Sunday, October 18, 2015

Small details add up to best effort of season

Michael Herringer - Shoot the Breeze Photography

  • It was arguably the Kelowna Rockets most complete game of the season. Head Coach Brad Ralph got his birthday wish. Before the game, Ralph told me he would like to celebrate his 35th birthday with a win over the Prince George Cougars and his players delivered. Tyson Baillie had two goals and three assists and Dillon Dube had two goals and two assists in the Rockets dominant 6-2 win Saturday night in Prince George. The Rockets out hustled, out hit and were more determined in the road effort. It was a far cry from Friday's 3-0 loss to the Cougars, where the road team looked average at best. Saturday night, they again looked like a team that could defend their WHL title.
  • Baillie could be classified as a 'Cougar Killer'. The 20 year-old has played 28 career games against the Cougars, having scored 17 times and has collected 16 assists over that span. Baillie also scored the teams first shorthanded goal of the season Saturday night, when on the fore check, he niftily knocked the puck off the stick of Cougars defenceman Tate Olson and it trickled past startled Prince George goaltender Ty Edmonds. That goal late in the second period gave the Rockets a 3-0 lead.
  • The smallest details made the biggest difference. The most significant was the Rockets intensity. They played an up tempo game with good energy. More times than not, checks were finished and the visitors initiating contact, something the Cougars won hands down Friday night. Five to seven foot passes were common place in an effort to bring the puck up ice and the forwards specifically, were apt to dump the puck into the offensive zone, rather than skate it in, and hunt down pucks from there. All of those small areas of the game added up to improved play and a less fractured look from up in the broadcast booth.
  • An odd move by the Cougars coaching staff to start the third period. Goaltender Ty Edmonds, the first star Friday night, was pulled from the game for 20 year-old Mack Shield. Up until that point, despite being down 3-0, Edmonds was not a weak spot in the Cougars game. The 19 year-old showed great reflexes and had a sure glove hand.  In my opinion, unless Edmonds was injured, it was an example of over coaching. If the move was designed to give the Cougars life or jump start their game, it backfired horribly. The Rockets would score less than two minutes into the third period on a power play and then would get back-to-back goals just eight minutes apart to put the game away.
  • Speaking of goaltending, Michael Herringer was sharp in a 35 save performance. The 19 year-old was given the start after Jackson Whistle had played five consecutive games. Herringer showed excellent rebound control and was nothing short of steady. Herringer was on his way to a shutout before Cougars 20 year-old Chase Witala beat him with a wrist shot through the legs, on the power play, with about 10 minutes left in the game. Herringer would surrender another goal late in the third period when Cougars forward Brad Morrison came in on a breakaway, was stopped on the original shot, but Morrison gobbled up the rebound and beat Herringer with 1:05 remaining in regulation time.
  • The Rockets are now 11-2-0-0 in their last 13 appearances at the CN Centre. The two teams renew acquaintances again on Friday....this time at Prospera Place.    

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