Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Best players make impact

Stadel scraps with Uhrich - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Like a sour carton of milk in the fridge, Kelowna Rockets forward Cole Linaker was overdue. The 20 year-old forward scored his first goal in 24 games in a 7-4 win Monday afternoon against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Linaker scored on a wrap-around chance in the third period as part of a five goal third period which broke open a 2-2 tie. Linaker was all smiles after the goal, his first since mid-December in a game in Regina. The win solidified the Rockets hold on first place in the WHL standings, two points up on the second place Victoria Royals and three up on the third place Lethbridge Hurricanes. 
  • It is amazing what happens when your best players indeed make an impact on the game. Rourke Chartier earned his second hat trick of the season while Tyson Baillie and Justin Kirkland each had four point outings. Tomas Soustal collected three assists in a game where the Rockets out-shot the T-Birds 21-4 in the second period alone. At times in the third period, the Rockets had sustained pressure inside the T-Birds zone.
  • Chartier is now one goal shy of 100 for his career.
  • The Rockets power play scored twice on five chances. It was a good sign considering the team hadn't scored a power play goal in five games. The fact that the Rockets scored twice on a Seattle penalty killing unit which is number one in the WHL is even more impressive.
  • Justin Kirkland scored twice in the win. The 19 year-old is probably playing at the best pace we have seen all season long and the Hockey God’s are rewarding him. Kirkland’s empty netter was his 22nd of the season, which is a new career high. If Kirkland keeps playing with pace, at both ends of the ice, I can’t see why 30 goals isn't a possibility.
  • A spirited fight between Rockets forward Riley Stadel and Seattle’s Josh Uhrich. Uhrich threw some landing rights to the side of Stadel's face before the 20 year-old retaliated with some significant lefts to the right side of Uhrich jaw in an effort to return the favour. I liked the end of the fight where Uhrich tapped Stadel on the back in a sign of ‘well done’.
  • Despite giving up four goals, Michael Herringer made several timely stops. Herringer had the misfortune of a bad bounce on a Mathew Barzal goal, when the T-Birds leading scorer’s point shot on the power play hit Cole Linaker’s stick and fluttered past his glove hand side.
  • Nick Merkley took the pre-game warm up but did not play. It is a good sign after being helped off the ice by teammates after a player landed on him last Friday in a 6-3 loss to Spokane.  Merkley made the trip with the team to Seattle which means he will play either tonight in the rematch at ShoWare Center or this weekend when the team travels to Prince George to face the Cougars.
  • The Rockets have scored seven goals at home three times this season. 
  • The Rockets out-shot the opponent for the first time in six games. The final shots were 41-31.
  • I don’t often speak ill about the officiating, but I thought this was the worst officiated game I have seen, maybe all season. It was bad both ways with soft calls and several inconsistencies where a marginal cross check was called on T-Birds Ryan Gropp and then almost a carbon copy cross check wasn’t called against Rockets d-man Gordie Ballhorn.    
  • The team's close out the seasonal series Tuesday night in Kent. No excuses this time for the Rockets, who lost 2-0 at ShoWare Center back on January 31st after busing through the night after playing the previous evening at home. Both teams will be playing their 4th game in 5 night's and both made the trek from Kelowna to Kent, arriving at 12:30 am to unload their wet gear.

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