|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- While coaches want their teams to get off to a good start, I will take a team finishing strong and weathering the storm after an early onslaught. That was exactly the Kelowna Rockets formula for success last night in a 3-1 home ice win over the Red Deer Rebels. As advertised, the highly flying, front end loaded Rebels, came out in the first period and dominated play. But the Rockets, who played a smart tactical game, seemed to take over at times in the second period and were tough to play against in the third period when they out-shot the Rebels 11-8. Both team's scored 'gift goals' in the first period before rookie defenceman Cal Foote scored the game winner in the second period to give the Rockets a 2-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.
- It may have been the best commitment to defence we have seen from the Rockets this season. Defenceman Lucas Johansen made two spectacular plays to essential take goals away from the Rebels, who went 0 for 6 on the power play. Michael Herringer was sturdy when called upon, but I thought the forwards noticeably tracked back, like never before, in an effort to defend their own net.
- Rourke Chartier didn't score, but he made an impression with two solid hits. We don't normally see it from the 19 year-old, who does his best work with his stick, not his body. When one of your most skilled forwards is hitting, that can't but motivate others on the Rockets bench.
- I thought Justin Kirkland was again terrific. Working hard and shooting the puck every time he had the puck on his stick. I thought Kirkland and Chartier were the best two forwards for the home team. Kirkland has been excellent and his soft hands are on display as the 19 year-old is playing his best hockey of the season. Kirkland will have to be an impact player with the loss of Nick Merkley, who's season is over with a torn ACL.
- The Rockets earned their 40th victory of the season, marking the 10th time in franchise history the organization has accomplished the feat.
- Cole Linaker scored a third period power play goal to essentially put the game away. Isn't confidence a funny thing? Linaker went 23 games without a goal and now has three goals in his last four games.
- The win allows the Rockets to move two points up on Lethbridge for first place in the WHL standings with 14 games left in the regular season.