- Jackson Whistle got a vote of confidence Wednesday night from the coaching staff and delivered with a 40 save effort in a 3-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks. Outsiders believed the Rockets may start back up Michael Herringer, who saw an appearance after Whistle was yanked in a game three – 7-3 loss. But the coaches went back to Whistle in game four and it proved to be the right move. Named the game’s first star, the goaltender was steady as the Rockets tied the Western Conference championship series at two wins apiece.
- You had to feel good for Tyrell Goulbourne. The 21 year-old scored the game winner Wednesday night, and did it with determination on a power play during a goal mouth scramble. It was Goulbourne’s first goal of the playoffs after going 12 games without one. Oh, he had his chances all right! The quick skating forward, who looks like he gets launched out of a cannon anytime he races for a loose puck, had two glorious first period chances shorthanded but couldn’t beat Winterhawks goalie Adin Hill. Goulbourne must have wondered if he would ever score after being robbed by the 18 year-old Hill with a great glove hand save in the second period of a 7-3 loss in game three.
- For the first time in this series the Rockets had an answer after the Winterhawks opened up the scoring. Instead of allowing Portland to create a 2-0 advantage, which has been the common theme in three of the four games in this series, Leon Draisaitl tied the score at one with a nice give and go with linemate Nick Merkley. Draisaitl also assisted on Goulbourne’s game winner as the German played two solid road games after a surprisingly slow start in a pair of home games to open the series. While receiving criticism for his work at the face-off circle where Nic Petan has had his way with the much larger Draisaitl, the 19 year-old came through with several clean face-off wins in the defensive zone late in the game when the Winterhawks were awarded a power play and pulled Hill for the extra attacker.
- The Rockets lockdown mode in the third period has been impressive in this series. In game one and four wins, it is no-high risk hockey with a one goal lead that rarely sees them giving up an odd man rush as the Winterhawks attempt to find the equalizer.
- For the first time in this series the Winterhawks out-shot the Rockets. While surrendered 42 shots against, it didn’t feel like Portland was spending a significant amount of time in the offensive zone. Like the Rockets, the Winterhawks had their chances; non better than Dominic Turgeon’s shot that hit the post and ricocheted wide of the net.
- Whether it was shot blocking, getting into shooting lanes or winning board battles, it was arguably the team’s best effort in the series in all three areas. I thought Chance Braid, Rodney Southam and Tomas Soustal were extremely hard to play against with Braid having his best game of the playoffs.
- Joe Gatenby doesn’t get the credit he deserves, but the second year d-man is really showing flashes of brilliance. Gatenby has a great work ethic as he battles for pucks and makes simple, smart plays with it. His skating is excellent. Along with Lucas Johansen, those two are making nice strides in this series. Gatenby has more games under his belt obviously, but Johansen is evolving, quietly, into a dependable defenceman. The Rockets d-core is in good shape with the team losing Madison Bowey, Josh Morrissey and Cole Martin at seasons end. Gatenby, Johansen and Devante Stephens, who played as a forward in game four, have the Rockets in a good position on the blue line moving forward.
- The Rockets were without Rourke Chartier, Justin Kirkland and Gage Quinney, which makes the game four win even that much more impressive. It was a clear indication that the team has character and won’t cower at the first sign of adversity. The win creates a series which is now down to a best of three were two of those games will be played at Prospera Place.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
|Adin Hill named 1st star in star studded effort|
- Leather larceny. The phrase often describes a fantastic play by an athlete with the use of his glove. It is most often used in baseball, but on Tuesday night it would best describe Portland Winterhawks goaltender Adin Hill and his quick glove hand. The 18 year-old robbed Tyrell Goulbourne of a sure goal in the early stages of the second period with his team holding a 1-0 lead. That save proved to be massive, as the Winterhawks would go down the ice less than 40 seconds later and score to make it 2-0. If Goulbourne scores, it is a 1-1 game and the visitors are back in it. The 21 year-old Goulbourne attempted to take his frustration out on the Winterhawks after missing the golden scoring chance by taking a run at a defenceman. Goulbourne was back in the penalty box where his team would surrender a power play goal and the score was quickly 3-0.
- Penalties were clearly the downfall for the Rockets. They allowed the Winterhawks eight power play chances including two - 5 on 3's. Portland promptly scored four times with the extra man in the lopsided 7-3 score. But as ugly as the score may look at games end, it was a lot tighter than the four goal differential. It was only a 3-1 Winterhawks lead with 6:09 left to play in the second period when a blown assignment at the Rockets blue line allowed Alex Schoenborn to score on a breakaway to make the score 4-1.
- Not taking anything away from Hill, but the Rockets had little to no puck luck early in the game. In a second period, where they fired 23 shots on net, several glorious chances were missed, including Cole Linaker missing the far post on a power play chance.
- The third period saw the Winterhawks out-score the Rockets 3-2, but by then the game was over with frustration playing a major factor in the 44 minutes handed out to a team that traditionally is disciplined. Cole Linaker and Riley Stadel were able to find the back of the net in the third as the Rockets ended the night with 44 shots on goal.
- Jackson Whistle was pulled from the game after surrendering the Winterhawks fourth goal. I think the 'yank' had more to do with the failure to come up with a big save, something Hill did numerous times prior to Whistle's departure. Of the four goals the 19 year-old surrendered, none would be considered soft. But, at this time of the year a big save is needed and unfortunately Whistle couldn't provide that for his team. For the third time in this years playoffs, Michael Herringer came into the game off the bench and made 19 saves in a relief effort. While Herringer surrendered three goals himself, two of those came while the Rockets were getting into penalty trouble because of frustration. Two of those three goals came on Winterhawks power plays.
- Who starts in goal for the Rockets in game four? Herringer has not started a WHL playoff game ever. You could have said the same for Hill prior to the 2015 playoffs began. It will be a tough choice for the coaching staff, who don't want to give up on their number one goaltender, but winning game four is crucial to regain momentum lost after back-to-back losses.
- Despite a 7-3 loss in game three, the series is still only 2-1 in favour of Portland. A strong effort by the Rockets in game four is pivotal to take pressure off them when the series returns to Kelowna for a game five on Friday night. Is it a must win situation for the Rockets on Wednesday? I believe it is. It would be awfully tough to come back from being down 3-1 where you are then forced into winning three straight games.
- What needs to happen in game four for the Rockets to succeed? The first goal of the game would be a start. Getting down 2-0 in three straight games puts them at a massive disadvantage. Early power play success is another must. In game three, the Rockets were on the power play just 9 minutes into the game but generated just a single shot on Hill. The other thing that needs to change is discipline. That is a no brainer. If that results in the team having to temper the amount of physical force they want to play with against the Winterhawks, so be it. They took just ten penalty minutes in game one and two and won 3-2 and lost 3-2. Clearly, staying composed and playing to their strength will give them a far greater chance of succeeding.
Monday, April 27, 2015
|Never a bad day in Portland|
- What a beautiful day in Portland. Sunny skies and warm temperature that hit 27 degrees welcomed the Kelowna Rockets on an off day in the Western Conference final. The team elected to leave for the Oregon city on Sunday, making the 8 and a half hour bus trip before getting the travel buzz out of their heads a full 48 hours before game three begins. The team had a quick workout at Memorial Coliseum in the afternoon before enjoying the rest of the day.
- I always like talking/interviewing Josh Morrissey. The 20 year-old is so well spoken. I liked his comment about his play in the first two games of this series, where frankly, we haven't seen him play at the optimum level. "Overall, as a team, we didn't have our best games, but we are going to step up and get our best game going over the next couple of night's".
- It was nice to see forward Tanner Wishnowski wearing a different coloured uniform at practice in Portland today. The 18 year-old has been wearing a yellow jersey which means he wasn't taking contact. The blue jersey he was wearing today means he is good to take a bump or two. It has been a long road for the former Okanagan Rockets forward, who has missed the entire season with an upper body injury.
- This series is made for Tyrell Goulbourne. The 21 year-old, on the final leg of his junior hockey career, can skate. This is a skating man's series. Goulbourne is not slow afoot. The Edmonton product is do for a goal, having been unable to find the back of the net in this years playoffs. I suspect he makes an impact in game three tomorrow. A goal would be nice but being hard to play against would be equally as affective.
