Thursday, December 29, 2016

Rockets defeated by red hot goalie

Dylan Ferguson -Shoot the Breeze Photography 
  • It was suggested that the Kamloops Blazers were in a heap of trouble when starting goaltender Connor Ingram was named to Canada's roster for the World Junior Hockey Championships. With Ingram out of the line-up for no less than 10 games, the Blazers would fall flat on their faces by being forces to use back-up Dylan Ferguson. The 18 year-old had other ideas. Ferguson was the second star Tuesday night in a 3-2 loss to the Kelowna Rockets and then made 46 saves Wednesday in a 5-1 win. Had it not been for Ferguson's stellar play, specifically in Wednesday's rematch, the Rockets would have extended their winning streak to five games. Instead, the Blazers moved within two points of the Rockets for second place in the BC Division with 34 games left to be played for both teams. 
  • Ferguson's best save came on a point blank chance when Rockets leading scorer Kole Lind found himself one-on-one with the Blazers goalie. With the home team leading 2-1, Lind lifted the puck up in an effort to fire it into the corner of the net. Ferguson flared out his glove to make a huge stop, denying the Rockets leading scorer of his 21st goal of the season. Shortly after that glorious chance, Jake Kryski also had a pin-point opportunity but appeared to miss the net. The Blazers would score on that same sequence when Jermaine Loewen went wide on Rockets defenceman Lucas Johansen and tucked the puck past goaltender Brodan Salmond to make the score 3-1.  In my opinion, that was the TSN turning point. Had either Lind or Kryski scored, the Blazers would have been in a heap of trouble.
  • It was just one of those nights in the offensive zone. The Rockets created 18 scoring chances which is a fairly high number. Only rookie forward Nolan Foote was able to find the back of the net with a sweet wrister on the power play that tied the score at 1. Foote now has 9 goals this season and arguably has one, if not the best release on the team. Nolan's older brother Cal was a workhorse on the blue line over the last two night's and logged major minutes. Cal seemed to play with more bite in both games and used his strength and body to punish opposing forwards. I thought he was terrific in both. Cal makes the fewest mistakes of any of the blueliners, has a booming shot and his body positioning is excellent. If he can play meaner, like he did in back-to-back games, I can't see why he won't be considered a top 10 NHL pick.
  • I still think the Rockets take too many penalties, specifically at Sandman Centre. While it has only been two visits this season, players like Jake Kryski can't be going to the penalty box three times a game. Kryski isn't a physical player, and if it isn't a physical penalty, one stick foul per game, minimum, is acceptable. The fact is, the Blazers have had 16 power play chances in two games against the Rockets at Sandman Centre. That number should be cut in half, especially against a Blazers team that isn't that physical either. The best stick foul of the game came from Blazers forward Luc Smith when he had no choice but to hook Nolan Foote. With Ferguson out of position, the puck was in Foote's wheel house but he couldn't get a shot off because Smith, who was making his Blazers debut, was hooking him. 
  • Despite the loss, the Rockets didn't lose any ground on the first place Prince George Cougars. The Rockets remain six points back of the BC Division leaders, who lost back-to-back games in Victoria. 
  • It is official. Seventeen year-old Erik Gardiner will remain with the team for the remainder of the season. Gardiner, who started the season with the SJHL's Humboldt Broncos, has 6 points in 6 games with the Rockets (1+5=6) and has points in 4 of the 6 games he has played.
  • Both teams were again playing short staffed. The Rockets welcomed Lucas Johansen back to the line-up after missing Tuesday's game with illness. In saying that, nine regulars (combined) were missing for both teams. With these two teams almost destined to meet in the playoffs, when every player is available, it should make for some excellent hockey.  
  • Lucas Johansen has a modest 4 game point streak going. The 19 year-old has 0+5=5 over that stretch.
  • Nolan Foote missed the first 6 games of the regular season while he recovered from mono. Can you image what his goal total would be had he played in those games? Foote has 9 goals in just 26 games this season, which including missing an addition 6 games while playing at the Under 17's in November.    
  • Up next? A date with the Victoria Royals on Friday. The Rockets are 2-1-0-0 against the Royals after 6-4 and 5-1 wins. Combined, these two teams are 32-0-1-0 when leading after 40 minutes. Let's just say, having the lead going into the third period will be pivotal.

No comments: