Kyle Beach Interview

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Whistle will undergo hip surgery

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Jackson Whistle will go out a winner. Unfortunately, the 20 year-old goaltender will have his Kelowna Rockets career end by injury. The West Kelowna product will have season ending hip surgery, meaning he won't be able to help his team repeat as WHL champions.
The team was hoping rest was the best remedy to treat the injury, but after missing 25 consecutive games after making a start December 30th against the Everett Silvertips, his hip ailment just wasn't getting better. Surgery will be required.
Hip surgery for a young goaltender is nothing new. Look no further than Vancouver Giants Daniel Wapple, who also was shut down in November to undergo the procedure. Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko, a 2nd round pick, had it done. So did New York Rangers netminder Mackenzie Skapski. Skapski is also 20. Jets's prospect and former Tri City Americans goalie Eric Comrie had the procedure in 2013. One of the most notable goalies to have hip surgery is Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne.
Why are all of these goalies having hip problems at such a young age and are requiring surgery? The butter fly technique, used extensively by today's goalies over the stand up style first used, is likely to blame.  

Here is the press release from the Rockets:

Kelowna Rockets President/GM Bruce Hamilton announced on Monday that Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle will miss the rest of the WHL season and playoffs due to injury.

Whistle, 20, will undergo two different surgeries to repair torn labrum muscles on each of his hips. The first surgery will take place this week and the second one is scheduled for next month.

“It’s a huge loss for our hockey team and a tough situation for Jackson,” said Hamilton. “We’re hoping that surgery helps him get through this so he can continue with his career.”

The injury, which worsened through the season before Whistle was finally forced to the sidelines, will end Whistle’s junior hockey career. The West Kelowna native joined the Rockets in the 2012-13 WHL season after being acquired from the Vancouver Giants, where he played his rookie season.

Over the next four seasons, he played in 120 regular season games for the Rockets and a further 20 in the playoffs, including 19 last year, when the Rockets won the WHL Championship and made it all the way to the final of the Memorial Cup.

“I’ve loved playing for the Kelowna Rockets,” said Whistle. “It’s been the best four years of my life and I’ve loved every minute of it, playing in my hometown, in front of my friends and family. I’m really going to miss my teammates. We have had such good teams and I think we’re going to do really well again this year.”

It’s expected to take six months for Whistle to fully heel from surgery. Overall Whistle closes out his WHL career with 87 wins, a career .912 save percentage and a 2.59 goals against average.

Hamilton said Jackson has had a great career for the Rockets.

“Last year Jackson was such an important part of our team and the run we had,” said Hamilton. “He was a big part of our march to the Memorial Cup and he was outstanding in the tournament. He was patient waiting for his opportunity when Jordan Cooke was here and he learned how to work hard and a be a number one goalie. We’re very hopeful the surgeries are successful.”

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Skill won't do it this time. Determination will.

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February isn't only the shortest month on the Western Hockey League schedule, it is also the
toughest. The Kelowna Rockets met the month head-on though, winning 10 of 13 games and doing it without their first half MVP and an elite forward. Jackson Whistle didn't play a game in February. Nick Merkley suffered a season ending ACL injury on February 5th against Spokane. Others needed to step up and that is exactly what they did.

Over the last 26 days, the team beat Lethbridge in what at the time was a first place showdown of the top two teams in the WHL. Mission accomplished. The Rockets faced high end Red Deer and handed the Master Card Memorial Cup hosts a loss. The team finally beat the Seattle Thunderbirds and managed to throw dirt in the face of the Everett Silvertips by beating them in overtime. Not only did the Rockets beat the Tips, but they did it in their own backyard after the U.S Division leaders earned two overtime victories at Prospera Place in late December and early January.

The Rockets lost only three times in the month, with setbacks to Spokane, Seattle and Vancouver. Outside of that, seven victories in the final eight games was the way the team closed out the month.
Did the wins come easy? Not a chance. This team will have to fight for everything they get. It isn't a one man show here. Not any more! Not one player can carry this team on it's back. Those days are gone with the loss of Whistle and Merkley. What this team does have going for them is the ability to grunt out victories. It may not look pretty at times but the results speak for themselves.

With the calender turning to March, the Rockets are three weeks away from possibly doing what the 2013-2014 team was able to accomplish. It is an opportunity to capture the Scotty Munro Trophy as regular season champions. 

As the old saying goes; greatness isn't given, it's earned. 

The Victoria Royals aren't going down without a fight and Dave Lowry's team, unlike previous seasons, will be keeping their gloves firmly intact in an effort to beat you with skill, not brawn.

The two teams meet March 16th in what will be an epic game. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Tyson Time

Tyson Baillie became only the 5th player in Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets franchise history to reach 300 points in a career with a goal in Friday night's 4-3 win in Vancouver.
A third round bantam pick, Baillie has played in 319 games, scoring 132 goals and collecting 168 assists. Baillie's first point was recorded in his 16 year-old season in Everett, Washington when the soft spoken forward had a goal and an assist in his first career game. It was a sign of things to come.
Congratulations on the massive accomplishment.
Tyson Baillie joins Brett McLean, Jason Deleurme, John Varga and Marty Flichel as the five players to ever hit the 300 point plateau.
This season, Baillie leads the team with 85 points and is fourth in WHL scoring.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Flying high for 40 minutes and sealing it in OT

Justin Kirkland - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • It isn't often that the Everett Silvertips are outworked, out-chanced and out- scored. Through 40 minutes Wednesday night at Xfinity Arena in Everett, the Kelowna Rockets did everything right against them and owned the ice. They hit, they were first to loose pucks and dominated territorial play. They were full marks for a 5-1 lead after two periods. The score at the end of the night though would read - 6-5 overtime win for the Rockets. Was it a change of goalie to start the third period that somehow changed the Tips fortunes around in an effort to make it a close game? Was it an over confident team that was admiring it's two most complete back-to-back periods in recent memory? Maybe? With backup goaltender Mario Petit taking over from starter Carter Hart, who had a rare off night, the home team scored four unanswered goals to tie the game at five. In the blink of an eye, the Rockets momentum was snuffed out and the Tips were destined to send this game into overtime in an improbable comeback. Fortunately, the Rockets, who have lost twice this season already to the Tips in overtime, were able to find the game winning goal off the stick of Justin Kirkland just 1:24 into extra time. It re-emphasized that no lead in junior hockey is safe, even a four goal lead.
  • It wasn't a good night for Michael Herringer. The 20 year-old goaltender will admit it. We can't forget the many times this season where Herringer held his team in the game when they were struggling in front of him. I am always a big supporter of the goalies and the pressures they face because each move, or mistake, is like a massive red zit on your face. You can't cover it up no matter how hard you try. I liked the fact that his team-mates picked up Herringer and returned the favour by supporting the goaltender with offense. That's what team-mates do and that is what team sports is all about.    
  • Should we really be surprised that Justin Kirkland was the difference maker in overtime? The 19 year-old is on a different plain right now. Playing the best hockey of his career, Kirkland regrouped with the puck in his own zone in overtime and skated quickly up ice and let his patented snap shot fly, beating Petit to the blocker side. If he keeps this up, the Nashville Predators may be forced to sign him. Hopeful Kirkland's excellent play isn't too late.
  • Tyson Baillie scored twice, moving the winger within one point of 300 for his excellent career. Baillie was dangerous throughout the game and had no less than five scoring chances, including a breakaway pass that he accepted and then surprisingly elected to fire a slap shot at Tips goaltender Carter Hart from between the hash marks. Hart made the save. Ballie is now one goal shy of his career high 37 goals from a year ago.  
  • It was nice to see Calvin Thurkauf score twice and collect an assist. Thurkauf could have had his first career hat trick, but he unfortunately hit the goal post in the third period and was robbed by Petit with a desperation save which would have made the score 6-2. Thurkauf is a good blend of size and skill and I think there is more to Thurkauf's game than he is showing us. Often looking slow a foot, a touch more hustle/urgency or determination in his game and the Rockets have an excellent player on their hands. He's good now. Thurkauf could be great. I think he has the ability to score 30 goals in the WHL. Just say'n.
  • I thought Joe Gatenby had a great game. The 18 year-old's offensive awareness is often misunderstood. We pigeon hole him in being a defensive defenceman, but does that type of player make 50 foot tape-to-tape passes to spring Tyson Baillie and Calvin Thurkauf for breakaways? Gatenby's skill level was on display last night and his +4 rating was the icing on a great evening for the humble d-man. 
  • Riley Stadel has 9 fighting majors this season, matching his 'tilt total' from last season. 
  • The win moved the Rockets back into first place in the WHL standings, one point better than the Victoria Royals. The Rockets still hold a game in hand. With a day off today in Vancouver, the team looks to put the screws to the Giants tomorrow night at Pacific Coliseum after falling 4-2 to them last Saturday in a game that was tied after two periods. 
  • I had a lengthy conversation with Tips GM Garry Davidson prior to the game. It was nice just sitting in his office Wednesday afternoon and talking hockey. Davidson is a smart hockey man and is very candid in his thoughts on prospects Auston Matthews and Tyson Jost. Some of what we talked about is off the record and will remain that way. I appreciate Davidson sharing his philosophy on drafting players and his objective to be as competitive as the Portland Winterhawks in acquiring more American born talent.   