- Gage Quinney's father Keith will be watching game three of this playoff series. Keith Quinney flew in from Las Vegas on Monday. Gage tells me his father has never seen him play at WHL game in person. Keith Quinney is a former teammate of head coach Dan Lambert's.
- In game three in last years Western Conference final in Portland, the Winterhawks earned a 4-3 overtime win. That essentially turned the series in the Winterhawks favour after the team's split the first two games in Kelowna. Taylor Leier scored the game winning goal. Jordon Cooke was named the third star as he was peppered with 65 shots.
- Much like the Vancouver Canucks crashing to earth is good business for the Kelowna Rockets come playoff time, the same can be said for the demise of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. The Portland Winterhawks become more of a focal point if the Trail Blazers season comes to an end in late April.
- The last time the Rockets played at Moda Center, Jackson Whistle was named the second star with a 36 save performance in a 3-2 overtime loss.
- Rookie Devante Stephens should like the Moda Center. The 17 year-old scored his first career goal in that building on November 1st. It would be a long wait for his next one - 33 games in fact.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
- Determination will beat skill in the playoffs almost every time. It will win out every time if it is coming from the entire line up. That is exactly what we saw in the Portland Winterhawks 3-2 win Saturday night at Prospera Place. The Winterhawks, as a group, had a higher compete level and it was clearly evident in the one goal game. Nic Petan wasn't great. Oliver Bjorkstrand wasn't riding on his white horse to save the day. They didn't need too. While both elite players were good, the team-mates that surrounded them did whatever they had to do to make a contribution. The Rockets, like we've seen in this years playoffs, looked content with playing the easy game after earning a 3-2 victory in game one. Outside of roughly six players, the compete from the home team wasn't what it needs to be at this time of the year. Rourke Chartier, Nick Merkley, Dillon Dube and Cole Linaker were the best forwards. In a seven game series against the defending Western Conference champs, that won't get it done. Now the series is tied at one win apiece with the next two games down in Portland. The first team to win three will be off to the WHL final.
- We always talk about teams learning to win and teams knowing how to win. The Portland Winterhawks know how to win. They know that at the end of the day skill won't win for them. You can't have a bunch of grinders on your team who can't score, but if the compete level is high, or higher than an opponent, most if not every time you will win. I think anyone will admit, man for man, the Rockets have more skill than the Winterhawks. But that means little if those skilled players aren't willing to pay the price. Clearly, Portland's best players are willing to do that. The Rockets elite players have to take a similiar mindset.
- Clearly Josh Morrissey and Leon Draisaitl have not looked like themselves in the first two games of this series. Neither player has looked emotionally invested. The Rockets mortgaged some of there future for Draisaitl and Morrissey in the hopes that both would step up in a series of this magnitude. They were expected to lead the team with a consistent effort and show why they are coveted first round prospects for the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. Neither player has made an impact in this series yet, and my belief is that will change.
- For a second straight game the Winterhawks opened the scoring. The Rockets also had to rally from a two goal deficit for a second straight game with back-to-back power play goals. Nic Petan would score the winner with a Denis Savard 'spin-o-rama' move at the right face-off circle that saw the puck find it's way past a startled Jackson Whistle. The Rockets, try as they might, couldn't find the equalizing goal in the final period. It was tough to do considering so many players on the roster just didn't play at the same compete level the Winterhawks were performing at. In the end, you can't have Rourke Chartier and Nick Merkley playing the entire period in order to tie the score. But when those two are your best forwards on that particular night, head coach Dan Lambert has no choice but to send them over the boards to give his team the best chance of winning.
- As good as a move as Petan made on the game winning goal, it still needs to be stopped. It beats Whistle to the short side when he is deep in his net. Will it make the highlight reel? Without question. Petan makes the move with good speed and the backhand attempt on goal comes with a lot of velocity on it. But should it be stopped. Probably.
- The line of Tyson Baillie, Leon Draisaitl and Justin Kirkland were extremely quiet in this game. Frankly that can't happen. I honestly can't remember them creating a scoring chance? That line, specifically Draisaitl and Baillie were instrumental in series wins over Tri City and Victoria. But the pace of the game has increased substantially in this series and both players have had a hard time keeping up.
- The Rockets 'ship' isn't about to capsize. The series is tied at one win apiece and clearly we have not seen the best from them. But things need to change in a hurry with the next two games down at the Moda Center in Portland. Between now and Tuesday night a switch will have to go off or the Rockets will indeed be bailing water.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
|Tim Swanky Photograph|
- It isn't how you start a hockey game. Often times it is how you finish that results in a victory. The Kelowna Rockets opened a best of seven Western Conference championship series with the Portland Winterhawks last night with a 3-2 home ice win. The game didn't start well for the Rockets, who allowed the first goal just 35 seconds into the opening period. Despite trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, they fought back with three unanswered second period goals in the teams sixth straight win on home ice in the 2015 playoffs. Game two goes tonight at Prospera Place with games three and four back in Portland next Tuesday and Wednesday night.
- The Rockets looked like a team that hadn't played in a week. Off since last Friday after a 7-3 win over Victoria to wrap up a second round playoff series, the home team came out of the gates slowly and made two significant errors which cost them goals. A turnover at the blue line allowed Oliver Bjorkstrand to blow one past Jackson Whistle before some fans even reached their seats. Winterhawks d-man Adam Henry then easily moved around Rockets captain Madison Bowey to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. At that point it looked like the home team was in a heap of trouble, which they were. The second period though, was a different story.
- Now the Rockets too had their chances in the opening period, but either made a bad decision with the puck or had no puck luck at all. Leon Draisaitl on a goal mouth scramble hit the goal post and Justin Kirkland, in a grade 'A' scoring area, had Winterhawks goalie Adin Hill at his mercy but elected to make a back door pass to Draisaitl which didn't create a shot on net.
- Again, as the game went along the Rockets found their game. Nick Merkley's pass to Madison Bowey for a shorthanded goal early in the second period was the turning point. With Josh Morrissey in the penalty box after taking a late first period penalty, a Portland goal on the power play may have been enough to allow the Winterhawks to walk away with a game one win. Instead, Bowey found the back of the net for the teams fourth shorthanded goal of the playoffs and it was a one goal game. Only 46 seconds later, Justin Kirkland would make good on his gaffe in the first period by scoring a nice individual goal by cutting wide on a Winterhawks d-man and then out-waiting Hill to the forehand. Rourke Chartier would score the game winner when he out-raced a d-man to a puck inside the Portland zone and then fired it off the crossbar. The puck eventually hit Hill's skate and just trickled over the goal line for the Rockets first lead of the game.
- Despite giving up a goal 35 seconds into the game, I thought it was a pretty solid game for Jackson Whistle. The veteran goaltender, like his team, appeared to get better as the game went along. That said, the 19 year-old was hardly tested in the final period where the Rockets surrendered only seven shots against. The attention to detail defensively in the dying minutes with a one goal lead was impressive. Even with the goaltender pulled, the Winterhawks really never had a dangerous scoring chance on goal.
- What kind of night was it for Leon Draisaitl? An uneventful one by his standards. Not only did he hit the post in the first period, but with Hill pulled for the extra attacker, the 19 year-old had a wide open net and fired the puck from the Winterhawks side of centre ice and missed the net. It wasn't a great night for Draisaitl, who was most noticeable at the face-off circle. I thought he and Josh Morrissey had just average games for two players that usually make major impacts over the course of 60 minutes. Quiet and steady may best explain their efforts in game one.
- While there was concern earlier in the week about a possible small crowd for game one, just over 58 hundred fans, two hundred shy of a sell out, took in the game. They were loud and chanted 'We Want a Ref' which quickly turned to 'Go Rockets Go' in the third period. Those in attendance were treated to a great game that saw little in the way of whistles and was completed in just two hours and thirteen minutes.
- The best Winterhawk? Adam Henry was really good on the back end for Portland but I still thought Chase De Leo was the best forward. I thought he showed a lot of jump and created some good scoring chances. Alex Schoenborn also had a good game as he was involved physically all night long.
