Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Sous' lets loose

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • You will have to pardon Kamloops Blazers head coach Don Hay if he cringes at the very word - overtime - when his team takes the ice at Prospera Place. The veteran coach was behind the bench in the 2009 Western Conference final with the Vancouver Giants. That season, Hay witnessed Rockets forward Mikael Backlund score the game winning goal in overtime lifting the home town team to a series win. Hay was again behind the bench this time with the Kamloops Blazers and witnessed the game winning goal go against his team at the exact same end of the ice as in 2009. Tomas Soustal, who scored 7 times during the regular season against the Blazers, gathered up a rebound off a long shot from team-mate Gordie Ballhorn in overtime lifting the Rockets to a 2-1 game seven win.  It was Soustal's 10th goal against the Blazers this season (7 during the regular season and three in the playoffs) and matched his playoff point total (6) from all of last season. Soustal managed just 4 goals and 2 assists in 19 games in the Rockets journey towards the 2015 WHL title.
  • We don't often mention him, but Tanner Wishnowski was one of the key players on that game winning goal. It was his pass in his own zone to Soustal to set the play in motion. Wishnowski had a solid second half of the series and appeared to get a greater responsibility with increased ice time with his improved play.
  • It looked like the Rockets wouldn't see the second round after two tremendous chances to score went for not. Late in the third period, with the game tied at one, Rourke Chartier hit the post and then in overtime, Cole Linaker beat Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram but hit the cross bar. The Rockets had far and away the better quality scoring chances. The Blazers best chance in overtime came when 20 year-old defenceman Ryan Rehill's slap pass hit the corner boards inside the Rockets zone and quickly came out behind a startled Michael Herringer and out the other side of the net. Had that puck hit Herringer in the back of the leg/skate, it may have been the series clincher and the Blazers, not the Rockets, would be off to the second round.
  • Tyson Baillie likely played his best game of the series. While not scoring, the 20 year-old had several quality chances and ripped a hard shot off the shoulder of Ingram in the third period when the game was tied at one. Baillie had three assists in the seven games and must be a handful against the Victoria Royals in round two.
  • Connor Ingram was crazy good. The just turned 19 year-old goalie gave his team a realistic chance at winning game seven and was one of the real reasons why this series went the distance. I am not sure which save was better? Was it his glove hand stop in game two against Dillon Dube or his paddle save against Rodney Southam in game six? No disrespect to the others, but the Rockets won't face a goaltender of this quality in the remainder of their playoff run. An NHL team has to give Ingram a contract or at least give him a shot. The 19 year-old is the real deal.
  • Joe Gatenby had a tremendous hit on Blazers captain Matt Needham in the first period. The clean hit at the Rockets blue line had Blazers forward Quinn Benjafield fighting the 18 year-old d-man. Benjafield received a two minute minor penalty for instigating the fight. That was the lone power play the Rockets were granted and they failed to score.
  • A little controversy in game seven when fans thought the Blazers power play goal in the second period should have been waved off because of goaltender interference. Video showed that Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby did make contact with Blazers forward Jiri Smejkal before the European forward knocked down Herringer. The fans booed at the call and have the right to express their anger and frustration. The anger from the home town crowd was likely the result of Tyson Baillie sitting in the penalty box for the exact same infraction which allowed the Blazers to go to the power play.  
  • It was the 8th time in franchise history the Rockets were involved in a game seven. It marked the third straight win after beating Everett (4 games to 3) in 2010 and Seattle (4 games to 3) in 2013. The Rockets also won a game seven against Seattle in 2005. 
  • Odd stat, but the Rockets and Blazers had the exact same number of shots on goal at series end. Both teams fired 243 pucks on net. 
  •  The Rockets meet the Royals in round two. It is the second straight season Kelowna and Victoria clash. The only difference is the Royals have home ice advantage this time.

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