|Dan Lambert coaches first career WHL playoff game|
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the 2015 WHL playoffs. The Kelowna Rockets open the first round against the Tri City Americans. These two teams met in the opening round last March with the Rockets winning in five games.
These two teams collided four times this season with the Rockets going 3-1-0-0. The Americans have the bragging rights of being the first team to beat the Rockets with a 5-2 victory on October 18th. It snapped the Rockets 10 game winning streak to start the season. In two games at Prospera Place during the regular season, the Rockets were a 4-0 (October 22nd) and a 7-1 winner (January 14th). In the only other game, in Kennewick, the Rockets earned a 4-1 win. Overall, this is the 6th time these two teams have collided in the playoffs (1996, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015). This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history. The Rockets head into the post season riding a two game winning streak after wins against Vancouver last weekend. Since the Christmas break the Rockets are 25-8-2-1.
Rockets 2014-2015 regular season recap: The Rockets finished in first place in the Western Conference with 53 wins and 112 points. The 53 wins and 112 points was the second highest total in franchise history. The team scored 305 goals, the second most in the WHL. The 183 goals allowed were the fewest of any team in the WHL. It was the first time since 2003-2004 that the team led the league with the fewest number of goals. That season they allowed 125 goals against. Nick Merkley led the team in scoring with 20 goals, 70 assists and 90 points. Merkley’s 70 assists were not a franchise record though. Rory McDade had 70 helpers in 2000-2001. Colin Long had 69 in in 2007-2008. Marty Flichel has the franchise record with 79 assists in the 1995-96 season.
Season Series Sharpshooters: Rourke Chartier had 4+2=6 in four games against the Americans this season. Tyrell Goulbourne also had 4+2=6 in the four meetings. Leon Draisaitl had 2+2=4 in one game against the Am’s. Jackson Whistle was 3-1-0-0 in the four games with a goals against average of 1.50 and a save percentage of .938. The Rockets out-scored the Am’s 17-7. Eric Comrie played in three of the four games, posting a goals against average of 3.33 and a save percentage of .900.
This and That: Rourke Chartier was named the Kelowna Rockets MVP. The 18 year-old had 48+34=82 in 58 games and led the team in power play goals with 14.…Madison Bowey was named the team’s top defenceman….Devante Stephens was named rookie of the year and most improved….Joe Gatenby was the scholastic player of the year…Madison Bowey and Rourke Chartier were named first team Western Conference all-stars. Nick Merkley and Josh Morrissey were named second team Western Conference all-stars….The Rockets won the most road games of any team in the WHL (27)…Nick Merkley and Cole Linaker were the only two players to play in all 72 regular season games this season….The Rockets owned the best power play in the WHL this season (26.2%) and scored a league high 90 goals with it…Only the Brandon Wheat Kings had more home ice wins (27) than the Rockets (26)…Dan Lambert is the Western Conference nominee for coach of the year. GM Bruce Hamilton is the Western Conference nominee for executive of the year….The Rockets are rated as the fourth best team in the final CHL Top 10 junior rankings….Kole Lind, Jordan Borstmayer and Brayden Chizen have joined the team for the remainder of the season. Lind and Borstmayer played for the Saskatoon Midget Contacts. Borstmayer is a third round pick from 2013 while Lind was the second to last player taken in the fourth round that year. Chizen was a 9th round bantam pick that year…The Rockets were held to just one goal seven times this season. Kamloops (road), Seattle (road), Edmonton (road), Calgary (twice – once on road and once at home), Regina (home) and Prince Albert (home) have turned the trick against the highest scoring team in the Western Conference...Justin Kirkland has missed 15 straight games with a LBI…The Rockets are facing a U.S Division team for the seventh time in the last eight playoff series. The only exception was against the Kamloops Blazers in a second round series back in 2013…Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high 35 playoff games under his belt…The Kelowna Rockets saw a four percent increase in attendance at home games this season. An average of 5 thousand 180 fans took in home games at Prospera Place….Madison Bowey has 30 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season…Damon Severson was the Rockets playoff scoring leader one year ago….The Rockets played in just one overtime playoff game last season. It was game three of the Western Conference final against Portland….Cole Martin has 29 playoff games on his resume…Four Rockets are making their playoff debuts. Lucas Johansen, Tomas Soustal, Devante Stephens and Tate Coughlin could see their first taste of playoff hockey…Defenceman Josh Morrissey turns 20 tomorrow. Happy Birthday Jo-Mo!!
Hot to Trot: Nick Merkley has points in six of his last eight games. The 17 year-old has 3+6=9 over that stretch….Madison Bowey has points in nine of his last twelve games. Bowey has 3+8=11 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl has thirty-six points (12+24=36) in his last twenty games…Cole Martin is a +143 in his four year career.