Thursday, February 25, 2016

Flying high for 40 minutes and sealing it in OT

Justin Kirkland - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • It isn't often that the Everett Silvertips are outworked, out-chanced and out- scored. Through 40 minutes Wednesday night at Xfinity Arena in Everett, the Kelowna Rockets did everything right against them and owned the ice. They hit, they were first to loose pucks and dominated territorial play. They were full marks for a 5-1 lead after two periods. The score at the end of the night though would read - 6-5 overtime win for the Rockets. Was it a change of goalie to start the third period that somehow changed the Tips fortunes around in an effort to make it a close game? Was it an over confident team that was admiring it's two most complete back-to-back periods in recent memory? Maybe? With backup goaltender Mario Petit taking over from starter Carter Hart, who had a rare off night, the home team scored four unanswered goals to tie the game at five. In the blink of an eye, the Rockets momentum was snuffed out and the Tips were destined to send this game into overtime in an improbable comeback. Fortunately, the Rockets, who have lost twice this season already to the Tips in overtime, were able to find the game winning goal off the stick of Justin Kirkland just 1:24 into extra time. It re-emphasized that no lead in junior hockey is safe, even a four goal lead.
  • It wasn't a good night for Michael Herringer. The 20 year-old goaltender will admit it. We can't forget the many times this season where Herringer held his team in the game when they were struggling in front of him. I am always a big supporter of the goalies and the pressures they face because each move, or mistake, is like a massive red zit on your face. You can't cover it up no matter how hard you try. I liked the fact that his team-mates picked up Herringer and returned the favour by supporting the goaltender with offense. That's what team-mates do and that is what team sports is all about.    
  • Should we really be surprised that Justin Kirkland was the difference maker in overtime? The 19 year-old is on a different plain right now. Playing the best hockey of his career, Kirkland regrouped with the puck in his own zone in overtime and skated quickly up ice and let his patented snap shot fly, beating Petit to the blocker side. If he keeps this up, the Nashville Predators may be forced to sign him. Hopeful Kirkland's excellent play isn't too late.
  • Tyson Baillie scored twice, moving the winger within one point of 300 for his excellent career. Baillie was dangerous throughout the game and had no less than five scoring chances, including a breakaway pass that he accepted and then surprisingly elected to fire a slap shot at Tips goaltender Carter Hart from between the hash marks. Hart made the save. Ballie is now one goal shy of his career high 37 goals from a year ago.  
  • It was nice to see Calvin Thurkauf score twice and collect an assist. Thurkauf could have had his first career hat trick, but he unfortunately hit the goal post in the third period and was robbed by Petit with a desperation save which would have made the score 6-2. Thurkauf is a good blend of size and skill and I think there is more to Thurkauf's game than he is showing us. Often looking slow a foot, a touch more hustle/urgency or determination in his game and the Rockets have an excellent player on their hands. He's good now. Thurkauf could be great. I think he has the ability to score 30 goals in the WHL. Just say'n.
  • I thought Joe Gatenby had a great game. The 18 year-old's offensive awareness is often misunderstood. We pigeon hole him in being a defensive defenceman, but does that type of player make 50 foot tape-to-tape passes to spring Tyson Baillie and Calvin Thurkauf for breakaways? Gatenby's skill level was on display last night and his +4 rating was the icing on a great evening for the humble d-man. 
  • Riley Stadel has 9 fighting majors this season, matching his 'tilt total' from last season. 
  • The win moved the Rockets back into first place in the WHL standings, one point better than the Victoria Royals. The Rockets still hold a game in hand. With a day off today in Vancouver, the team looks to put the screws to the Giants tomorrow night at Pacific Coliseum after falling 4-2 to them last Saturday in a game that was tied after two periods. 
  • I had a lengthy conversation with Tips GM Garry Davidson prior to the game. It was nice just sitting in his office Wednesday afternoon and talking hockey. Davidson is a smart hockey man and is very candid in his thoughts on prospects Auston Matthews and Tyson Jost. Some of what we talked about is off the record and will remain that way. I appreciate Davidson sharing his philosophy on drafting players and his objective to be as competitive as the Portland Winterhawks in acquiring more American born talent.   

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