Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tough night on home ice

Brodan Salmond - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Too bad Michael Herringer's teammates couldn't pick up the veteran goaltender when he stumbled. Herringer was looking for a return favour after doing the same thing for his 19 closest friends over the past four weeks. Herringer, making his 14th straight start with an injury to Jackson Whistle, had a rough evening allowing two long distance goals in a 6-3 home ice loss last night to the visiting Spokane Chiefs. That said, I won't hang the loss on his shoulders. The players in front of him showed no spark, no emotion and didn't want to put in the work, which resulted in the top team in the WHL (up until last night) trailing 3-0 and 6-0 by the period breaks. Herringer was yanked after allowing four goals on 20 shots and in came 17 year-old rookie Brodan Salmond for his first taste of WHL action.
  • Herringer's night started off strong. The 20 year-old made a nice glove hand save on a grade 'A' scoring chance less than two minutes into the game and appeared to be mentally engaged in the game. The goal that likely had him second guessing himself was a long slap shot from Chiefs forward Keanu Yamamoto that appeared to glance off a stick of defenceman Gordie Ballhorn at centre ice. The contact on Ballhorn's stick either changing the speed or direction of the puck, or both, and beat Herringer to the blocker side. A second period goal, again from Yamamoto, saw the Chiefs forward fire the puck from just outside the blue line that Herringer attempted to catch across his body and it trickled into the net. That goal make it 4-0 and Herringer was pulled. What I liked most about his exit was the fans appreciation with applause, recognizing how good he has been during Jackson Whistle's absence. It also was a sign that he has backing from the home town crowd that they have faith in him on being a solid force as long as Whistle is on the injury list.
  • So, have I made it perfectly clear that Michael Herringer is not at fault in the 6-3 loss? Ok, let's move on. A power play 7 minutes into the game in a scoreless tie was a clear indication that the Rockets skaters were going through the motions. The unit didn't even manufacture a shot on goal on the Chiefs back up goaltender. The power play unit has come up empty handed now in four straight games.
  • Coaches can make the players aware of the oppositions tendencies, can write up a solid game plan on the white board, but it is the players that have to preform and execute on the ice. Where was the effort? It is never a good sign when your top seven forwards fail to lead your team in shots on goal. Instead the defencemen, led by Cal Foote, Gordie Ballhorn and Jonathan Smart each had three shots to lead the Rockets in that category. Tomas Soustal was the most proactive forward, firing three pucks on net. Leading scorer Tyson Baillie didn't have a single shot. That can't happen.
  • It should be pointed out that the team did show some resilience in the third period, by outscoring the Chiefs 3-0 and out-shooting them 11-4. It is a small positive that needs to be taken from a game where the team was flat for the opening 40 minutes.
  • Enough with the negatives. Rookie Jonathan Smart scored his first career goal last night in only his 26th regular season game. Smart's point shot beat the Chiefs goaltender high to the glove hand side in one of three goals the Rockets would score in the third period. I like Smart, both on and off the ice. Smart has a outgoing personality and isn't afraid to engage with me in conversation whether it is hanging around the rink or on the bus. I have probably had longer conversations with Smart than I have had with several veteran players who have been around for two to three years. What that tells me is Smart is a confident 16 year-old, isn't intimidated by others and that personality will serve him well as he matures into a solid WHL defenceman. 
  • It was the first chance to see back up goaltender Brodan Salmond in action. Salmond was put in a tough position when he faced a 5 on 3 Spokane power play only moments after entering the game. While surrendering two goals on 12 shots, I thought he performed well under the circumstances.
  • Since the Christmas break, the Rockets are 10-5-2-0. A rough patch of late with the team having won only one of their last four games.
  • Up next is a date with the Calgary Hitmen at Prospera Place Saturday night. These two teams met earlier this season with Jackson Whistle earning the shut-out in a 3-0 win.

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