Friday, October 2, 2015

Rockets game notes vs. Oil Kings

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open an Alberta road trip tonight with a stop in Edmonton to face the Oil Kings. The team plays Red Deer tomorrow, Lethbridge on Sunday and Medicine Hat on Tuesday. This is the third of six straight games on the road for the Rockets, who opened the season with a 4-3 home ice win over the Kamloops Blazers. This is one of only two meetings between the two teams; with the Oil Kings make a lone visit to Prospera Place on November 20th. Last season the Rockets played in Edmonton twice, winning 4-1 on December 16th before suffering a shootout loss January 28th. Jake Morrissey was named the third star in that game. The defending WHL champions play eight of their first 11 games on the road.

This and That: Backing up Kelowna Rockets starting goaltender Michael Herringer tonight against the Oil Kings is 15 year-old James Porter JR. Porter JR plays in Calgary with the Edge School Prep Team. Porter, who hails from Bonners Ferry, Idaho was the Rockets 7th round pick from the 2015 WHL bantam draft…Veteran goalie Jackson Whistle, who was injured last Saturday when he was hit in the throat with a stick against Kamloops, is expected to join the team on this trip….Nick Merkley makes his 2015-2016 regular season debut tonight in Edmonton after missing the first three games with an upper body injury…Dillon Dube won’t play tonight or Saturday after being suspended two games for a kneeing incident last Sunday in Vancouver….Tyson Baillie has 7 points in three games. The19 year-old (doesn’t turn 20 until November 16) has 4+3=7 over that period.…Baillie opened last season with goals in six straight games….Baillie has 99 career goals….If Baillie stays healthy and plays in every game this season, the 20 year-old will end his career with 331 games under his belt… The Rockets were kicked out of the CHL Top 10 rankings this week after being rated fourth heading into the season. The Rockets are an ‘honourable mention’ in this week’s rankings…The Rockets had two players taken in the NHL draft. Nick Merkley was taken in the first round by Arizona. Devante Stephens was chosen in the 5th round by Buffalo…Cole Linaker (Oilers), Tomas Soustal (Flames) and Tyson Baillie (Flames) all received free agent tryouts…Dillon Dube (3+3=6) and Kole Lind (1+5=6) led the team in pre-season scoring…The Rockets were 3-2-0-0 in five games during the pre-season…The team plays three games in three nights four times this season but twice in the first two weekends…In the last three seasons, the Rockets have a combined regular season record of 162-40-8-6 in 216 games. Portland is next with a mark of 154-48-5-9 over that same period.
New Kids on the Block: The Kelowna Rockets named 34 year-old Brad Ralph as the head coach on August fourth. Ralph took over from Dan Lambert, who resigned at seasons end to take an assistant coaching position with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Ralph is the ninth head coach in Rockets franchise history after leaving the Idaho Steelheads after three seasons in the ECHL. On defense, the team welcomes 16 year-old Cal Foote, the son of former NHL’er Adam Foote. Foote was the team’s second round bantam pick in 2013 and his younger brother Nolan was the Rockets second round pick in this past May’s draft. The Rockets selected 18 year-old Swiss forward Calvin Thurkauf in this summer’s CHL Import draft.  Other new faces include rookies Danny Gatenby (Joe’s younger brother) and 18 year-old Gordie Ballhorn, who played last season with the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines.

My memory is good, just short: For a third straight season the Rockets won 50+ games. With a record of 53-13-5-1, the team accumulated 112 points, two fewer than the regular season champion Brandon Wheat Kings. The Rockets won 26 times on home ice and a league high 27 times on the road. The Rockets were one of only two teams to score 300 or more goals (305) with Brandon leading the way with 340. Lost in the team’s successes last season was allowing a league low 183 goals against.
Is a repeat in the cards? The Rockets return their top three point producers from last season. Nick Merkley (90 pts), Rourke Chartier (82 pts), and Tyson Baillie (76 pts) are all back with the team. Merkley was taken in the first round of this summer’s NHL draft by the Arizona Coyotes while he and fellow teammate Chartier both attended Team Canada’s summer camp for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships. Baillie received a free agent tryout with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Jackson Whistle, who played in 50 regular season games and posted a goals against average of 2.55, is back for his 20 year-old season. Whistle suited up for the Vancouver Canucks for a second consecutive season in the Young Stars Classic in Penticton. The hockey club returns 15 players from last season’s championship squad.

Significant off-season losses: Winning a WHL title with an older team means the hockey club lost seven players and a coach following an appearance in the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City. Moving on to pro hockey are Leon Draisaitl, Josh Morrissey, Cole Martin, Chance Braid, Tyrell Goulbourne and Captain Madison Bowey. Defenceman Mitch Wheaton was traded to the Saskatoon Blades in the off season and head coach Dan Lambert resigned July 6th to take a job in the NHL.  

No comments: