Thursday, April 30, 2015

Whistle first star in road win

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • 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.

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