Friday, April 10, 2015

Let the battle begin

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.

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