Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rockets find mojo at Moda

  • Jackson Whistle has an unorthodox way of stopping the puck. The Kelowna Rockets veteran goaltender won't win style points with the judges who prefer a more controlled approach, but the 20 year-old just stops the puck. Whistle made his best save in the dying seconds of last night's 5-4 win over the Portland Winterhawks by robbing forward Paul Bittner. In a mad scramble behind the Rockets net with time ticking down, Bittner saw the puck pop out to him at the side of the net. With one quick motion on his backhand, Bittner sent it towards what appeared to be a wide open net. Whistle, at the opposite side of goal, flung his trapper out in desperation and literally swatted the puck away. While surrendered four goals on the night, Whistle's game saver is worth another look on video if you haven't had a chance to seen it.
  • This was a fun game. Are any games between the Rockets and Winterhawks bland? If so, rarely. The lead changed hands a couple of times and even a two goal lead late in the third period wasn't safe as the Rockets took back-to-back penalties in the final 3:30 to make for a mad finish. Rookie Calvin Thurkauf took a checking from behind penalty and the Winterhawks would score on the power play to make it 5-4. The crowd at Moda Center went crazy and the finish with the buzzer finally sounding was frantic as always.
  • Nick Merkley had a breakout game. The 18 year-old had a four point night (1+3=4) which was his greatest one game output of the season. Merkley's goal was the result of Cole Linaker's hard work by racing for a puck inside the Winterhawks zone. Merkley's assist on Rodney Southam's goal to make it 3-3 was the result of Calvin Thurkauf's board battle win behind the Winterhawks net. Merkley picked up the puck as Thurkauf was squeezed out on the play and promptly found Southam cruising through the slot.  It may have been the prettiest goal of the game.
  • One thing the Rockets likely learned from Friday's game is the Winterhawks defenceman join the attack/rush. All four goals were scored by defencemen. Lazy back checking by the forwards can't be tolerated tonight in the rematch between the two team's. The video evidence doesn't lie. Watch Portland's third goal where d-man Keoni Texeira is part of a four on two inside the Rockets zone. The opening goal was also the result of rookie blue liner Conor MacEachern joining the attack and finding himself in a grade A scoring chance between the hash marks, with no one in sight, for a 1-0 Winterhawks lead.  
  • Tyson Baillie had two goals in the win. Now with 12 in 17 games, Baillie's goals came on the power play, which went 3 for 3 in the game. Baillie is now 5 points shy of 250 for his career. 
  • It was my first look at highly touted Portland defenceman Caleb Jones. The WHL rookie came as advertised. I thought he made good outlet passes and was selective when carrying the puck up the ice. The player I liked the most on the Winterhawks was Rodrigo Abols. Head Coach Jamie Kompon loves to use him and he must have led all skaters in ice time. A little to pass happy for me, but a play maker tends to do that. Abols creates scoring chances and will undoubtedly find chemistry with fellow Latvian Rihards Bukarts. Bukarts made his debut last night with his new team and while not a huge threat, let's give him a break. It is never easy for a player, no matter what the skill set, to make an impact right away with his new team. I think Bukarts should easily score 30 goals with the Winterhawks this season.
  • The more I watch rookie defenceman Gordie Ballhorn, the more I like what I see. Ballhorn's battle level is getting better by the game. The thing I like most is his willingness to shoot the puck. I think the Rockets d-men, as a group, have to be more proactive in firing it from the point. Team's had to respect that blast from the blue line last season when Madison Bowey and Josh Morrissey where letting cannon's go. That has to happen again. Hey Gordie, tell Cal Foote to lean into a few more too. When Foote fires one off, it comes low and hard. 
  • It was nice to hear public address announcer Dan Folick's (making a guest appearance) voice resonating through the Moda Center last night. His, 'Here Come The Hawks' is something that was common place at home games in Portland for 18 years until he elected to step away in 2009. His voice refines power and passion. I love it. I didn't have a chance to say hello to him before game time as he was situated at the other side of the arena. I will have to make a beeline towards him for a quick chat in this evenings rematch.
  • The Rockets were 15-1-0-1 after 17 games last season. The team is currently 12-5-0-0 after 17 games. Not bad for a team that has played a good portion of the season without 48 goal man Rourke Chartier, who hopefully will play as early as next weekend. 


Whitmer73 said...

Regan welcome to Portland. Question the WHL is coming out with 50 anniversary book. Do you know when its coming out? No one @ the Winterhawks seems to know anything. Thanks

Ray Taber said...

Regan, Welcome back to Portland.
I was disappointed you didn't reply back when I called to you on the on the concourse.
It looked like you were busy and had places to go.
Great games, again. We nearly split them.
I am looking forward to the playoffs.

Regan Bartel said...

I stop for no one when my bladder is full!! ;). Sorry I missed you. My wife will attest to my selective hearing.