Monday, May 11, 2015

You ready?

Jackson Whistle fist bumps Rourke Chartier 
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to game three of the Western Hockey League Championship series. The Kelowna Rockets lead the Brandon Wheat Kings two games to none in the best of seven series after a 4-3 win in game one and a 5-3 victory in game two. Game three (tonight), four (Wednesday) and if necessary five (Friday) will be played at Prospera Place. If a game six is also needed, it will be played in Brandon on Sunday 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).

What we’ve learned so far: The Wheat Kings have opened the scoring in both games…The Rockets have out-scored Brandon 9-6 in the first two games…The Rockets have out-scored the Wheat Kings 4-2 in the second period and 3-2 in the first frame…How close is this series? Kelowna has out-shot Brandon 71-69…The Rockets are 1 for 4 on the power play in the first two games and have scored a shorthanded goal while the Wheat Kings are 3 for 7 with the extra man…Madison Bowey is a +6 rating in the series, tops among Rockets players. Josh Morrissey is +4.  

Scoring in the series:
Period:             1    2    3  Total
Rockets:          3    4    2     9
Wheat Kings:  2    2    2     6

Hot to Trot: Dillon Dube has 2+4=6 in his last four games…Leon Draisaitl has a six game point streak. The 19 year-old has 4+4=8 over that period. Draisaitl has points in 15 of the 17 playoff games in 2015…Tyson Baillie has a six game point streak. Baillie has 3+7=10 over that period….Baillie has a point in 16 of the 17 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 two goals and six assists in his last five games. Merkley has points in 14 of the 17 playoff games the Rockets have been involved in.

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!  

This and That: The Kelowna Rockets are riding a five game winning streak. The last loss was game three of the Western Conference final against the Portland Winterhawks….Outside of Dan Lambert, name the last Western Hockey League rookie coach to lead his team to the league final? The answer is Kevin Constantine of the Everett Silvertips. Constantine led the Tips to a birth in the WHL final where they were swept in four straight games by the Medicine Hat Tigers…Why is game four in this series slated for Wednesday night and not Tuesday? Canadian jazz pianist Diana Krall will be performing at Prospera Place Tuesday evening…Nick Merkley’s two goals in game two snapped a nine game goal scoring drought. Merkley’s last goal prior to Saturday was April 14th in a second round series against Victoria….Merkley has 43 points in 38 career playoff games…Rourke Chartier has goals in five of his last seven playoff games…What a year of experience makes. Gage Quinney had 0+0=0 in four playoff games last season with the Prince Albert Raiders. In the 2015 post season, the Las Vegas product has 5+6=11 in 13 games….Tyson Baillie was named the WHL Player of the Week last 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 90th game of the season for the Rockets this evening. That includes 72 regular season games and now its 17th playoff game…Rourke Chartier was named the Western Hockey League Sportsmanlike Player of the Year at the WHL awards banquet last 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 47 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season …Cole Martin has 47 playoff games on his resume….In total, the Rockets have 605 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 ten goals in fourteen 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 14 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 eight-one goal games in this year’s playoffs. They are 6-2 in those eight games…In the 2005 WHL final, the Rockets beat the Wheat Kings in game one and two at Prospers Place by scores of 3-0 and 4-1….After beating the Calgary Hitmen twice in the 2009 WHL Championship series as the road team, the Rockets returned to Prospera Place and won game three 2-0 with Mark Guggenberger making 21 saves in the victory.

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