Sunday, March 27, 2016

Third period collapse

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • It was the catch phrase of the ABC program Wide World of Sports. 'The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.' That saying from 1978 couldn't be more true after a heartbreaking loss for the Kelowna Rockets Saturday night against the Kamloops Blazers. The defending champions were 31 seconds away from taking a 2-0 lead in their best of seven opening round playoff series, but several errors on a neutral zone face-off cost them the game. Up by a goal, Rockets overager Cole Linaker won the draw and got the puck back to defenceman Lucas Johansen. Johansen hesitated, allowing Blazers forward Gage Quinney to shoot it to the right pad of Michael Herringer, who stopped it, but Blazers leading point getter Collin Shirley slammed home the rebound. Twenty five seconds later, with the Rockets and the crowd at Prospera Place still stunned at the tying goal, Blazers defenceman Ryan Rehill fired a seeing-eye slap shot through traffic that beat Herringer to the blocker side. Rehill's goal with 4.8 seconds left was the last of four the Blazers would score in the third period comeback. 
  • Honestly, I thought the Rockets played a solid game up until the gaff late in the third period. With a 3-1 third period lead the home team continued to press and didn't sit back like they did in game one. Dillon Dube could have made it 4-1 after a terrific feed from Justin Kirkland. Dube had the right side of the net wide open only to see Blazers goalie Connor Ingram come diving across and catching the puck in mid-air in a desperation save of epic proportions. While that save didn't seem to affect the Rockets to any great degree, outside of the scoreboard, it appeared to boost the Blazers bench and the rally was on. 
  • If the Rockets d-core can take anything away from Ryan Rehill's two goal night it is his willingness to shoot the puck from the point. Rehill had a team high 6 shots on net in game two. Lucas Johansen and Cal Foote are the greatest offenders of not blasting the puck from the point when a clear shooting lane is available. Look at Rehill's first goal that goes off Joe Gatenby and into the net. That is example #1 of a simple blast from 57 feet away. How about Gordie Ballhorn's blast that Ingram stops and then Tomas Soustal backhands the puck off the skate of Blazers defender Cameron Reagan and it is a 4-3 game? That is example #2. Shooting the puck is never a bad option. It is the simplest tactic in the book and it still holds it's weight in gold in an effort to create rebounds. Foote and Johansen combined for two shots in game two to only validate my point further. 
  • While the penalty killing unit surrendered three power play goals against, emotions also unravelled allowing the Blazers back in a game. Five on five, the Rockets were the better team. I didn't like Kole Lind's high sticking penalty, which the Blazers scored on, making it 3-2. That seemed to give the road team the belief that they could indeed rally like they did in the third period in game one. Lucas Johansen's cross checking penalty in a one goal game just can't happen either. While you want to defend a team-mate, you have to stay disciplined in that situation. Dawson Davidson scores a power play goal with Johansen in the penalty box and it's a 3-3 tie.
  • I really like Rourke Chartier's effort in this series. Chartier is the best forward on the ice for both teams. Chartier's battle level is immense and his care factor is extremely high. Rarely knocked off his skates, Chartier never relents. The word 'quit' does not exist in his game even if he should be gassed on a long shift. The 19 year-old had a team high 9 shots on goal in game two. I love how he is so trigger happy. While Chartier can take prolonged shifts without showing fatigue, that doesn't hold true for many of his team-mates who believe they can stay out for 90 second shifts with it not affecting their play. 
  • For my money, Gordie Ballhorn is having a real good series. The rookie is hard on pucks, makes hard clears on the penalty kill and likes to shoot the puck from the point.  
  • Soft clearing attempts by Rockets forwards in the first two games of this series is concerning. Tyson Baillie's weak attempt to clear the puck translated into the Blazers scoring their third goal Saturday night. Rodney Southam's attempt to clear the puck in game one when it looked like a simple chip off the boards and out also resulted in the puck ended up in his own net. Sorry, but at this time of the year with veteran players in those crucial situations, that puck has to be cleared.   
  • The power play has to come alive in this series. Now 0 for 10, even one goal can be a difference maker. 
  • Gage Quinney is having a nice series against his old team. The 20 year-old has 1+3=4 in the two games. 
  • The Blazers have scored seven goals in this series. Five of those seven have come in the third period. The Rockets have scored seven goals in this series. Four of those seven have come in the second period.
  • The series shift to Kamloops for games Tuesday and Wednesday. Game three should be extremely interesting with it being played at Memorial Arena. The 67 year-old facility is being used because the World Women's Hockey Championships are taking place at Sandman Centre. Game four on Wednesday will be played at Sandman Centre.

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