Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the Western Hockey League Championship series. The Kelowna Rockets are meeting the Brandon Wheat Kings in a seven game series featuring the top two teams in the league during the regular season. The Wheat Kings had two more points than the Rockets to earn home ice advantage in this epic battle. Game two is tomorrow night in Brandon before the series shifts back to Kelowna for games next Monday, Wednesday and Friday night. These two teams met only once this season, October 22nd in Kelowna, with the Rockets earning a 6-1 win. The Rockets advanced with series wins over Tri City, Victoria and Portland. This is the Rockets fourth appearance in the finals since relocating from Tacoma to Kelowna for the start of the 1995-1996 season. The team has won every time they have appeared in the championship series including wins over Red Deer (2003), Brandon (2005) and Calgary (2009).
So Good All Season: The Kelowna Rockets and Brandon Wheat Kings each earned 53 wins this season. The Rockets had one more win on the road than the Wheat Kings, who had one more victory on home ice. If you combined their regular season records, they accumulated 106 wins and only 24 losses in 144 games. The two teams were 1-2 in scoring with Brandon finding the back of the net 340 times and Kelowna scoring 305 goals. The Rockets owned the best power play during the regular season (26.2%) while the Wheat Kings were a close second (25.7%). What are the chances that the teams would have identical playoff records heading into this series? Obviously, very good. The Rockets longest losing streak this season was two games. How about the Wheat Kings? One!
Rockets–Winterhawks Recap: The Rockets advanced to the league final with a six game series win over the four time defending Western Conference champion Portland Winterhawks. The Rockets won games one, four, five and six. Three of the four wins were by a single goal with one going into overtime. The only lopsided victory was an 8-4 triumph in the series clinching game six.
Hot to Trot: Dillon Dube has 2+2=4 in his last two games…Leon Draisaitl has a four game point streak. The 19 year-old has 2+3=5 over that period. Draisaitl has points in 13 of the 15 playoff games in 2015…Tyson Baillie has a four game point streak. Baillie has 2+5=7 over that period….Baillie has a point in 14 of the 15 playoff games in 2015. The only game where he didn’t record a point was in game two of the Western Conference final vs. Portland….Nick Merkley has five assists in his last three games. Merkley has points in 13 of the 15 playoff games the Rockets have been involved in.
This and That: Tyson Baillie is the WHL Player of the Week. Baillie collected seven points (2+5=7) in four games to help the Rockets beat the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Conference Championship series…This is the 88th game of the season for the Rockets this evening. That includes 72 regular season games and now its 16th playoff game…Rourke Chartier was named the Western Hockey League Sportsmanlike Player of the Year at the WHL awards banquet on Wednesday. Chartier had 18 penalty minutes in 51 regular season games…The Kelowna Rockets were given the Marketing and Business Award at Wednesday’s luncheon in Calgary…Madison Bowey has 45 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season …Cole Martin has 45 playoff games on his resume….In total, the Rockets have 567 games of playoff experience in the lineup this evening…Rourke Chartier had 6 goals in 14 games in last year’s playoffs. In this year’s post season, the now 19 year-old (turned 19 April 3rd) has nine goals in twelve games….Only two Rockets celebrate birthdays in May. Joe Gatenby turns 18 on May 15th while Nick Merkley blows out the same number of candles on May 23rd….The Rockets are 12 and 3 in post season. This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history….These two teams are meeting for the second time in the playoffs. In the 2005 final, the Rockets won the series in five games. That season the Rockets had home ice advantage under the same 2-3-2 format…The Rockets have been involved in seven-one goal games in this year’s playoffs. They are 5-2 in those seven games…In the 2005 WHL final between the Rockets and Wheat Kings, Derek Yeomans and Kristofer Westblom earned the shutout in a game one 3-0 victory….Rockets head coach Dan Lambert and Wheat Kings forward Nolan Patrick were on the same team at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia, Ontario in November…Leon Draisaitl had 3+4=7 in three games last season – in Brandon – as a member of the Prince Albert Raiders…A crazy game at Westman Place the last time the Rockets visited on December 13, 2013. The Wheat Kings had a 5-3 lead with 2:20 left in regulation time. Ryan Olsen would score with 38 seconds remaining in regulation time to make it a one goal game. Myles Bell would score with nine seconds remaining to tie it before Bell found the back of the net at the 2:52 mark over overtime in a shocking 6-5 win.