|Aaron Bell Photo - CHL|
- What a game. What a result. What an opportunity. The Kelowna Rockets are off to the 2015 Master Card Memorial Cup after a dominating 9-3 win Friday night over the Quebec Remparts. While the host team scored the opening goal just three minutes into the first period, the Western Hockey League Champions took over and scored four times in the second and four more times in the third period in the rout. Justin Kirkland, who has been extremely quiet in this tournament, erupted for two goals and two assists in the win and allowed coach Dan Lambert to pencil him with centerman Rourke Chartier to create another lethal duo. Lambert started the game with Leon Driasaitl centring Nick Merkley and Rourke Chartier, but once Kirkland showed he was going to contribute, Lambert made the switch by putting the Rockets leading goal scorer (Chartier) with the Nashville Predators third round draft pick.
- Two unsung hero's in this game. The first would go to Riley Stadel, who played a terrific opening period and filled in wonderful on the wing on a line with Draisaitl and Merkley. Was Stadel not the best player for the Rockets in the first period? If not, darn close. The second unsung hero award goes to Rodney Southam. Southam can fight, but clearly went up a class when he dropped the gloves with Yanick Turcotte 13 seconds into the game. Turcotte had 21 fighting majors this season. He is the Remparts designated tough guy. Rodney Southam is not. Chance Braid is. That said, Southam answered the bell and took some solid shots yet didn't quite in the spirited tilt. Head Coach Dan Lambert always talks about sacrificing for the greater good of the team. Did anyone sacrifice more than Southam in that fight?
- It was nice to see Kirkland score, but it was equally good to have Rourke Chartier find the back of the net - twice. The two-on-one goal with Tyson Baillie was impressive considering the 19 year-old looked like he had ran out of room before sliding it past Fucale. What was more impressive was the shot he fired high over Fucale's glove hand side in the third period which appeared to hit the cross bar and go in. Not many junior goalies will make a save with that velocity and pin point accuracy.
- The Rockets power play was impressive. While ending the game going 3 for 6, that statistic was skewed with two late power play chances with the game out of reach and the Rockets essentially killing the clock. It was a threat when the game was in doubt and proved deadly when Leon Draisaitl scored 17 seconds into the second period to give the WHL Champions its first lead of the game. Draisaitl was named the games first star with a goal and two assists but could have at least two more goals. A difference maker he was all night long.
- How about the beer cans/bottles and popcorn that were thrown on the ice after a non-call against Madison Bowey in the second period? Fans began littering the ice with everything in their hands, which included paper noise makers. It was a spectacle I haven't seen in years. It looked like a hockey game from the 80's. It was funny and disturbing at the same time. Player safety is the first thing that entered my mind. What also amazed me is the officiating crew, which consisted of two QMJHL referees, thankfully, allowed the play to continue for a long period of time. Dillon Dube could have scored by firing the puck on net, where it would have deflected off a beer can, through a maze of flying popcorn and past Fucale.
- The nine goals the Rockets scored were two off the Memorial Cup record of 11, which was most recently set by the 1980 Regina Pats.
- The Rockets advance to the Memorial Cup final against the Oshawa Generals, the same team that beat them 2-1 in the round robin. It marks the second time the Rockets meet an OHL Champion in the final game, after losing to Windsor in the 2009 championship in Rimouski.