- "Houston, we have a problem". That quote from the movie Apollo 13 may best describe the current state of the Kelowna Rockets. With only three wins in the first 10 games of the regular season, the team is off to it's slowest start since the 2010-2011 campaign. That year, the team was also 3-7-0-0 after 10 games but would eventually come together for a 43 win season and would earn a BC Division banner in the process. The struggles for the Rockets continued Saturday night with their poorest performance of the weekend in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Swift Current Broncos. The first 8 minutes of the game were terrific for the home team, but it was all down hill from there as the Rockets extended their losing streak to three games.
- It looked like the Rockets were going to lay a licking on the Broncos early in Saturday's match up. The home team had a territorial advantage and looked sharp on its opening power play of the game when Broncos forward Owen Blocker took an interference penalty at the 2:39 mark. While unable to cash in, the Rockets had several good looks and out-shot the visitors 8-1 at one point. The save of the game, and maybe the turning point in a scoreless tie, came when Broncos netminder Taz Burman made a huge glove hand save against Rockets forward Nick Merkley. Had Merkley scored, would the flood gates have opened for the home team? Instead, the Broncos ended up scoring the first three goals and the Rockets found themselves in familiar territory by chasing the game.
- Bad penalties again proved costly for the Rockets. The Broncos struck three times with the extra man and built up a 2-0 lead on Jonathan Smart's hooking penalty and Nolan Foote's roughing minor in the second period. In a span of four minutes, the game turned from 1-0 to 3-1 for the Broncos. The penalty killing unit is having a rough time, having surrendered 6 goals against in their last 19 kills.
- It only seems to make sense that when the team is struggling to score goals, the power play is dormant. With four goals in their last four games, the power play is 0 for 14 over that stretch.
- Who was the best player on the ice for the Rockets? I thought Nick Merkley was, but his play faded much like his teammates as the Broncos took over the game. I thought everyone on the roster played a very quiet game with no one standing out. Captain Rodney Southam was involved in two fights which showed he was engaged emotionally in the game. Tomas Soustal was named the third star, but I thought he too had a very quiet game.
- Swift Current had several players that played a noticeable difference in the outcome of the game. Taz Burman was sharp, but I really thought Lane Pederson proved why the Arizona Coyotes signed him to an NHL deal last week. Pederson is around pucks, works hard and is a difference maker. The 19 year-old hit the post on a breakaway in the third period or he could have added to his two assist night. I would suggest Pederson outplayed Merkley, and those two are vying for a spot on the Coyotes roster in the not so distance future. Aleksi Heponiemi was the real deal with 1+1=2 and will challenge for the WHL rookie scoring title this season.
- The Broncos are an older group with 10-19 year-old's but interestingly they ice only one 20 year-old.
- Before we throw the baby out with the bath water, let's remember the Rockets were playing without two highly skilled players this weekend, Jake Kryski was ill while Dillon Dube is still two weeks away from returning from a lower body injury. Add those two players and the depth of the team, from a skill standpoint, increases dramatically. Right now the Rockets are essentially a two line team as the third and fourth lines are generating little in the way of offense. Once Kryski and Dube return, that changes the complexion of the team significantly.
- Up next, a date with the visiting Everett Silvertips on Wednesday. The Tips will outwork you and won't take penalties. They are as disciplined as they come. The Rockets may want to take a page from their playbook.
Sunday, October 16, 2016
Houston, we have a problem!
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