Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Physical approach produces favourable result

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Gut check time. The Kelowna Rockets passed the test. Needing a massive win in game three of their second round playoff series with the Victoria Royals Tuesday night, the defending WHL champions delivered. Playing with determination and physicality, the team's best player - Rourke Chartier - was in on all three goals in a heart palpitating 3-2 win. Instead of being down 3 games to 0, the series is now 2-1 Victoria. The Rockets have a chance to make it a best of three series with a win in game four tomorrow night at Prospera Place.
  • Michael Herringer made several timely saves in the one goal win. Herringer made a breakaway stop on Royals forward Jack Walker in the second period that gave me a good indicator that he was indeed dialled in. Royals netminder Coleman Vollrath also had to be very good as the Rockets created significantly more quality opportunities on goal. Had either goaltender been average, it could have been a 6-5 final. 
  • I have to give high praise to Cole Linaker for his significantly improved play in game three. Linaker was put to the test late in the game and came through in flying colours against arguably the best face-off man in the Western Conference - Logan Fisher. Linaker won several defensive zone face-offs when the Royals pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker. 
  • Calvin Thurkauf was a horse. The 18 year-old punished every opposing player he confronted and led the hit parade with Tanner Wishnowski. What I liked most about those two players, specifically, was their ability to hit hard, but hit clean.
  • I say little about Devante Stephens on this blog, but his speed really stood out last night. The second year d-man made a high risk decision to break up a possible 2-1 in the second period by racing to a loose puck in the neutral zone and broke up the play with his tremendous speed. The speed he possesses can also get his team out of trouble when the Royals apply a relentless fore-check.
  • Speaking of defenceman. Yes, Cal Foote failed to clear the puck on the 3-2 goal, but Foote has the physical girth needed when you are protecting the lead.  You need that big body presence, net front, with the opposition banging away in a desperate effort to score. Foote logs massive minutes and is playing against an elite forward group in this series. What a great pass to Rourke Chartier on the 2-0 goal. What a learning experience for him and rookie blue liners Gordie Ballhorn and Jonathan Smart. I really like Ballhorn. Ballhorn has a massive shot from the blue line and makes hard passes. If the recipient can't handle it, at least it exits the zone with velocity. How about Ballhorn's shot blocking. Wow!     
  • The Rockets d-men have to be prepared. Put your head on a swivel. For the first time in this series, I really noticed one Royals forward sneaking/cheating behind the Rockets defence for a long pass. Jack Walker was often seen skating just outside the offensive blue line awaiting a long pass. 
  • The Rockets need to clean up their neutral zone work. The number of times the puck was turned over in that area resulting in odd man rushes, which the Royals feasted upon. Puck management needs to improve significantly in that area of the ice. 
  • I like the line of Rourke Chartier, Tomas Soustal and Calvin Thurkauf.  That line must not change. Chartier needs line-mates that work as hard as him but play with a high skill set.   
  • It was nice to see Dillon Dube score. He has to be a difference maker in this series for the Rockets to succeed. I wish he would shoot more and shoot lower. How did he score his power play goal? Oh ya, funny that it was on the ice. Make Vollrath make a save!!
  • I hate to bring this up, but the Royals are extremely adept at fall down easily or grabbing their mouths as if they were high sticked in the face. It is called embellishment. Tip of the hat to referee Mark Pearce for making an embellishment call when Royals d-man Joe Hicketts went down softly in a battle with Calvin Thurkauf in front of the net. Video made it look comical as Hicketts went down easily on an apparent cross check from Thurkauf.  Pearce wasn't buying it. Good on the officials for keeping the integrity of the game intact.
  • Speaking of the officials, nothing gives me more joy than when off setting minor penalties are handed out when two players are jostling. Why give out only one penalty? Off setting penalties keep the game under control and allow the two team's to decide the game even strength. Bitch and complain all you want about the officiating, I don't think it is that bad. As I mentioned in game two, the call on the ice was correct. The officials are making the right call more times than not.  
  • The Rockets opening the scoring and are now 5-1 when doing so in the playoffs. 
  • The team that scores first has won all three games and the home team has won all three times.   

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