Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One 'Hill' of a night

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.

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