|Kevin Light photo|
- The Victoria Royals were prime for the pick'n. Unfortunately, the Kelowna Rockets failed to take advantage. Without Joe Hicketts, the Royals best player, and complimentary piece Vladimir Bobylev because of injury, the Rockets came up short in a 2-1 loss last night in game one of the WHL Western Conference semi final. Who's to blame? This one falls on the shoulders of the power play. While only given four chances, Royals forward Jared Dmytriw was accessed a four minute penalty for high sticking. The result? No goal. Then in the second period, trailing 2-1, the Rockets found themselves on a five minute power play when Royals top face-off man Logan Fisher was ejected after a dangerous hit on Tanner Wishnowski. Result? No goal. By my count, the Rockets had four shots on goal in that five minute span. Four! The penalty killing unit, which is always easy to blame, was lights out terrific in going 4 for 4. The Rockets power play is now the worst unit in the WHL playoffs. At 6.7 %, it needs to change. Not the personnel, but the concept. As the saying goes, 'when it ain't broke don't fix it.' The saying also goes, 'if it isn't working, blow it up'.
- The Rockets wasted a solid game from goaltender Michael Herringer. Herringer was sharp in making 29 saves and was named the third star. The Royals shooters can make you look silly, so Herringer's strong play was needed and he came through. While 41 shots were directed at the other end of the ice, the team had a handful of secondary chances on Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath who was named the first star. Vollrath was not pressed into duty in making a Connor Ingram type stop.
- Despite being scored upon first, I thought it was a solid start for the defending champions. The Rockets had significant offensive zone time and the defenceman, specifically, were able to get shots off towards the net. But typically against elite competition, a failed clearing attempt on an easy chip off the boards and out and the Royals opened the scoring on a turnover. The defenceman are always easy to blame for mistakes in the d-zone, but honestly, it is often a board battle loss by a forward that is allowing for the creation of a goal or a solid scoring chance.
- If Joe Hicketts doesn't play, who is the Royals best player? I think Jack Walker is terrific and makes an impact every time he is out on the ice. Let's just say he is always noticeable. The same can be said for Tyler Soy. Those are two players that rarely take a shift off. To be honest, I thought the Rockets best players were OK, but not spectacular. That is often the difference between a win and a loss at this time of the year.
- It was nice to see Tyson Baillie finally score. That was a long time between goals for the 20 year-old forward. Baillie's wrap around goal came just 1:03 after the Royals opened the scoring. It was Baillie's 24th career playoff goal which matches the number he wears on his jersey.
- The Victoria crowd was a feisty group. Whether it be a disallowed goal or a Royals forward being tangled up with a Rockets player, the crowd let the officials know they were unhappy. I thought the crowd was terrific. That's what home ice advantage is all about.
- It is an off day for both teams. The Rockets elected not to skate before getting back to work Saturday for game two. A win tomorrow night and we are back here in Victoria for a game five.