Sunday, November 27, 2016

Biggest win of the season?

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Kole Lind walked away from last night's 3-2 overtime win against the Regina Pats with a new suit and the game winning goal. The Kelowna Rockets leading scorer was named the McDermott's Men's Wear Player of the Month for November, and then promptly finished off a nice two way passing play with teammate Tomas Soustal in arguably the biggest win of the season. The willingness to compete at a high level against one of the elite teams in the WHL was eye popping. It clearly showed this team is significantly better than its record would indicate, but, but, if they don't play at that high compete level, they will remain in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference standings all season long.
  • Assistant Coach Kris Mallette hit it on the nose when he spoke about one key area that really impressed him. "Shot blocking", he said without hesitation on the post game show. Rodney Southam was terrific in that area and so were his teammates. I thought Devante Stephens also did a great job of sacrificing his body for the greater good of the team. As Mallette told me on the post game show, "If we play like that, we are going to win some hockey games".
  • Getting back to Stephens, is the 19 year-old not having a wicked season? After struggling mightily in 2015-2016, the switch has clicked in his game and he is making great reads with and without the puck. Stephens has 6 goals this season. 6! That is off the charts good for a player who often tiptoed in the offensive zone. Now he is a regular in that area and his wicked, wicked, wicked speed makes him a valuable asset on the blue line. Coach Mallette deserves create for being patient with this player and helping him turn his game around. 
  • How good was overtime? Wow. Do you like three on three? It was scary good with chances both ways. Who would have thought that Pats d-man Connor Hobbs would cough up the puck in his own zone in overtime and leading scorer Kole Lind would find himself on a two-on-one with Tomas Soustal? Soustal, who should have been named a game star with 3 points, feathered a pass back to Lind who scored his 13th goal of the season. Game over! 
  • My colleague Wayne Moore from the Castanet (Hey Wayne, I'm crediting you, so don't be afraid to return the favour ;) said it right when we chatted after the game. "Tomas Soustal is Leon Draisaitl lite". I agree with that. Soustal is more of a bull that Leon. Sure, Draisaitl had more skill, but Soustal has very good hands for a big man and deserves a shot of playing pro hockey. 'Sous' was in on all three goals the Rockets scored. If you want to be a big player you better show up in the big game. Soustal did just that.
  • Why is Adam Brooks playing his 20 year-old season in the WHL? Holy smokes is he good. A draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brooks was the Pats best player, outside of goaltender Tyler Brown, who was terrific. Brooks is always around the puck, slows down the play and his play in his own zone is razor sharp. Brooks is not a cheater in the ugly end...the defensive zone.
  • I think the Pats are a marvelous team. They really are. This was the 6th and final road game for them, yet they did not disappoint with their skill set, effort and overall team game. They have few shortcomings, and with the addition of one or two players, have a legitimate shot of becoming the first team since the 1992-93 Swift Current Broncos to be a Saskatchewan based team to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup. 
  • A real good conversation with Pats Head Coach John Paddock before the game. To say I know Paddock well would be an outright lie. That said, we had a good chat both on the record and off it. I like him. I like his team. He didn't approach me with the 'Let's get this over with attitude'. Paddock is a pro, is personable and his team is in exceptional hands with him guiding a squad that is high on talent, has a certain confidence that championship team must have, yet the veteran coach also doesn't pull punches when his team plays poorly.    
  • Excuses could have been used in this game for both teams. The Rockets were playing without top 4 d-man Gordie Ballhorn. The Pats were playing without leading scorer Sam Steel. The Rockets were playing with 10 forwards. So, essentially Jason Smith was running three forward lines. The Pats were playing the 6th and final game of a wicked road trip. 

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