Sunday, May 10, 2015

Back with two wins and next three on home soil

The charter flight the two teams were on landing in Kelowna on Sunday
  • Up, up and away. The Kelowna Rockets are headed home with two wins in their back pocket after 4-3 and 5-3 triumphs in game one and two of the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Am I surprised? I am and I am not. When two teams meet in a playoff series where they know little about each other outside of one game and watching hours and hours of video, the element of surprise is always present. That element of surprise likely came into play more so in game one than in game two. One team under their breath was likely saying after game one, “They compete harder or play with more pace than we anticipated”. After game two, the seed of doubt can creep in for one team while the confidence grows with the other.
  • Nick Merkley showed how clutch he is with a game winning shorthanded goal in Saturday’s 5-3 win. Top end players make that play. Merkley made no mistake as he calmly took a pass from Rourke Chartier and made a nice forehand deek to beat Jordon Papirny through the legs. NHL scouts in attendance must have liked that move and the way he absorbed a hit with fellow draft eligible defenceman Ivan Provorov. Provorov attempted to lay the boom on Merkley, who niftily took the check and stayed on his feet.
  • The two teams are more of a contrast in styles than I originally believed. Brandon seems to be all or nothing with their play. It is peddle to the floor fast hockey. When that happens, look out! The Rockets play more of a calculated, tactical style of game where they wait for the opportunity to pounce. They can trade chances with you but it isn’t a 100 meter sprint to the finish line with the Western Conference Champions.  It is a hard sprint at times but it is followed by a brisk jog.
  • What this series comes down to is execution. Who executes the best in a particular moment can dictate the outcome of the game. Right now, after two games, the Rockets are clearly executing better. Both teams have had missed chances offensively, but I think it would be safe to say that the ‘Angry Ogopogos’ have had better finish.
  • Bounces always play a factor in a team’s success, or lack thereof. The bad bounce the Rockets received in game two was when a Wheat Kings defenceman’s shot from the blue line hit a shin pad, went right on the stick of forward John Quennville, who promptly delivered it to the net. You can’t defend that. The shooting lane is covered but a wicked bounce on an awaiting stick and the game is tied at three.
  • The goaltending battle has been an interesting one in this series. Jordon Papirny stole the show in game one with two terrific glove hand saves, yet also allowed two questionable goals in a game one loss. Jackson Whistle was clearly the better goaltender in game two, and had to be considering he was facing a great number of quality shots. Whistle made several solid stops in game two and used his size perfectly on a Rihard Bukarts in-tight chance in the second period to keep the score 3-1.  
  • Again, the crowds in Brandon were outstanding. Over 55 hundred strong took in game two of this epic series. It was not only fun hockey to watch but the electrifying crowd also made it quite the spectacle.
  • Silent killer? Gage Quinney. I think the 19 year-old has had a heck of a series. Not one to find the score sheet on a regular basis, I think his contribution in this series has been immense. Quinney is dangerous with the puck and makes great passes to set up linemates.
  • Game three is massive. You may scoff at that notion from the Kelowna Rockets standpoint, but you are playing with fire here. You have to respect fire. You have to respect the Wheat Kings.  You can’t give a marquee team any life….not even a single breath. Yes, the Rockets are in the driver’s seat but things can change quickly in a series. Remember, the Rockets in 2009 won game one and two on the road and earned a 2-0 win in game three at home. Eventually Kelowna would lose back-to-back games (6-1 and 6-2) and momentum was moving to the Hitmen's side. After being out-scored 12-3 in games four and five, the Rockets squeezed out a 3-2 home ice win in overtime to advance to the Memorial Cup.

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