victoria where Kelowna Rockets forward Chance Braid is involved in a scrum with Royals forward Regan Nagy. The photo was taken by Victoria photographer Kevin Light. Trust me, Braid's head is in that jersey somewhere.
  • Chance Braid has two fighting majors as a member of the Kelowna Rockets. Both tilts have been against the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Rockets play the T-Birds one more time on March 18th.  
  • I always ask questions. It's my job, but honestly, I am generally interested in people. I love to hear their story. Being inquisitive led me into an interesting conversation with Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette Thursday night at the supper table at a Moxies restaurant in Victoria. Kris and I got talking about his father Dan. As I learned, Mallette's dad is a photographer with the Royal Canadian Air Force. How cool is that? Dan Mallette has been stationed all over the world during his time with the Canadian Air Force including Comox BC where Kris was born. If I have my facts straight, Dan Mallette is now living in Barrie, Ontario. 
  • Riley Stadel is enjoying playing as a forward. With an injury to Justin Kirkland, Stadel has been playing alongside Leon Driasaitl. "One of my main roles is to play good defense. On offense, I just try to get pucks in deep and making sure I have a good fore-check. Playing with Leon is quite surreal. The guy was in the NHL and he seems to find you out there when you don't even know it's coming. I always have to be ready with Leon. You never know when he is going to pass it. It could be with four guys around him or it could be with no pressure around him. He is quite a special player and its been an honour to play with him," Stadel added. I asked Stadel what his reaction would be if the coaches told him he would play forward full time for the remainder of the season? "I would be happy. If Bruce Hamilton thinks it is best for the team than I am all for the team."    
  • It appears scoring on the road is becoming more difficult for Rourke Chartier. The 18 year-old has 46 goals this season, but since December 1st, of the 17 goals he has scored, only two of them have come on opposition ice.      
  • Josh Morrissey's improved play is catching my eye. The skilled d-man has points in 11 straight games and is one game shy of his career best 12 game point streak set last season with the PA Raiders. "Ya, the last nine games I have been finding my game. Coming into a new team, it is a lot of changes and new systems I think now I have settled in". Morrissey credits his recently improved play to new sticks he ordered. "I had a little trouble missing the net for a little while and almost trying to make the perfect shot. Now my shot seems to be kind of where I want it again and hopefully I can keep hitting the net and hitting the mesh also", Morrissey added.  For the record, I really like Morrissey as a person. For as high profile of an athlete as he is, I see no cockiness or arrogance in him whatsoever. Maybe he could use some of that? It amazes me that the first round NHL draft pick is so mild mannered. Morrissey's maturity level blows me away. 
  • It was nice to see Winnipeg Jets scout Mike Keane out for coffee Saturday afternoon with Josh Morrissey. I think it is extra special when a scout like that can literally sit down with a drafted prospect and build a relationship with a player rather than just meeting him before or after the game at the arena. 
  • Playing pro hockey for the first time is never easy whether a player is attempting to cut his teeth in the NHL or the American Hockey League. Just ask Ryan Olsen. Last season, the then 19 year-old scored over 30 goals on a Rockets team that won 57 times. Now with the AHL's St. John's Icecaps, Olsen has just two goals in 46 games this season. The Jets signed the 6th round pick to a contract last season.
  • Jordon Cooke's season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies came to an end this past weekend. The U of S lost two games to one in the quarterfinals against Mount Royal with one loss coming in overtime. Cooke didn't play in any of the three games though. Ex-Medicine Hat Tigers netminder Ryan Holfeld saw action in every game.        
  • It was nice to see injured forward Tanner Wishnowski with the team on the weekend in Victoria. Out with an upper body injury, it would be really intriguing to see what Wishnowski would bring to the team if he indeed was healthy. Last season at the Telus Cup with the Okanagan Rockets, Wishnowski was named top forward and top scorer. When you've missed the entire season with an upper body injury though, it would be awfully tough to make an impact if he did dress for a game in the playoffs. Let's hope for his sake the injury bug won't bite him again when he is healthy enough to play.  
  •  Best pre-game meal at the rink has to go to those that feed the media and scouts at Victoria's Save On Foods Memorial Arena. Chili Friday night and in-house pizza on Saturday was terrific. The fact that so many team's have gone away from offering hot food before the game makes you really appreciate it more when you do have the option. 
  • I had a nice chat with Kamloops Blazers leading scorer Cole Ully last week. I asked him about his team's 17 game losing streak against the Rockets, which reached 18 games after an 11-4 loss. "It is tough but some of the games have been close. I think you try not to think about it. You try to tell yourself that if you play the right way you have a chance to win. That is the mindset you need to take when you play a powerhouse team like this (Kelowna)". Ully and the Blazers meet the Rockets one more time this season.      
  • It looks like Jackson Whistle is ready to return to the line up as early as this week. That is good news for a 19 year-old goaltender who has the second best average in the WHL. "It is nice to be back, especially with the guys. I had been away from the guys the last week. It is a different feeling. Jake (Morrissey) and Michael (Herringer) did a great job while I was gone." The Rockets and their fans are hoping the time away for Whistle will be a blessing in disguise and he was able to recharge the batteries for what many hope will be a long playoff run. "I know when you play every day you pick up bad habits. If you get away from it for about a week and a half, I have had a chance to watch (video) a lot of my games and notice some things that I was starting to do after playing a lot of games." Whistle says being a starter in the WHL is more mentally taxing than physically. Whistle says the physical part of playing comes easier after working out hard during the summer so his body can handle the extensive workload.     
  • How good has Leon Draisaitl been since he joined the Kelowna Rockets? The 19 year-old had 17 points in his first 11 games as he adapted to his new teammates and new line-mates. In his last 8 games, the Edmonton Oilers first round pick has the same number of points (17).
  • In the last 13 games the GMC Line of Tyrell Goulbourne, Nick Merkley and Rourke Chartier have combined for just 7 goals. Chartier has 6 goals while Merkley has one. Goulbourne has gone 13 games without finding the back of the net.   
  • Leon Draisaitl will play in his 150th career WHL game Friday night in Vancouver.   

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