Saturday, September 24, 2016

Rough start to Rockets season

  • It will be a night Joe Gatenby won't soon forget. Either will new Kelowna Rockets head coach Jason Smith. Newly acquired defenceman Joe Gatenby had his first career two-goal game, against his old team, in the Kamloops Blazers 9-2 win Friday night at Sandman Centre. Gatenby opened the scoring late in the first period on a power play slapper that beat Rockets starting goaltender Michael Herringer.  Gatenby would then be awarded a second period goal which originally was given to rookie Scott Mahovlich. Thanks to improved video replay, Gatenby's weak shot on goal was stopped by goaltender Brodan Salmond, (Salmond replaced starter Michael Herringer after surrendering 4 goals on 18 shots) but as Salmond attempted to reel the puck in, it slid into the net with Mahovlich attempting to bang at it. Video replay showed the rookie forward didn't make contact with the puck so it was Gatenby's goal. The 19 year-old also chipped in with an assist and was named the games first star. Not a bad debut for Gatenby, who the Blazers obtained from the Rockets in the Jake Kryski deal this summer. As for Jason Smith, it had to have felt like a long night for the first year head coach. I am sure he didn't envision his first WHL game behind the bench resulting in such a lopsided loss.
  • The real undoing for the Rockets in this game would be the number of trips they made to the penalty box. The Blazers were given 10 power play chances and scored on six of them. The Rockets took 7 of the first 8 minors in the game, and with a team that had only 15 skaters, it was a recipe for disaster. The Rockets were given eight power play opportunities, including a 5 on 3 with under five minutes left, but they failed to cash in on that chance thanks to solid goaltending from Blazers starter Dylan Ferguson. 
  • The Rockets played this game without Dillon Dube, Nick Merkley, Calvin Thurkauf, Lucas Johansen, Bradyn Chizen and Devante Stephens. All six are still at NHL training camps. Was it a factor in the lopsided loss? Sure. But the Blazers had three elite players out of the line-up too, including 19 year-old goaltender Connor Ingram. 
  • Positives? Kole Lind and Jake Kryski each scored once and added an assist in the loss. Outside of those two players though, little in the way of scoring chances were created from the visitors.
  • Rookie Kyle Topping earned his first career WHL point with an assist on Kole Lind's second period goal. Topping, Jake Cowell and Conrad Belcourt were all making their WHL debuts in last nights setback.
  • The Blazers scored several goals by owning the front of the net. Tap-ins or being allowed to jam away for secondary chances were plentiful. The Rockets d-core needs to have more bite and an increased battle level in front of their own goaltender.
  • The good news? The two teams meet again tonight at Prospera Place in the Rockets home opener. The Rockets will again be short staffed, but so will the Blazers.   

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