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Friday, May 22, 2015

Whistle solid in teams shaky start

Joe Gatenby battles in front of Zach Fucale - CHL Images

  • The Kelowna Rockets wasted a great effort from goaltender Jackson Whistle. The 19 year-old was the best player on the ice for the Western Hockey League champions Friday night in a 4-3 loss to the Quebec Remparts. The West Kelowna resident made timely stops against Adam Erne and Anthony Duclair in the one goal loss. The poke check against Duclair was brilliant early in the third period when the Remparts were holding a 2-1 lead, but a lazy back check allowed Ryan Graves to score a shorthanded goal to give the home team a 3-1 advantage. Whistle was so good, even leading Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Playoff MVP Adam Erne couldn't get a puck past Whistle until the undrafted goalie was on the bench for the extra attacker. It was only then that the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick scored into an empty net for the eventual game winner. Whistle's effort mirrored that of first star Zach Fucale, who made 26 saves in the victory.
  • The Rockets looked rusty. No surprise considering they hadn't played after having eight full days off after a series sweep over Brandon. The team wasn't sharp and the Remparts had strong looks in the offensive zone in the opening period specifically. It could have been 2-0 for Quebec after the opening period had Anthony Duclair finish off a gift wrapped turnover by Rockets captain Madison Bowey in front of his own net. The Arizona Coyotes product skated in all alone from the hash marks and beat Whistle with a wicked move but couldn't finish off the play on the forehand deke. Duclair ended the game with only one assist, but the 19 year-old was awfully dangerous all night and was the scariest Remparts forward. In my opinion, Duclair was a smidgen better than teammate Vladimir Tkachev, who was pretty darn crafty with the puck too.
  • The Rockets played from behind all night, which is tough to do when playing against elite competition. Down 3-1 early in the third period, Gage Quinney made it a one goal game before the Rockets again went down by two with Adam Erne's empty netter. Leon Draisaitl made it a one goal game again with a power play goal with 36 seconds left in the game. 
  • Leon Draisaitl had a really good game. I thought he made an impact every time he was on the ice. That said, the 19 year-old took a costly ten minute misconduct at the twenty minute mark of the second period, which meant he was lost to his team for the first half of the third period when they needed him the most. Draisaitl, including a four game sweep against Brandon in the WHL final, has now found the back of the net in five straight games.
  • The loss snapped a seven game winning streak for the WHL champions, who hadn't lost since game three of the Western Conference semi finals.
  • Positives? The power play went 2 for 6, but did give up a costly shorthanded goal. The unit has been quiet in the playoffs, but had some good looks in the Memorial Cup opener.
  • Negatives? Discipline. It has to be better in a tournament like this. If the other team wants to yap, let them and keep your mouth shut.     

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