- I thought Dillon Dube had a strong game for the Rockets. A healthy scratch in game five of a second round series with Victoria, the 16 year-old skated hard and made some nice plays in the offensive zone. To make room for Dube on the roster, the Rockets scratched Riley Stadel.
Friday, April 24, 2015
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets are back to the Western Conference final for a second consecutive season against the same team that knocked them out in five games one year ago. The Rockets are 9 and 1 in post season with a four game sweep over Tri City in round one and a five game series win over Victoria in round two. For what it’s worth, the Rockets and Winterhawks met four times this season, but haven’t seen one another since late November. The Rockets were 1-1-2-0 in the four games. This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history. Since the Christmas break the Rockets are 33-8-3-1 (including playoffs). Overall, the team has won 10 of its last 11 games (9 playoffs and last two regular season games).
Playoff history vs. Winterhawks: These two teams are meeting for the fourth time ever in the playoffs. In the 2011 post season, the Winterhawks beat the Rockets in a second round series (4 games to 2). In 2012, the Winterhawks swept the Rockets in an opening round series in four straight games. In the 2014 post season, the Winterhawks eliminated the Rockets in the Western Conference final (4 games to 1).
Rockets best vs. Winterhawks: Rourke Chartier had 5+2=7 in the four game seasonal series against Portland. Madison Bowey was 1+3=4 while Nick Merkley chipped in with four assists. It should be noted that Cole Martin had two goals against the Winterhawks. Jackson Whistle played in all four games, posting a goals against average of 2.71 with an impressive save percentage of .928. Chase De Leo (3+1=4), Oliver Bjorkstrand (2+2=4) and Alex Schoenborn (2+2=4) paced Portland in the four games. Adin Hill was 2-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.78 and a save percentage of .941.
Playoff Tidbits: The Rockets have been to overtime three times in this year’s playoffs. The Rockets are 2-1. The Winterhawks have also played in three overtime playoff games and are 3-0….This series features the top two scoring teams in the Western Conference. The Rockets scored 305 goals while the Winterhawks found the back of the net 287 times…Tomas Soustal has 4 goals in 9 playoff games. It took the 17 year-old 22 regular season games to score his 4th career goal…Dan Lambert was part of a Swift Current Broncos championship team in 1989 that played in a minimum 12 playoff games to earn the WHL championship. Lambert and the Broncos swept every series, including the WHL final against Portland in four games... Lambert had 28 points (9+19=28) in those 12 playoff games…The Rockets best record in the playoffs was in the 2002-2003 campaign when the team won the Ed Chynoweth Cup with a record of 16 and 3.
Hot to Trot: Tyson Baillie has a point in every playoff game. Baillie is riding a nine game point streak with 7+5=12 over that period…Gage Quinney has goals in four of his last six playoff games….Nick Merkley is riding a seven game point streak. Merkley has 1+8=9 over that period....Madison Bowey has points in seven straight games. Bowey has 3+7=10 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl has a six game point streak in this year’s playoffs. The 19 year-old has 2+10=12 in those six games…Joe Gatenby leads the Rockets with a +8 rating in the playoffs. Tomas Soustal has goals in four of his last seven playoff games and scored three times in a second round series with the Victoria Royals.
This and That: Since relocating from Tacoma to Kelowna for the start of the 1995-96 season, 212 playoff games have been played with the team based in the Okanagan….In last year’s WCF, the Rockets won game one 5-4 before losing four straight games including a crucial 4-3 overtime loss in game three in Portland….Last year’s third round series opened on April 18th, a full six days before tonight’s opening game….Josh Morrissey is the WHL Player of the Week. Morrissey had 2+3=5 in a game five series victory over Victoria last Friday to capture the second round playoff series in five games…Nick Merkley has been rated as the 23rd best player in North America for June’s NHL draft. NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings. Devante Stephens was rated 116th while Joe Gatenby was 174th …The Rockets have opened the scoring in seven of the nine games in this year’s playoffs…Madison Bowey turned 20 on Wednesday…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 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 returned to the lineup last Friday after missing 23 straight games with a LBI…Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high 41 playoff games under his belt…Madison Bowey has 39 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season …Cole Martin has 38 playoff games on his resume….In total, the Rockets have 450 games of playoff experience in the lineup this evening…Rourke Chartier had 6 goals in 14 games in last year’s playoffs. In this year’s post season, the now 19 year-old (turned 19 April 3rd) has six goals in nine games.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
|Leon Draisaitl is ready to face-off against Oliver Bjorkstrand|
- This series features six players taken in the 2013 NHL draft. Josh Morrissey was selected 13th overall by Winnipeg while Nic Petan was taken in the second round, also by the Jets. Madison Bowey was a second round pick of the Washington Capitals while Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (Columbus) were third round selections. Mitch Wheaton was taken in the fifth round by Detroit. Can you name the three players taken in the 2013 draft that are no longer playing with the Rockets or Winterhawks? The answer at the bottom of this posting.
- Jackson Whistle will start in goal when the puck drops between the Kelowna Rockets and Portland Winterhawks Friday night. The suggestion that he wouldn't is ridiculous. The 19 year-old has been pulled twice in this years playoffs, but only once when his team was actually trailing on the scoreboard. Whistle has three playoff shutouts and has a 2.35 goals against average in seven appearances. I asked Whistle how being pulled in a game affects his psyche. "Even bad things are sometimes good things to learn from". That is an awfully mature answer for a goalie who is getting his first taste of being a number one goaltender in the playoffs.
- Leon Draisaitl against Oliver Bjorkstrand. It is a marquee matchup against arguably two of the top European born players in the entire Canadian Hockey League. Draisaitl leads the Rockets in playoff scoring with 15 points in nine games while Bjorkstrand has 18 points in eleven playoff games with the Winterhawks. I asked Draisaitl if he is looking forward to the showdown? "At the end of the day it is about the team winning. It's not about Draisaitl against Bjorkstrand, it is about Kelowna against Portland. I think that is the most important thing about it." Draisaitl is averaging 1.7 points per game in this years playoffs while Bjorkstrand is averaging 1.6 point per game.
- Jackson Whistle and Nic Petan are former teammates. They won a gold medal with Team BC at the 2011 Canadian Winter Games in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- Portland head coach Jamie Kompon has the bragging rights of saying he has played with Gretzky. Keith Gretzky that is. Kompon played with Wayne's younger brother in the East Coast Hockey League in 1990-91.
- A quick high five to the Kelowna Rockets video staff for the great work they do on the team website. The video interviews from the coach and players after the games are excellent. What other team offers that to it's fans in the WHL? Calgary and Seattle are the two that come to mind. In other words, few if any take the time to do it. Kevin Parnell and Britt Prendergast receive credit for the hard work behind the scenes.
- One played for the Kelowna Rockets. The other saw time with the Portland Winterhawks. Now Mikael Backlund and Tyler Wotherspoon are teammates with the NHL's Calgary Flames. Backlund was a member of the Rockets in 2009 while Wotherspoon played four seasons with the Winterhawks from 2009-2013. Both are WHL champions. As mentioned, Backlund won it in 2009 while Wotherspoon captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2013.
- Leon Draisaitl would love to play with Connor McDavid. That could become a reality after the Edmonton Oilers won the NHL lottery last weekend to draft the highly coveted forward. Draisaitl, who is attempting to focus on helping the Kelowna Rockets win a WHL championships, admits he is trying to block out the notion that the Oilers may trade his rights to another team in an effort to acquire help on defense or in goal. "In this business you never know what is going to happen. One day there could be a blockbuster trade, so that could be in the back of anyone's head." It has been suggested that the Oilers will look to address their defensive needs by trading one of their top - young players on their roster or a top prospect.
- Kelowna Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette and Winterhawks head coach Jamie Kompon were both born in Ontario. Mallette is from North Bay while Kompon was born in Thunder Bay.
- Portland defenceman Adam Henry is familiar with the Rockets. The 20 year-old was a member of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who were swept by the Rockets in the second round of the 2014 playoffs.
- The three players taken in the 2013 NHL draft that no longer play with the Rockets and Winterhawks are Seth Jones (1st round - Nashville), Myles Bell (NJ - 6th round) and Brendan Burke (Phoenix - 6th round).
Monday, April 20, 2015
|Bjorkstrand/Chartier are two sharpshooters|
- Are the Kelowna Rockets built better to handle the Portland Winterhawks this season? Are they a heavier/tougher team to play against this time around? My belief is they are if you compare them to one season ago. Not only are they more skilled, but players like Tyrell Goulbourne, Rodney Southam, Chance Braid and Riley Stadel, who I suspect will be used as a forward in this series, give the Rockets more grit and sandpaper up front. It should make it harder on the Winterhawks defenceman to move the puck which means more turnovers in the Portland zone. The hope is the Winterhawks forward group will be forced into spending significant minutes getting the puck outside of their own blue line which will make them less dynamic at the other end of the ice.
- Let's dig a little deeper here. In last years WCF, the Rockets were without 20 year-old Myles Bell. It's other 20 year-old, Marek Tvrdon, had two assists in the five game series. Nineteen year-old's Ryan Olsen, Tyrell Goulbourne, Colton Heffley, Carter Rigby, Damon Severson and Cole Martin combined for two goals in five games. That's right, of those seven players, only Martin and Olsen were able to score among those players. You can't win a playoff series against elite competition with a lack of offense coming from the 20 and 19 year-old age groups.
- For the record, the Rockets best player in the Portland series a season ago was 19 year-old defenceman Damon Severson. A draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, Severson had five assists in the five games and was a respectable -1 competing against the best Winterhawks forwards.
- It is safe to say that Shaw will likely cover the Eastern Conference championship series with the Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings. The Calgary market is just too large to ignore even though the Flames are still the main story in Central Alberta. So with Shaw handling that series, does Sportsnet cover this series, or in a worse case scenario, only do the games when the Rockets are on home ice? If that's the case, advantage Portland. The Winterhawks aren't exactly a one line team, but it does allow head coach Jamie Kompon to use his top forwards; Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan, Paul Bittner and Chase De Leo more often. Games involving Sportsnet create massive stoppages in play during a period and can be a real equalizer for a team with not as much depth or likes to roll its top three lines extensively.
- This series features two rookie WHL coaches. Dan Lambert guides the Rockets while Jamie Kompon is behind the Winterhawks bench.
- Dan Lambert has won as a player against the Winterhawks, now he wants to do it as a WHL head coach. Lambert was instrumental in helping the 1989 Swift Current Broncos to a league title that season against a Portland squad that consisted of Dennis Holland and Troy Mick. The Broncos would sweep the Winterhawks in four games with game three and four victories coming at the legendary Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
- Only two players on the Rockets current roster are familiar with the 2011 playoff series between the two team's. Tyrell Goulbourne was only 16 while Madison Bowey played as an affiliated player at the tender age of 15. The Winterhawks had two elite forwards in that series named Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen. Yikes, where they good!!
- They will be arch rivals in this series, but will likely be future teammates with the Winnipeg Jets. Kelowna Rockets defenceman Josh Morrissey will face Portland's Nic Petan. The Jets picked Morrissey in the first round in 2013 and then used their second round selection to pluck Petan with the 43rd overall.
- If the Rockets coaches want to know how to slow down Oliver Bjorkstrand, it be best to call up the Edmonton Oil Kings and ask them how they did it in last years WHL final. In that series, the now 19 year-old had one goal in those seven games.
Sunday, April 19, 2015
|Tyrell Goulbourne and Nic Petan are ready for one last battle|
- Yep, they are coming. Like the famous Hatfield-McCoy rivalry of 1860, the Kelowna Rockets will again meet the Portland Winterhawks in the 2015 WHL playoffs. Honestly, the Rockets wouldn't want it any other way. When you have faced an opponent that has ended your season in three of the last four years, you would like nothing better than to give them some of their own medicine. In the 2011 post season, in a second round series, the Winterhawks won in six games. In the 2012 playoffs, the Winterhawks eliminated the Rockets in round one. In last years Western Conference championship series, the Hawks ended the Rockets hopes of making an appearance in the WHL final for the first time since 2009. The Winterhawks have won the Western Conference championship four years running. Yes, four years in a row. That is nothing close to crazy to comprehend in junior hockey where player turnover is significant over a five year span. Again this season the Winterhawks are no slouch...but either are the Rockets.
- My general belief is the Rockets confidence level heading into last years WCF against the Winterhawks was average to low. No player ever said it. It was a vibe I got when the two team's faced off in round three. Despite winning a franchise record 57 games, the Rockets were not the favorites heading into that series and the players wearing the jersey with the angry Ogopogo on it likely knew it. Without leading scorer Myles Bell in the line up, the teams best shooter, the task of generating offense against a Winterhawks team was hindered. Jordon Cooke, the Rockets clear advantage in the most crucial position in hockey, would have to be terrific to keep the Winterhawks shooters that comprised of Taylor Leier (2+4=6 in last years series), Brendan Leipsic (4+4=8 in last years series), Derek Pouliot and Matt Dumba off the scoresheet. All five of those players are now gone, Cooke included. Without question as these two face-off with one another again in the playoffs, this is as level of a playing field we've seen between the two teams. Oh ya, there is talent to go around in this series, but it is more evenly spread out across both teams which makes for what will be an epic series that could go the distance.
- While it is clear the Rockets don't have the advantage in goal like they did one playoff season ago in Cooke, they are stronger on defense this season with puck moving defenceman Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey. Bowey was here last season but that extra year of physical maturity now makes him a significantly better player. Those two will be stretched in containing Portland's trio of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Chase De Leo and Nic Petan. But this is about puck possession and if Morrissey and Bowey have it, those three are forced to play defense in order to get it back. That has to happen. If the roles are reversed, it's trouble. This year's playoff series features elite talent on both sides, so no one team has a significant advantage.
- Hockey fans across the WHL hate Portland. They really do. They don't like their success. Don't count me among those with a disdain for the team that wears the same jersey's as the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. The run they are on is incredible. You can't but admire the franchises successes for drafting well, specifically in Europe, and obtaining some of the best American talent available. Portland has won 154 games in the last three seasons. The only team better are the Rockets with 162 victories. While Portland leads the hate parade, my sense is the Rockets aren't far behind. Fans across the league dislike both franchises for how they've orchestrated trades to make them contenders. Without question, the hatred between the two will also be significant with game one this Friday night at Prospera Place. Can't wait!!
- 2011 Playoffs: Met in Round Two
Winterhawks beat Rockets in 6 games
2012 Playoffs: Met in Round One
Winterhawks win in four straight
2014 Playoffs: Met in Round Three
Winterhawks win in five games.
Rockets are 3-12 in the last 15 playoff appearances against the Winterhawks dating back to 2011.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
|Josh Morrissey - Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- Some kind of wonderful. That would best describe Josh Morrissey's performance Friday night in the Kelowna Rockets series ending game five victory over the Victoria Royals. The 20 year-old, who has often been injured since his acquisition in early January, showed why he is in elite status as one of the best defenceman in all of Canadian junior hockey. Morrissey's pinpoint shooting accuracy was on display in a 7-3 win last night, leading his team to a birth in the Western Conference final for a second consecutive season. Morrissey, who didn't dress for game three or four, scored twice and added three assists for a spectacular five point night as the Rockets wrapped up the Western Conference semi final series with a four games to one win. Morrissey was the most determined player on the ice, and unlike some of his teammates, the true professional showed no signs of fatigue after a long ferry/bus ride from Victoria in the early morning hours of Thursday morning. The more Morrissey played, the better and more dominant he became. The Winnipeg Jets prospects second period goal was the back breaker as the Rockets built up a 5-2 lead. That goal came on the heels of a Tyson Baillie power play tally after Royals forward Jared Dmytriw was slapped with a five minute major after defenceman Cole Martin was pancaked into the side boards. Fortunately, Martin returned a few minutes later but Dmytriw's night was through.
- The Rockets start in game five was terrific, but after scoring the opening goal less than two minutes in, they flat lined. For whatever reason they stopped skating and taking the play to the Royals, who took full advantage by scoring two goals in 23 seconds and it felt like the series was headed back to Victoria for a game six on Sunday. But that is where head coach Dan Lambert made his boldest move of the WHL playoffs. In a 2-2 tie, Lambert, in consultation with his assistants, elected to pull starter Jackson Whistle and replace him with back up Michael Herringer. It worked in an opening round series clincher against Tri City, but would it work again? Whether the move was made to wake his team up or an indication he didn't like Whistle's body of work in the opening period, the move paid off in a big way. Not only was Herringer solid when called upon, but Lambert's team seemed to galvanise together and the commitment to defending improved and the execution in the offensive zone was stellar.
- Herringer is now 2 and 0 in a relief appearance in this years playoffs. Whistle is 7 and 1. In my opinion the team can't go wrong with either goaltender. Whistle has proven that he is more than capable, so no goalie controversy is necessary. Herringer has proven that he can too carry the mail, so if Whistle falters, it sure is nice to know that the guy sitting on the bench with his mask off is more than just an average replacement.
- Leon Draisaitl had a solid series vs. Victoria. The 19 year-old had 2+9=11. The German had a three point night (1+2=3) in the game five win. Tyson Baillie scored in four of the five games. While he was relatively quiet in game five, the 19 year-old still found the back of the net in a clutch time of the game. That's what Baillie is - clutch. The goal he scored hit two defenders before bouncing in, but as ugly as that goal was, the dude just scores timely goals. Baillie had five goals and three assists in the series.
- The Victoria Royals lost with class. I think that should be mentioned here. They played a tough, in your face series, but at games end and series end they didn't take things into the gutter. In fact, I hardly saw Brandon Magee in the third period outside of a late power play. Was that Dave Lowry's doing? Who's to know? Last season, Magee went off the handle in a series ending game against Portland and was suspended for 12 games for his actions. This time, Magee played with pride and conceded defeat in a mature manner. It was impressive to see how he took a step forward in his development as a person/player. Everyone deserves a second chance. Magee got his and proved in this playoff series that he is not only clutch for his team, but he learned from his mistake.
- The Rockets are off to the Western Conference final for a second consecutive season. The Rockets lost in five games last year to the Portland Winterhawks. Could the same two teams be headed for another rematch? The two rivals met in 2011-2012 (first round) and again in 2013-2014 (third round). The Rockets have lost those two series. Nothing is written in stone, but with the Winterhawks holding a 3-1 series lead on Everett, it looks more and more like they will fight again for the Western Conference playoff banner. The Rockets haven't won the Conference crown since 2008-2009.
Friday, April 17, 2015
|Kevin Light Photo|
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets have a 3-1 lead on the Victoria Royals heading into game five of their best of seven Western Conference semifinal series tonight at Prospera Place. The Rockets won game one 5-0, game two 4-3 in overtime and game three by a score of 4-2. On Wednesday night, in game four, Greg Chase scored the game winning goal in the Royals 5-4 overtime win. It marked the first time in three playoff overtimes that the Rockets have suffered a defeat. Game five is tonight in Kelowna with game six back in Victoria (if necessary) Sunday. This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history. Since the Christmas break the Rockets are 32-8-3-1 (including playoffs). Overall, the team has won 9 of its last 10 games (8 playoffs and last two regular season games).
Scoring in this series:
Period 1 2 3 OT Total
Rockets: 4 7 5 1 17
Royals: 2 3 4 1 10
Shots by Period: 1 2 3 OT Total
Rockets: 49 52 42 4 143
Royals: 36 33 52 2 123
*The Rockets are 6 for 27 on the power play in the series while the Royals are 2 for 18.
Playoff Tidbits: Tomas Soustal has 4 goals in 8 playoff games. It took the 17 year-old 22 regular season games to score his 4th career goal…The home team has won three of the four games in this series….Rockets defenceman Cole Martin shares the same birthdate as Royals rearguard Travis Brown. Both were born March 15, 1994…Tyler Mosienko holds the team record for most playoff games played by a Rockets player. Mosienko played 81 career playoff games. Brett Palin played 75 career playoff games. Tyler Spurgeon, Blake Comeau and Mike Card are third on that list with 72 career playoff games….Dan Lambert was part of a Swift Current Broncos championship team in 1989 that played in a minimum 12 playoff games to earn the WHL championship. Lambert and the Broncos swept every series, winning 4 games to 0, to capture the league crown. Lambert had 28 points (9+19=28) in those 12 playoff games…The Rockets best record in the playoffs was in the 2002-2003 campaign when the team won the Ed Chynoweth Cup with a record of 16 and 3. The team would win its first eight games before losing once in the WCF and twice in WHL final.
Hot to Trot: Tyson Baillie has a point in every playoff game. Baillie is riding an eight game point streak with 6+5=11 over that period…Gage Quinney has goals in four of his last five playoff games….Nick Merkley is riding a six game point streak. Merkley has 1+6=7 over that period....Madison Bowey has points in six straight games. Bowey has 3+4=7 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl has a five game point streak in this year’s playoffs. The 19 year-old has1+8=9 in those five games…Joe Gatenby leads the Rockets with a +8 rating in the playoffs. Tomas Soustal has goals in four of his last six playoff games.
This and That: Tyson Baillie is the WHL Player of the Week. Baillie had three goals and one assist in the first two games of this second round series to pick up the award…Nick Merkley has been rated as the 23rd best player in North America for June’s NHL draft. NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings last Wednesday. Devante Stephens was rated 116th while Joe Gatenby was 174th …The Rockets have opened the scoring in six of the eight games in this year’s playoffs…Madison Bowey turns 20 on April 22nd…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 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 23 straight games with a LBI…Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high 40 playoff games under his belt…Madison Bowey has 39 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season …Cole Martin has 37 playoff games on his resume….In total, the Rockets have 431 games of playoff experience in the lineup this evening…Rourke Chartier had 6 goals in 14 games in last year’s playoffs. In this year’s post season, the now 19 year-old (turned 19 April 3rd) has six goals in eight games.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
|Photo by Kevin Light -Tomas Soustal's 2nd period goal|
- If the Kelowna Rockets were looking for a split when they played a pair of games in Victoria Tuesday and Wednesday night, then mission accomplished. But something tells me the Western Conference regular season champions were looking for more than that. The Rockets won a crucial game three by eking out a 4-2 win and attempted to repeat the performance again Wednesday night, but this time the wheels fell off the wagon. Nursing a 4-2 lead midway through the third period, a turnover by captain Madison Bowey at the side of his own net gave the Royals a gift goal from Jack Walker. Up until that point, the home team, which had no real life in the third period up until that point, regained the belief that their season may indeed be extended with a late period push. Twenty-four seconds later, the Royals again found the back of the net and the Royals rally was on. This is a game the Rockets simply gave away. Awarded a power play after Victoria overager Brandon Magee was given a goaltender interference penalty :14 seconds into overtime, the visitors never created a good look on the man advantage that ended the night going 0 for 8. A few minutes later, on a mad scramble in front of the Rockets net, Greg Chase found the back of the net and the Royals avoided elimination with a 5-4 overtime win. Back to Kelowna we go for game five tomorrow night.
- The Rockets surrendered a two goal lead three times only to see the Royals bounce back to get within one goal. They had a 2-0 lead in the first period before the Royals found the back of the net and then regained that two goal advantage at periods end with Rourke Chartier’s 6th of the post season. Then with a 4-2 lead midway through the third, the Royals again struck for back-to-back goals to tie the game at four. The loss gives the Royals just a glimmer of hope in sending this series back to Victoria on Sunday. If the Rockets don’t nail it down tomorrow at Prospera Place in game five, the Rockets will be doing all the sweating, not the Royals, who must win the next three games to advance to the Western Conference final.
- While the power play failed to strike on eight chances, it generated good looks early in the game but ran into some unfortunate bounces. As the power play attempts went for not, you had a strange feeling this would come back to bite the Rockets. Indeed it did. On a team with an above average skill set, 0 for 8 shouldn’t even be in the teams vocabulary.
- It was nice to see Lucas Johansen score his first career playoff goal. It came on a seeing eye slap shot from the left point that beat Royals goaltender Justin Paulic. Paulic was the surprise starter in game four as Royals head coach Dave Lowry elected to change things up with his team down three games to none. Paulic replaced Coleman Vollrath and the team’s fortunes changed.
- In the first four games, the Royals have played with the lead for only 7:15 seconds.
- It was hard to believe that Austin Carroll’s goal in the second period was his first of the playoffs. The 21 year-old has been snake-bitten since he signed that NHL contract with the Calgary Flames. Carroll made no mistake when his snap shot beat Whistle between the legs.
- It was the Rockets first loss of the playoffs. The team is now 7 and 1 in eight playoff games.
- Last night's game in Victoria was the teams 80th of the season.
Monday, April 13, 2015
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets have a 2-0 lead on the Victoria Royals heading into game three of their best of seven Western Conference semifinal series tonight at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Tyson Baillie scored the game winning goal early in the second period in a game one 5-0 win. Baillie was named the first star with a goal and an assist. Cole Martin, Gage Quinney, Rourke Chartier and Tomas Soustal also scored. Josh Morrissey, who hadn’t played since February 28th, returned to the lineup and had three assists. Leon Draisaitl had a pair of helpers in the lopsided win. Jackson Whistle made 20 saves for his third consecutive shutout on home ice in this year’s playoffs. The Rockets were 2 for 5 on the power play while killing off four Victoria advantages. In game two Saturday night, the Rockets squeezed out a 4-3 win in overtime. Again, Tyson Baillie scored the game winner 58 seconds into the extra session. Gage Quinney, Tomas Soustal and Baillie, who opened the scoring in the first period, found the back of the net. Jackson Whistle was outstanding making 38 saves. The Rockets were 2 for 8 on the power play. Game four in the series is tomorrow night with a fifth game (if necessary) Friday at Prospera Place in Kelowna. This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history. Since the Christmas break the Rockets are 31-8-2-1 (including playoffs). Overall, the team has won 8 straight games (6 playoffs and last two regular season games).
Scoring in this series:
Period 1 2 3 OT Total
Rockets: 1 4 3 1 9
Royals: 0 1 2 0 3
Shots by Period: 1 2 3 OT Total
Rockets: 21 24 25 1 67
Royals: 15 20 26 0 61
*The Rockets are 4 for 13 on the power play in the series while the Royals are 2 for 9.
Rockets in Victoria: The Rockets were 2-1-1-0 in four visits to Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre during the regular season. The Rockets won by scores of 5-3 and 3-2 and suffered a 5-2 regulation loss February 21st. In the only overtime game between the two teams, November 19th in Victoria, Axel Blomqvist scored the winner in a 4-3 victory. The amazing stat in the seasonal series was both teams were identical 5 for 17 on the power play in the four games on the island. Oddly, the Rockets over the last five years have had more success in Victoria than in Kelowna. In the team’s last 20 appearances at Memorial Centre they have earned a point (12 wins and 2 overtime losses) in 14 of those 20 games.
Hot to Trot: Tyson Baillie has a point in every playoff game. Baillie is riding a six game point streak with 5+3=8 over that period…Gage Quinney has goals in three straight playoff games….Nick Merkley is riding a four game point streak. Merkley has 0+5=5 over that period. Merkley has not scored in five games or since game one of the Tri City series...Madison Bowey has points in four straight games. Bowey has 2+3=5 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl has has a three game point streak in this year’s playoffs. The 19 year-old has 6 assists in those three games but hasn’t scored in four straight games…Rourke Chartier has two-two goal games in the playoffs…Joe Gatenby leads the Rockets with a +8 rating in the playoffs. Tomas Soustal has goals in three of his last four games.
This and That: Tyson Baillie has five playoff goals. The 19 year-old had five in last year’s playoffs and eight in the 2013 post season. Add it up and Baillie has 18 goals in his last 28 playoff games…Two of the Kelowna Rockets all-time top players call Victoria home. Jamie Benn and Tyson Barrie won a WHL title with the Rockets in 2009. Both also played for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship…Nick Merkley has been rated as the 23rd best player in North America for June’s NHL draft. NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings last Wednesday. Devante Stephens was rated 116th while Joe Gatenby was 174th …The Rockets have opened the scoring in five of the six games in this year’s playoffs…Madison Bowey turns 20 on April 22nd…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 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 21 straight games with a LBI…Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high 39 playoff games under his belt…Madison Bowey has 37 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season …Cole Martin has 35 playoff games on his resume….In total, the Rockets have 393 games of playoff experience in the lineup this evening…Rourke Chartier had 6 goals in 14 games in last year’s playoffs. In this year’s post season, the now 19 year-old (turned 19 April 3rd) has five goals in six games.
Dare to compare: The Rockets had 30 more points than the Royals during the regular season, with 14 more wins and 16 fewer losses. The Rockets scored 61 more goals and allowed 36 fewer against. The Rockets and Royals each had five – 20 goal scorers. The Rockets had eight 15 or more scorers while the Royals had seven.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
- Wayne Gretzky's unofficial 'office' was always behind the opposition net. He was often seen stick-handling behind the goal before niftily setting up a teammate or taking matters into his own hands and beating the goaltender himself with a wrap around using either his forehand or backhand. I think it is safe to say Tyson Baillie's 'office' is situated at the left face-off circle at the north end at Prospera Place. The 19 year is golden from that shooting area. The Fort, Saskatchewan resident scored from almost that exact spot last night in the Kelowna Rockets 4-3 overtime thriller over the Victoria Royals. It was almost the exact same location where he scored the game winner - also in overtime - in a game seven playoff series victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds two seasons ago. Last night's goal came a little easier than the one in 2013 though. Leon Draisaitl had the puck against the right side boards and feathered a perfect on the tape pass that Baillie calmly slid into the back of the net. It gave the Rockets a 2-0 series lead heading into game three and four in Victoria Tuesday and Wednesday night.
- The Baillie goal came just after Victoria Royals defenceman Chaz Reddekopp came out of the penalty box after taking a late third period boarding call. The call was questionable in a 3-3 game. I know that an infraction is an infraction no matter what the score, but this was a soft call in my opinion. I am just calling a spade a spade. Regardless, the Rockets took advantage and carried the power play into overtime. While they didn't 'technically' score on it, it was the end result that created the odd man scoring chance when Redekopp attempting to get back into the play.
- As for that 'soft call', it comes with the territory of being an aggressive team. Whether the Royals like it or not, they have a reputation and they won't get the benefit of the doubt from the officials when you play an angry game. My belief is if you are on the officials all game long, which Lowry was, the veteran referee's won't cower to you. I think it works against you frankly, not for you. Sometimes less is more when barking at the officials. But Lowry knows better than I do. He will guide Canada's entry at the World Juniors, so he can do whatever he pleases.
- So, where do we start to describe the Rockets effort in game two? Safe to say the Royals were much better. Despite what Victoria head coach Dave Lowry thought in game one, his team was not prepared from the very start and were thoroughly outplayed. That wasn't the case in game two though, but my belief is the Rockets had a lot to do with that. You could tell in the first period that this would be a rough game for the home team. Passes were off, the intensity/jump was nowhere near what it was a night earlier. Given three early first period power plays can be a blessing or a curse. In this case it was a curse. The Rockets never could get on track and a short 5 on 3 power play didn't even manufacture a real good scoring chance.
- The real story of the game was the strong play of Jackson Whistle. Without Whistle's solid effort this series would be tied at one. I didn't exactly like the third goal he gave up on a soft shot from Austin Carroll that was kicked out only to see Brandon Magee find the rebound to tie the game, but Whistle was still the reason why his team is heading to Victoria with a two-nothing advantage.
- A stealth move by Dave Lowry to switch goaltenders after the Rockets opened up a 3-0 second period lead. Starter Coleman Vollrath wasn't awful by any means, but the switch tends to give a team a lift and it worked for the Royals. Honestly, the Rockets were lucky to be up 3-0 considering how they played in the first 27 minutes of the game. The Royals were the better team and deserved a much better fate. By hockey is a cruel sport where sometime you outplay the opponent and still come out on the short end of the stick.
- The Rockets lost defenceman Josh Morrissey, who didn't return after the first period. In fact, the 19 year-old assisted on Tyson Baillie's opening goal late in the period. The Royals lost forward Greg Chase after the Edmonton Oilers draft pick was found playing without a mouth guard. Chase was assessed a 10 minute misconduct. To make matters worse once Chase located his mouth guard, and before stepping off the ice, he threw it in the direction of the officials. Chase was immediately ejected from the game. It makes me wonder why a one game suspension wouldn't be appropriate in this matter. How can a fight four seconds into a game between two willing combatants (Braid and James) be worse than a player who literally shows no respect towards the officials? We have our priorities way out of whack here!! Chase won't get suspended, but isn't the way things are ruled in the game often times a little ass backwards?
- How many chances did Royals forward Tyler Soy have in game two? Whistle had his number numerous times.
- Gage Quinney has scored in three straight games.
- The Rockets have won 6 straight playoff games. They won seven in a row in the 2014 post season.
- Leon Draisaitl had three assists.
- Game three and four are in Victoria Tuesday and Wednesday. The Rockets have to find the jam they had in game one or they will be headed home Friday for a game five with this series tied at two wins apiece.
Saturday, April 11, 2015
- Josh Morrissey showed no rust after a long layoff. Neither did his teammates. The 19 year-old Winnipeg Jets first round draft pick returned to the Kelowna Rockets lineup Friday night after missing 13 games with a lower body injury. Morrissey looked no worse for wear with a three assist effort in the Rockets 5-0 shutout win over the Victoria Royals in game one of a best of seven Western Conference semi final series. The Rockets took it to the Royals in the first period, specifically, after having nine days off after disposing of the Tri City Americans in the opening round. The Rockets out-shot the visitors 14-1 in the first period and directed a total of 44 shots at the Royals net over the course of the game. Had it not been for a strong performance by Victoria goaltender Coleman Vollrath, this game would have been out of reach earlier. Instead, the Rockets needed three-third period goals to extend their winning streak to five games in the 2015 playoffs.
- My only criticism in the opening period was the Rockets were pretty much a one and done team in the offensive zone. Either Vollrath made the save and didn't give up a rebound or the Western Conference regular season champions were unable to get to a secondary chance after Vollrath showed quickness with both his right and left pad. Was I the only one that noticed that Vollrath was particularly good with his left pad? The 19 year-old flared it out several times over the course of the game.
- While Vollrath was the best player on the ice for the Royals, don't forget about the contribution of Jackson Whistle in this one. With the game scoreless and the majority of the first period play inside the Royals zone, Whistle made a solid stop against Alex Forsberg to keep the game scoreless. Whistle could have been asleep at the wheel with a lack of work in the opening period, but the veteran came up large throughout the game with timely saves.
- Whistle has not allowed a goal in three straight home games. That has never been done by a Kelowna Rockets goalie. Nope, not even shutout king Kelly Guard. The only Rockets goalie to accomplish anything close to Whistle's remarkable effort on home ice is Derek Yeomans. In the 2005 playoffs against the Seattle Thunderbirds, Yeomans went three straight road games without surrendering a goal. The Rockets won that second round series over the T-Birds in seven games.
- Tyson Baillie had a goal and an assist in the win. In the building he was named the games first star. Baillie flourished playing on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Gage Quinney. Quinney had a goal while Draisaitl, who many at the end of the game thought was the most effective forward on the ice, chipped in with two assists. I thought Draisaitl was dangerous almost every time he touched the puck, and outside of Bowey, my belief is no one has the puck on his stick more than Draisaitl.
- I was told that the Royals out-hit the Rockets by a 2-1 margin, but I thought the Rockets played a solid physical game and showed as much physicality as they've shown all season. And frankly, its pretty tough to be overly physical when you have the puck the majority of the game. Tyrell Goulbourne got the 'hit parade' rolling by bowling over Royals d-man Joe Hicketts less than two minutes into the game. Nick Merkley was also physical when he needed to be.
- How did you like the Rockets five on three power play goal in the third period? Head Coach Dan Lambert put out Leon Draisaitl with Rourke Chartier and Nick Merkley as forwards with Josh Morrissey and Madison Bowey on the blue line. Rarely has that been seen this season with all five marquee players on the ice at the same time. Usually, those five are split evenly in two separate power play units with each receiving about a minute to work with on a two minute power play.
- I thought the officiating crew called a great game. Jeff Ingram and Brett Iverson kept their whistle in their pockets in the first period and didn't call a penalty. Four of the nine penalties at games end were for hooking. I thought the officiating crew wasn't noticeable at all. That my friends tells me Ingram and Iverson were both on their game.
- Game two goes tonight at Prospera Place. As good as the Rockets were in the opener, if they stub their toe Saturday night, all the effort expended in game one is for not. The Royals ultimately wanted a split in Kelowna in the first two games. Let's see if the Rockets are unfriendly hosts in the rematch. See you at the rink.
Friday, April 10, 2015
|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets are making their third consecutive trip to the second round as they open a Western Conference semifinal series against the visiting Victoria Royals. These two teams have never met in the playoffs. They did meet eight times during the regular season with the Rockets winning five out of the eight games while losing twice in regulation time and once in overtime. The Rockets are coming off a four game sweep of the Tri City Americans in round one. Overall, the Rockets out-scored the Americans 19-7 in the four games but had to use overtime to win game four. The Rockets fired 152 shots at Eric Comrie in four games, or on average 38 shots per game. They fired a team record 71 at Comrie in game four. Game one and two in this series is tonight and tomorrow at Prospera Place with the best of seven shifting to Victoria for games next Tuesday and Wednesday. Game five is one week from tonight back in Kelowna. This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history. Since the Christmas break the Rockets are 29-8-2-1 (including playoffs).
Dare to compare: The Rockets had 30 more points than the Royals during the regular season, with 14 more wins and 16 fewer losses. The Rockets scored 61 more goals and allowed 36 fewer against. The Rockets and Royals each had five – 20 goal scorers. The Rockets had eight 15 or more scorers while the Royals had seven.
Success against Royals: Nick Merkley (4+6=10) and Madison Bowey (2+8=10) led the Rockets in the seasonal series against the Royals. Tyson Baillie led the team in goals with five in seven games. Michael Herringer saw the bulk of the action against the Royals, playing in five games (4-1-0-0) and posting a goals against average of 2.80. Jackson Whistle was 1-1-1-0 in three games with a goals against average of 3.60. Brandon Magee was the top scorer for Victoria against the Rockets with ten points (5+5=10). Austin Carroll also had five goals in the seasonal series while Joe Hicketts led all Royals with eight assists.
This and That: Nick Merkley has been rated as the 23rd best player in North America for June’s NHL draft. NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings on Wednesday. Devante Stephens was rated 116th while Joe Gatenby was 174th….The last Rockets forward to be taken in the first round of the NHL draft was Scott Parker in 1998. The Colorado Avalanche selected the big, burly forward 20th in 1998…In the 2009 drive towards a WHL title, the Kelowna Rockets swept the Kamloops Blazers in round one, much like they did with the Tri City Americans in the opening round….Michael Herringer is facing his old team in this series. Herringer was the Royals 9th round pick in the 2011 WHL draft….Herringer earned his first career playoff win in game four in a relief appearance of Jackson Whistle…The Rockets opened the scoring in three of the four games in the opening round….Geordie Wudrick has the team record for goals in a playoff series with eight (8) against the Everett Silvertips in the 2010 post season….Jamie Benn and Mikael Backlund hold the team record for goals in the playoffs. In 2009, on the way to a WHL championship, those two 19 year-old’s at the time found the back of the net 13 times each. Jesse Schultz (2003) and Justin Keller (2005) had 12 goals in the post season…Madison Bowey turns 20 on April 22nd…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 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 19 straight games with a LBI…Josh Morrissey has missed 13 straight games with a LBI…Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high 37 playoff games under his belt…Madison Bowey has 34 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season …Cole Martin has 33 playoff games on his resume….In total, the Rockets have 356 games of playoff experience in the lineup this evening…Veteran d-man Mitch Wheaton made his playoff debut in game three’s 5-3 victory in Tri City. Wheaton, who must be signed this summer by Detroit or become a free agent, sat out 70 games (68 regular season - two in playoffs) after being hurt in the fourth game of the regular season…Chance Braid won’t play tonight. The 20 year-old was suspended one game for a fight with Americans forward Maxwell James in game four…Rourke Chartier had 6 goals in 14 games in last year’s playoffs. In this year’s post season, the now 19 year-old (turned 19 April 3rd) has four goals in four games…The last time Victoria Royals Dave Lowry coached a playoff game in Kelowna, it was as the head coach of the Calgary Hitmen in the 2009 WHL final. Tyson Barrie scored the winning goal in a game six championship victory at Prospera Place.
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.
Hot to Trot: Nick Merkley has points in nine of his last twelve games. The 17 year-old has 4+10=14 over that stretch….Madison Bowey has points in twelve of his last sixteen games. Bowey has 6+10=16 over that period….Leon Draisaitl has forty points (14+26=40) in his last twenty-four games…Rourke Chartier has two-two goal games in the playoffs…Joe Gatenby leads the Rockets with a +7 rating in the playoffs. Madison Bowey led the team in the playoffs last season with a +8 rating.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
Goulbourne and Magee grew up together in Edmonton and have created a friendship over the years while playing hockey in the Alberta capital.
"He is definitely my worse enemy on the ice", Goulbourne said with a smile during practice this week. "He is a scrappy little guy and he knows how to get under your skin. I remember a couple of years ago we fought and his mom gave us crap for it. I don't think we will be fighting in this series but we are definitely going to be playing each other hard".
Goulbourne and Magee almost share the same birth date. Magee came into this earth on January 23, 1994. Three days later Goulbourne was born on January 26th.
The two were drafted in the 2009 WHL bantam draft. Magee was taken in the fourth round by the now defunct Chilliwack Bruins while Goulbourne was drafted by the Rockets in the fifth round, 21 players later.
"We talk if we are in the same city. We might hang out. I don't think we will be doing it this week. Before the game we will give each other a few chirps. Other than that it is all business. We are not really friends on the ice.", Goulbourne added.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
- It was a loose group on the ice during a spirited practice Tuesday afternoon in advance of game one of the Western Conference semi final series between the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals. But when I spoke to the player after the workout, all three of the individuals I interviewed had a certain confident air about them. That isn't a bad thing to have at this time of the year. I rather see that than an uptight group lacking confidence. With more players getting healthy by the day, this should be one heck of a series against two teams that know each other very well. Sure, small adjustments will be made, but at the end of the day it will all be about who wants it more that will advance to the final four.
- Tyrell Goulbourne may have missed games three and four of an opening round series with the Tri City Americans, but he wouldn't miss a date with the Royals in round two for anything. The 21 year-old is looking forward to playing against an old friend, Brandon Magee, as the two buddies off the ice will have to put their friendship on the shelf for a week and a half as the two Edmonton residents face each other for the first time in a playoff series. Goulbourne has 37 games of playoff experience while Magee has 23 games under his belt.
- You would be correct to assume that the 71 shots the Rockets registered in a game four opening round playoff win over Tri City a week ago today was indeed a club record. The old mark was 67 shots on goal in a 4-3 overtime win against the Vancouver Giants in the 2003 post season.
- The Rockets are making their third consecutive appearance in the Western Conference semi finals. The team faced Seattle in round two last season with a four game sweep before facing the Kamloops Blazers in 2013 and being eliminated in four straight.
- I mentioned on this blog before how much I like Victoria Royals d-man Chaz Redikopp. Known at the WHL level as a shut down defenceman, that is a far cry from the type of player the Royals drafted in the first round in 2012. Redikopp scored a lot of goals while playing bantam at Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy, picking up 18 goals and collecting 59 points in 62 games back in 2011-2012.
- Madison Bowey is one of only two current Kelowna Rockets that were with the team during a second round appearance in 2011 against the Portland Winterhawks. Tyrell Goulbourne was just 16 at the time while Bowey played game six as a 15 year-old.
- Overtime hockey in the playoffs can be a lengthy affair. The longest playoff game involving the Rockets came April 22, 2003, when in double overtime, Tyler Metcalfe would score the game winner at the 18:58 mark in Seattle's 3-2 win. It just eclipsed a double overtime win for the Rockets against Vancouver on May 27, 2003. On that night, Ryan Cuthbert would score at 18:25 of double overtime in a 4-3 win.
- I was asked the other day about the Kelowna Rockets playoff record for most goals in a playoff series. The answer is easy because it didn't happen that long ago and it was very memorable. Geordie Wudrick would score eight goals in an opening round playoff series against the Everett Silvertips in a heart pumping game seven affair back in 2010.
Monday, April 6, 2015
|Michael Herringer faces old team|
- It shouldn't feel odd, but the Kelowna Rockets are facing a BC Division team in the second round of the WHL playoffs. The playoff menu for the Rockets over the last few years has been mainly U.S Division cuisine, but that is about to change as the Western Conference regular season champions will attempt to feast on the Victoria Royals. For what it's worth - and it isn't much now - the Rockets were 5-2-1-0 in the eight games against the Royals this season. Those two regulation losses included a 6-3 setback at Prospera Place when Rourke Chartier, Justin Kirkland, Gage Quinney and Josh Morrissey were all out of the line up. I hate to make excuses, because frankly excuses are weak, but you have to admits those are four significant pieces of the puzzle out of the line up. Regardless, the Royals can win this series if the Rockets are not playing at their optimum level. They score significantly easier than the Americans. They are dramatically more determined in initiating body contact and will get a significant offensive contribution from the d-core, which includes Joe Hicketts and Travis Brown. Without question, the Rockets go up a weight class with this second round opponent.
- It will be interesting to see how the Rockets respond to a much more aggressive opponent. The Royals have traditionally, under coach Dave Lowry, made it a point of hitting hard and finishing checks. The main target has been Rourke Chartier. My guess is the Royals believe Chartier is the head of the Rockets body, and if they can hit and wear him down, it has a trickle down effect to the rest of the team. Look for Chartier to be public enemy number one in this series. It was that way during the regular season, so I'd be surprised if that wasn't the case in this best of seven where the stakes are far greater.
- Nick Merkley and Madison Bowey led the way for the Rockets in the seasonal series with ten points apiece and both will have to be equally as good in this round. Merkley had 4 goals and 6 assists while Bowey had two goals and 8 helpers. In a four game sweep over Tri City, Bowey scored three times.
- Brandon Magee was the story for the Royals in a five game series win over Prince George. The 21 year-old had six goals in the five games and scored the overtime series clincher. Magee had 5+5=10 in the eight games against the Rockets during the regular season and it will be interesting to see who Dan Lambert has out on the ice to contain Magee's line.
- Magee and 21 year-old forward Austin Carroll are the likely candidates to stir the pot if the pot needs stirring. The two racked up a combined 89 penalty minutes between them in the eight game seasonal series. Rodney Southam was the most active agitator from the Rockets perspective including four fighting majors: two each against Austin Carroll and Ryan Gagnon.
- The key players to watch out for in this series are Tyson Baillie for the Rockets and Chaz Reddekopp for the Royals. This is where Baillie shines. The 19 year-old sparkles in a series where it is tough in the trenches. Baillie is a proven playoff performer where the tougher the grind becomes the more determined he gets. Reddekopp, for my money, is severely underrated and is a physical forces back on the Royals blue line. The West Kelowna resident doesn't receive the positive press that he deserves because fellow blue liners Joe Hicketts and Travis Brown are more charismatic in the offensive zone.
- Michael Herringer earned his first career WHL playoff start and win in a come-from-behind 5-4 overtime victory against the Tri City Americans last Thursday. While Jackson Whistle will start in goal in game one, Herringer isn't a bad option considering his seasonal series success against the Royals. Herringer (pictured above), had a 4-1-0-0 record in five starts and posted a goals against average of 2.80. Whistle played in only three games and was 1-1-1-0. The 19 year-old had a goals against average of 3.60 and a save percentage of .872. Herringer is a former Victoria Royal. The soft spoken goaltender was a 9th round bantam pick.