Saturday, April 11, 2015

Rockets show no sign of rink rust

Josh Morrissey

  • 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. 

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