- It isn't often you see a five minute major penalty called for goaltender interference. It happened last night, though, to Kelowna Rockets forward Leon Draisaitl and it played a significant role in a 2-1 home ice loss to the Calgary Hitmen. Without the services of Josh Morrissey, Rourke Chartier, Tomas Soustal and Justin Kirkland, the home team's most dynamic offensive player was kicked out of the game after cutting to the net with the puck and crashing into Hitmen netminder Brendan Burke. Without question it was a penalty. Was contact made by Driasaitl in a malicious manner? Not a chance. Referee Curtis Howe didn't see it that way. Maybe Howe doesn't know who Driasaitl is? I say that with tongue firmly in cheek, but the 19 year-old is all skill. In his 150 games in the WHL, the German has never been ejected from a game. His fight card is empty. If anything, people come to watch him score in a variety of ways. Cutting to the net and chipping the puck by the goaltender is one of them. With Driasaitl booted from the game and with a short bench with so many injuries, the game changed in a big way when the overzealous call was made. While the Hitmen wouldn't score on the ensuing extended power play, the loss of the Rockets best player in a one goal game would come back to bite them.
- The Rockets had a terrific start in this game by coming out physical. No less than ten hits were recorded in the opening 20 minutes as the home team set the tone. Leon Driasaitl would open the scoring when he parked his big body in front of the Hitmen net. A shot from Madison Bowey from the blue line appeared to be going wide, but Driasaitl tipped it with his stick and somehow the puck changed direction and squeezed past Burke to the near post. It was the Edmonton Oilers first rounders 200th career point. Nick Merkley also had a golden opportunity in the first period in the high slot to make the score 2-0, but the sophomore forward couldn't finish on the tremendous Draisaitl pass.
- Josh Morrissey, who missed Friday's game in Vancouver with a lower body injury, returned to the line up against the Hitmen but was hurt in the second period when he got tangled up along the end boards and fell awkwardly to the ice with Hitmen forward Carsen Twarynski. The 19 year-old left the game and never returned. To compound matters, Driasaitl was ejected and then rookie defenceman Devante Stephens was hurt late in third period when the score was still tied at one goal apiece. You were wondering if the Rockets, with a short bench, could push the game into overtime and in a worst case scenario squeeze out a point. Unfortunately, the Hitmen would score the winner with the Rockets running around in their own zone and looking gassed with just over four minutes left in the game.
- This was a great game. The Hitmen are high end and are talented throughout the lineup. Without question they are in the elite category. They are highly skilled and play a smart game. On this night they didn't play overly physical, but that may have been more to do with playing their fourth game in five nights. I like their team, top to bottom, and they will be scary to face in the playoffs. If anyone is going to snap the Rockets eight game home ice winning streak, it is best to fall victim to a WHL heavy hitter.
- This game was played before a sellout crowd of six thousand 254. I thought they were treated to another great game regardless of the outcome.
- Despite the loss, the Prince George Cougars did the Rockets a favour by beating the Everett Silvertips. What that did was allow the Rockets to officially claim the Western Conference regular season title. With 100 points, the Rockets are 19 points ahead of the Tips with the U.S Division leaders having only nine games left, or 18 available points. It is the second straight season the team has earned top spot in the Western Conference.
- The Rockets end the month of February with a record of 9-3-0-0. They were 6-1-0-0 on home ice in a month that saw them play 12 games in 22 nights.
- Up next is a date with the Everett Silvertips, in Everett, Tuesday night. Both teams will most likely limp into the game without a full line up.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Controversial call ends Rockets winning streak
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