Saturday, April 23, 2016

Rockets drop opener on home ice

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Rodney Southam missed what appeared to be a wide open net in the first period of a scoreless tie Friday night between the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds. The 19 year-old may also miss playing time if he is slapped with a WHL suspension. Southam took a run at T-Birds penalty killer Cavin Leth in the third period, receiving a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct. Leth left the game woozy and never returned as the T-Birds went on to a 2-1 win in game one of the Western Conference Championship series. League disciplinarian Richard Doerksen was in the building and had a birds eye view of the infraction. We will know before game two on Saturday if the Rockets captain is in or out of the line up for the rematch.
  • The T-Birds erupted for two goals :36 seconds apart late in the second period and then nursed the lead until the final buzzer. Mathew Barzal opened the scoring on a power play goal when Tyson Baillie was accessed a goaltender interference penalty. Without question it was interference by Baillie, but prior to the 20 year-old being fingered to the penalty box, the T-Birds could have easily been called for interference. Baillie split between two defenceman in an effort to chase down a loose puck that was rolling just inside the Seattle zone. No call was made and Baillie made contact with goaltender Landon Bow. The T-Birds scored on the power play and it is 1-0 for the visitors. Scott Eansor made it 2-0 just :36 seconds later when his low shot at the right circle hit defenceman Cal Foote in the skate and it went into the net. 
  • Despite trailing 2-0, on this night it seemed too tough a hill to climb for the home team. Manufacturing just 7 scoring chances through 60 minutes, much of the zone time resulted in shots from the perimeter. The majority, if not all, were 'one and done' shot attempts on Seattle goaltender Landon Bow. The 20 year-old was given the first star in the building for his efforts, but that was gracious on behalf of the selection committee. It was a easy night for Bow, who's best stop came in the second period against Riley Stadel with a nice glove hand save. Stadel backhanded the puck on goal from in-tight from the near post with Bow snaring it with his trapper as the puck was sent to his left. Stadel was among the leaders with three shots on goal. 
  • The best player on the ice? T-Birds Scott Eansor by a country mile in my opinion. Eansor, all 5 foot 8 of him, had great energy, made a nice move on a defender for his goal and came close to scoring an empty netter late in the third period. It is hard to believe the just turned 20 year-old had only 12 goals this season. Eansor was the best forward and I thought 18 year-old Turner Ottenbreit was really good on the blue-line. Ottenbreit led all T-Birds players in ice time with just over 30 minutes.
  • Who was the Rockets best player? When it is tough for me to answer that question, it isn't a very good sign. I thought everyone was average at best. No one individual stood out. Usually it is easy to point to goaltender Michael Herringer, but honestly, the 20 year-old didn't have to make any highlite reel saves. Early in the game, the Rockets shot blocking was near perfect so Herringer didn't see many quality chances. Don't get me wrong, Herringer was steady in the loss but did not have to be spectacular. No five alarm saves were needed unlike what we witnessed in a second round series against Victoria.
  • My biggest concern is scoring, or a lack-thereof from Tyson Baillie and Dillon Dube. They are just too quiet for me right now. Justin Kirkland is generating all the offense on that line. The only encouraging sign was that trio generated six shots on net with Dube firing three pucks on goal.  
  • I am not sure how the T-Birds viewed their performance in game one, but if they think they played well, then we have ourselves a series. Outside of a solid first period, the Rockets were very underwhelming. That said, they only lost by a goal and surrendered 12 scoring chances against. Again, it was the lack of scoring chances at the other end of the ice that needs to change for the team to earn a win in game two. 

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