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.