Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rare road loss for weary Rockets

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Seattle Thunderbirds are 2-1-0-0 against the Kelowna Rockets this season. More importantly, veteran goaltender Taran Kozun is a perfect 2-0-0-0. The 20 year-old was almost flawless in backstopping the T-Birds to a 2-1 win over the Rockets Tuesday night with a 32 save performance. While steady, Kozun, who was named the CHL Vaughn Goalie of the Week prior to puck drop, was a calming influence in the one goal win. Kozun was often seen either stopping the puck behind the net, gloving it down to get stoppages to slow the play down, or in one instance, he literally stopped the puck behind the T-Bird net on a penalty kill and then in one fluid motion, fired the puck all the way down the ice. Kozun owns the best goals against average in the WHL for a reason. The Nipawin, Saskatchewan native is positionally sound, but is he not the best puck handing goaltender in the league? For my money he is.
  • Good starts are becoming common place with the Rockets and Tuesday night was no exception. The Rockets out-shot, out-chances and out-hit the T-Birds in a scoreless period. The best scoring chance came early when Cole Linaker whiffed on a shot at the side of the net on the first power play of the game. While only getting seven shots on net through the opening 20 minutes, the Rockets also surrendered two at the other end of the ice.  
  • Rockets defenceman Josh Morrissey was the most noticeable player in the opening 20 minutes. The 19 year-old had no less than three big hits at centre ice, primarily at the Rockets blue line where he caught T-Birds forward Calvin Spencer with his head down. At the other end of the ice, Chance Braid leveled T-Birds hulking defenceman  Jared Hauf , causing d-partner Evan Wardley to drop the gloves with Braid in a quick developing scrap that saw Wardley fall quickly to the ice after losing his balance. In a period controlled by the Rockets, the only unfortunate thing at the conclusion was the game was scoreless. 
  • I really liked the play of Rockets starting goaltender Michael Herringer. The T-Birds began to find their game in the second period and the 19 year-old had to come through with several solid stops. His best save came late in the second period when he made two quick stops including one with his blocker to keep the score 1-0 through 40 minutes. Unfortunately a turnover in the third period inside the Rockets zone resulted in the tying goal from Mathew Barzal before Jerret Smith’s slap shot from the blue line, with traffic in front, beat Herringer for the game winner with about three and a half minutes left in the game.  It was Herringer’s first loss after starting the season a perfect 5-0-0-0.
  • No lack of scouts were on hand to watch this one. It featured Mathew Barzal, the highest rated WHL prospect heading into the NHL draft, against Nick Merkley, the third highest rated WHL player. Merkley scored the lone goal for the Rockets on a quick backhand before Barzal scored the tying goal and set up the game winner.
  • It marked the first time this season the Rockets suffered a regulation loss after leading after two periods. Up until last night’s loss, the Rockets were a sparkling 33-0-2-0 when holding the lead after 40 minutes.
  • Not to make excuses, but not having 32 goal man Tyson Baillie in the line up doesn't help, especially when goals are hard to come by. 
  • It marked the fifth time this season the Rockets were held to one goal. The Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats, Calgary Hitmen and the Edmonton Oil Kings also surrendered only one goal against. The only win in those five games for the Rockets came in a 1-0 victory against the Raiders.  
  • The loss was just the third on the road this season. The only two other setbacks in regulation time came in Tri City and in Calgary.
  • What’s next? After playing four games in five night's, the Rockets open a three game home stand Friday against the visiting Victoria Royals before the Moose Jaw Warriors pay a visit on Saturday.

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