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Rockets game notes vs. Tips

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of a three game road trip tonight with a stop in Everett against the Tips. This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams, with the Rockets having been unable to beat the Tips in three attempts. Two of the three games have ended in overtime, but the Tips are the only team the Rockets has been unable to take two points away from this season in the Western Conference. The Rockets are coming off a 4-2 loss in Vancouver Saturday night. Tyson Baillie and Lucas Johansen scored in the team’s 16th loss of the season and fifth in the last eight road games. Brodan Salmond made 32 saves in the loss. In the big picture, the Rockets have points in 35 of 46 games (32-11-3-0). The Rockets are in Vancouver Friday before hosting the Spokane Chiefs to close out the month of February.

The Royal Rumble: The Kelowna Rockets are fighting with the Victoria Royals, for not only the BC Division regular season title, but more importantly the WHL regular season crown. The Rockets trail the Royals by one point. Kelowna has 12 games left while the Royals only have 10. The Rockets will play those 12 games over 25 nights while the Royals play their remaining 10 games over 23 evenings. The two teams clash for the final time this season on March 16th at Prospera Place.

Baillie 300: Tip your hat to Tyson Baillie. The 20 year-old forward is approaching the 300 point mark for his WHL career. The third round bantam pick, who is the highest scoring 3rd rounder in franchise history, has 297 points heading into tonight’s game. Only four other players in franchise history (Tacoma/Kelowna) have recorded over 300 career points with the Rockets. Brett McLean is the franchise leader with 375 points (1994-1999). John Varga had 333 points (1991-95). Jason Deleurme had 313 points (1994-1999) while Marty Flichel had 301 career points (1992-1996). Tyson Baillie leads the team in four categories (goals/assists/points/power play goals).  

Lordy, Lordy it’s 40! The Kelowna Rockets won their 40th game of the season Tuesday night. It marked the fourth consecutive season the team has won 40 or more games and is the 10th time they have accomplished the feat in franchise history. Those ten 40+ win seasons have come in the last 14 seasons. By comparison, the BC Divisions oldest team, the Kamloops Blazers, have won 40 or more games 15 times since 1984. The Rockets have been around since 1991. The Vancouver Giants have 6-40+ win seasons including five in a row from 2005-2009. Prince George has two 40 win campaigns while wet behind the ears Victoria has one. 

Number Crunching: The Rockets have been out-shot in first period in nine consecutive games. The team has allowed, on average, 14 shots on goal in the period over those nine games…The Rockets are a combined 69-1-5-0 when leading after two periods when you combine this seasons totals and last seasons….The Rockets are one of only three teams in the WHL that have not lost when leading after 40 minutes. The Rockets are 28-0-2-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods …Rourke Chartier enters tonight’s game with 200 career points.…The Rockets are a combined 53-18-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 22-3-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Vancouver, Red Deer and Saskatoon…..The Rockets are attempting to become the first team to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 9 of their final 12 games…The Rockets have 12 games left in the regular season. Of those 12 games, 6 will be played on home ice. Of those 12 games, 8 are against BC Division rivals…The Rockets were 13-1-0-0 against Central Division opponents this season. The only loss came in Lethbridge in the sixth game of the season….The Rockets have been out-shot in 39 of 60 games this season. 

Who’s Hot: Lucas Johansen has 2+8=10 in February and is riding a five game point streak (1+5=6). Johansen has points in 9 of his last 10 games…Cole Linaker is riding a five game point streak (3+2=5)…Linaker has a career high 40 points, one more point than a season ago…Tyson Baillie is riding a 5 game point streak (3+4=7)…Baillie has points in 7 of his last 8 games…Justin Kirkland has a five game point streak (2+5=7)…Kirkland has points in 7 of his last 8 games…The Rockets are 203-56-11-6 in their last 276 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 campaign.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

No third period rally this time

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  • Ryan Kubic wasn't very good Friday night in Kelowna. That said, the Vancouver Giants goaltender was solid Saturday night in a 4-2 win over the Kelowna Rockets. Kubic, who struggled mightily at Prospera Place in a 6-5 loss, made no less than three solid stops in the Giants 22nd win of the season. