|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- It won't be easy winning hockey games for the defending WHL champions this season. Don't expect many blow outs. The Kelowna Rockets learned that first hand last night with a hard fought 4-3 home ice win over the Kamloops Blazers. Tyson Baillie scored twice and added an assist as the Rockets scored three times in the second period to take a 4-2 lead. The Blazers showed no quit in this one though. A determined bunch, Don Hay's team wouldn't quit and had several good looks in the dying stages of the game with starting goaltender Connor Ingram pulled for the extra attacker. That's where Jackson Whistle's experience came in handy as the 20 year-old slammed the door shut.
- The game winning goal came with some controversy. Justin Kirkland scored on a second period breakaway when the play appeared to be offside. Defenceman Devante Stephens fired a long pass to Kirkland, who skated in all alone and beat Ingram with a nice backhand move through Ingram's legs. I immediately looked at the Blazers bench for a reaction, but they didn't look overly animated that the play was offside.
- The Rockets scored the opening goal just :53 seconds into the game. You could see the home team was charged up after the opening ceremony which saw the team raise three banners high to the rafters at Prospera Place. With that early strike, I was wondering if some players thought that goals would come easy, and often times, you could clearly see many forwards cheating in their own zone in an effort to go to the offensive side of the game.
- The Blazers played a smart road game. The forwards would often dump the puck into the offensive zone and force the Rockets young d-core to make plays. It resulted in either a turnover or the Blazers simply winning board battles and created good chances on net. Rookie Spencer Bast's goal would be the best example as he willed his way towards the net and chipped it past a startled Whistle.
- The best Blazer for my money was Nolan Kneen. The 16 year-old was physical and was involved in a fight with Riley Stadel in the third period. The first round bantam pick from two years ago plays with an edge and made an immediate impact.
- Rockets rookie forward Calvin Thurkauf was hit hard in the second period in the neutral zone, but after a few minutes on the ice, made his way to the bench without any problem. After one quick shift a short time later, the 18 year-old didn't see the ice for the remainder of the game. I would suspect the Swiss forward is doubtful for the rematch tonight in Kamloops.
- Gage Quinney was the odd man out as the team could only dress three 20 year-old's. The same can be said for Ryan Rehill, who also didn't play for the Blazers because of the three overage rule.
- Nick Merkley did not play last night because of injury. That seemed to have an adverse affect on veteran forward Rourke Chartier who played a very quiet game.