Sunday, November 22, 2015

Kirkland's move to the middle looks marvellous

Justin Kirkland - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • With injuries to Rourke Chartier and Dillon Dube, 19 year-old forward Justin Kirkland is being forced to play centre. It looks good on him. Kirkland finds himself in the middle between wingers Tomas Soustal and Tyson Baillie and the unit is a scary threat to score. Kirkland has collected six assists in three games since making the move to the middle in a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday in Kamloops. The move, for whatever reason, is allowing Kirkland more puck possession and more quality shots on goal. With arguably the quickest release on the team, Kirkland's shot is handcuffing goaltenders and creating massive rebounds for his line-mates who are cashing in. A good example was Tyson Baillie's third period goal last night in a 5-2 home ice win over the Vancouver Giants.  Kirkland's hard wrister wasn't controlled by Giants goalie Ryan Kubic. Like flies on a piece of raw meat, Soustal, Baillie and Kirkland converge on the rebound before Baillie rips it in. All three pick up points on the goal that made the score 4-0. 
  • A solid start for the Rockets after blowing out the Edmonton Oil Kings the night before. I was wondering if the team would come out lethargic, but surprisingly that wasn't the case. The Rockets looked to bury the Giants with first period goals from Calvin Thurkauf, who could have had three on the night, Baillie and Nick Merkley. For a team with only five wins this season, it was awfully tough for the Giants to dig themselves out of that hole. Give the visitors credit though. They appeared to get better as the home teams game became increasing fractured. The G-Men played with more desperation in an effort to bounce back and make it a two goal game before Merkley scored an empty netter for the Rockets 17th win of the season.
  • The win moved the Rockets into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 35 points, one better than the Victoria Royals who lost in overtime against Tri City.  
  • I loved the pack mentality the Rockets showed when Giants forward Tyler Benson shot the puck at the Rockets net after the whistle was blown on a second period offside. All five players skated over to Benson and let him know they didn't like the late shot on Whistle. Strength in numbers is sometime far better than one individual wanting to defended the honour of the team. The pack mentality in that situation is such an encouraging sign for this team.    
  • Hats off to Giants forward Tyler Benson for fighting Rockets rookie defenceman Gordie Ballhorn. Ballhorn took exception to what appeared to be a light slash behind the net and challenged the 17 year-old to a fight. Benson, who is the Giants team captain, dropped the gloves and despite it being his first career WHL tilt, the highly touted forward came out of the scrap unscathed.   
  • Trevor Cox is known as one of the most dynamic 20 year-old's in the Western Hockey League. Shouldn't Tyson Baillie be granted the same status? Both players have almost the exactly same number of points. Baillie had 2+1=3 last night and now has 256 career points, one shy of Cox's 257. Baillie will go down as one highest scoring wingers ever in franchise history. Enjoy him while he is here!  
  • I want to give the Giants player's credit, specifically those on the bench, when Rockets forward Kole Lind was hit hard into the side boards in the first period after taking a shot on net. Lind was off balance when he was smoked into the side boards and stayed down for some time. When Lind got to his skates, several Giants players tapped their sticks on the boards or on the ice in a show of class and concern for Lind. A stick tap to the Giants organization as it looked good on their players.
  • Have you noticed Joe Gatenby shooting the puck more and becoming increasingly involved in the offense? Love it.  
  • A solid week for the Rockets if you look at the four games they played over a span of seven days. After a 4-3 overtime loss in Spokane last Saturday, the team won 4-3 in overtime Wednesday in Kamloops, beat Edmonton 6-1 on Friday and earned a 5-2 win Saturday against the Giants. The team has found the back of the net 95 times this season, the most of any one in the WHL. Not bad considering two of the teams most dynamic players, Chartier and Dube, are still out with injuries.   
  • A shout out to the Kelowna Rockets Twitter feed. Check out the videos they are pumping out during games. Several of the goals scored are tweeted out quickly and even a nice hit Nick Merkley had on Giants 20 year-old Carter Popoff was quickly uploaded for all to see on social media. This is simply amazing work by Kevin Parnell. It is common place on NHL Twitter feeds, but in major junior hockey, that attention to detail is often missed. 

No comments: