Sunday, October 30, 2016

'Devo' dazzles in road win

Devante Stephens - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Devante Stephens had many nights last season that he would like to forget. Having turned the page from the 2015-2016 season, the now 19 year-old is making memories in his third season in the WHL and isn't looking back. The swift skating defenceman's most memorable moment came Saturday night, at the Moda Center in Portland, in the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 win. Stephens scored three times for his first career hat trick and was named the 1st star in the process. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick scored the game winner shorthanded in the second period by using his tremendous speed to join an odd man rush with captain Rodney Southam. It was a great night for 'Devo' and an impressive outing for a team that was playing one skater short.
  • As mentioned, Stephens most impressive goal was the shorthanded effort. With Rodney Southam controlling the puck just inside his own blue-line, Stephens, who was defending in front of Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer, let loose with his tremendous speed and hustled into the play to join Southam on an odd man rush. Stephens blew away Winterhawks leading scorer Cody Glass, who was back checking, in the foot race up ice and calmly put the puck into the net as Southam feathered it across. I've spoken about Stephens speed in the past, but it was a secret among many in the WHL until now. With added confidence, Stephens is skating with the puck more and his acceleration is off the charts. I believe Stephens possesses NHL caliber speed.
  • Who was the last Rockets d-man to score three goals in a game prior to Stephens? After further review, Riley Stadel scored three goals against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, as a defenceman, on October 16/2013. 
  • The Rockets played this game short staffed. Gordie Ballhorn and Riley Stadel did not play while Dillon Dube remains sidelined with a lower body injury. First year forward Nolan Foote, who is no ordinary rookie, is participating at the Under 16's in Sault St. Marie, Ontario this week. Despite the lack of numbers, others stepped up in their absence as the Rockets ran their winning streak to an impressive five games.
  • It was nice to see Nick Merkley find the back of the net for the first time this season. Merkley's power play goal six minutes into the third period gave the visitors the 3-2 lead.
  • These two teams are evenly matched. The game was tied three times before the Rockets pulled away with back-to-back goals in the third period.
  • The Rockets have scored 16 goals in their last three games. Problem solved offensively?     
  • Negatives? Far too many penalties against the best power play unit (statistically) in the WHL. The Rockets allowed the Winterhawks six chances with the extra man and were fortunate to kill off all six.
  • The Rockets surrendered 41 shots on goal in the uptempo affair. I think that number may be a little high for the coaching staff as goaltender Michael Herringer was kept busy. The Rockets generated amply chances on goal though. With 39 shots at the Winterhawks net, Michael Bullion had to be sharp, specifically with his rebound control.
  • Bullion's best save came courtesy of a little help from the goal post. Forward Kole Lind was sent in on a second period breakaway, went to the backhand, and appeared to have Bullion beaten. But as luck would have it, Lind's attempt was in vain as the puck hit the post with Bullion flat on his stomach in an effort to make a right pad save. Overall, I thought Bullion was very good for the home team.
  • The Winterhawks have another solid European player in Joachim Blichfeld. I thought the Denmark born forward created several good chances and ended up opening the scoring. The Winterhawks have one of the best pipelines to players overseas. Over the years, it has become a constant on their team. 
  • The Rockets are now 8-7-0-0 on the season after starting the year at 3-7-0-0. The team is 4 and 4 on the road heading into a rematch with the Winterhawks this afternoon at 5 pm.
  • A reminder, 'The Kelowna Rockets This Week' will air from 4 pm until 4:30 pm this afternoon prior to the pre-game show. Featured guests include Calvin Thurkauf's father and Kelowna Rockets public address announcer Bill Barnes. 

1 comment:

g.k said...

No Stadel, no Balhorn, & no Foote, well done !! Are they injured Regean?