Sunday, February 1, 2015

Road trip builds character/cohesiveness for new group

Leon Draisaitl - Shoot the Breeze Photography
It was a match up Saturday night featuring two of the top three players selected in last summer’s NHL draft. Despite being taken a spot after Sam Reinhart was chosen second overall by the Buffalo Sabres, Leon Draisaitl proved he is just as talented and the Edmonton Oilers hit the bullseye in taking him with the third overall selection. Draisaitl scored once and added an assist in the Kelowna Rockets 5-1 win over the Kootenay Ice. For his efforts, the powerful German was named the game’s first star. Draisaitl now has 7 goals in 11 games with his new junior team, which put the bow on a four game in five night road trip by earning seven out of a possible eight points. In three of the four games Draisaitl was named the first star. 

Another terrific start for the Rockets thanks to an aggressive shorthanded effort that saw Tyrell Goulbourne set up Rourke Chartier for his 41st goal of the season. It was the teams 13th shorthanded goal which matches it's total from one year ago. It was also the first of four consecutive goals for the Rockets in the opening period. The Ice managed a power play goal with 10 seconds left after a soft call for slashing on Cole Linaker in the neutral zone. 

The Rockets had several good looks in the offensive zone in the first, with the majority of its 11 shots of the dangerous variety. None more than Josh Morrissey's smooth stick handling through the Ice defense before getting a back hand shot away that Ice goaltender Wyatt Hoflin was able to barely keep out of the net. Morrissey's tremendous chance came when the score was just 1-0 for the visitors.  

The Rockets didn't have as many chances in the second period to score but Gage Quinney fired a shot to the right corner of the net that Hoflin got a piece of with his glove before deflecting it wide. Quinney was a threat to score throughout the game and now has three goals in two games. The 19 year-old is finding chemistry playing on a line with Tyson Baillie and Dillon Dube. 

Cole Martin is having a career year after scoring his third goal of the season in Saturday's win. Martin has three goals in 49 games. Not bad for a defensive d-man who scored three goals in his first 210 career games.

It should be mentioned that the team played a solid defensive game too. Ice captain Sam Reinhart had his 10 game point streak snapped and he was kept off the board for only the third time this season. Overager Tim Bozon also didn't hit the score-sheet.

Jackson Whistle was steady in goal when called upon in the four goal win. Whistle should have been well rested after getting Wednesday night off in Edmonton and Friday night off in Lethbridge. Jake Morrissey got the start in goal in a 2-1 shootout loss against the Oil Kings before Michael Herringer got the call in a 6-3 win Friday night over the Hurricanes.  

The Rockets end the month of January with a record of 10-2-0-1 in 13 games. That is an impressive mark considering the significant changes with the team and the return of two players from the World Junior Hockey Championships. The world junior hockey hangover plus chemistry issues with the passing of the trade deadline all factored into what could have been a tough series of hurdles to overcome, but at the end of the month an additional 21 points were earned out of 26 that were available. 

The Rockets open a home and home series with the Kamloops Blazers next weekend which should translate into some great games. The Blazers, who are far better than their record prior to Christmas indicated, have really played some inspired hockey as they fight off Vancouver and Prince George for playoff positioning. Look for the Blazers to give the Rockets all they can handle before playing Prince George on February 9th and making a quick stop in Seattle on February 10th. 

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