Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The 'fight' for first

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Two men enter, one man leaves. It is the famous line from the 1985 movie Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome. I don't think it was a fight to the death last night at Prospera Place, but it clearly was a battle between the two top teams (statistically) in the Western Hockey League. Tomas Soustal erased a 14 game goal scoring drought with two goals and Michael Herringer was terrific in the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 win over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 20th home ice win of the season allowed the Rockets to leapfrog over the Hurricanes and into first place in the overall standings (one point up) with 21 games left in the regular season. The Rockets sweep the season series 3-0-0-0, but this was clearly the most entertaining game of the three. 
  • Both teams didn't disappoint. For a Tuesday night game in early February that can be humdrum, this one had sizzle with two fights, numerous scoring chances and great saves. The Rockets were the better team in the first period with the Hurricanes holding the slight edge in the second. The third period was up for grabs with the home town team holding a slim one goal lead. The room for error was slim against the top scoring team in the WHL, but 20 year-old Michael Herringer saved his best work for the final 20 minutes. Herringer made three sensational 'five alarm saves' on Hurricanes forward Tyler Wong, Jordy Bellerive and a game saving glove hand stop off Ryan Vandervlis that had the 17 year-old shaking his head in amazement. At games end it was no surprise Herringer was named the 1st star.
  • The Rockets had several great chances to score at the other end of the ice. Nick Merkley had a wide open net with Hurricanes goaltender Stuart Skinner down and out, yet worked it wide with a sharp angle backhand attempt. Rourke Chartier hit the goal post in the third period too. At times the game opened up with scoring chances traded both ways. It is hard to imagine, but WHL leading scorer Brayden Burke and Rockets leading point producer Tyson Baillie were both held off the score-sheet when the buzzer sounded.
  • The Rockets were playing their fourth game in five night's while the Hurricanes were playing their third game in five night's to conclude a BC Division road trip. The Eastern Conference leaders failed to win a game against Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna.
  • It was tough to watch when Hurricanes forward Giorgio Estephan crashed into the end boards in the first period and appeared to hurt his  ankle. Estephan immediately grabbed the ankle which had everyone guessing in the building that it was either a deep sprain, or in a worse case scenario, a broken ankle. 
  • Rockets rookie Kole Lind was reunited with linemates Tyson Baillie and Dillon Dube.
  • The Rockets are an impressive 11-1-0-0 against the Central Division this season. The Calgary Hitmen are in Kelowna Saturday night with the Red Deer Rebels paying a visit on February 16th.     
  • Up next is a home game with the Spokane Chiefs Friday night in game two of a four game home stand. 

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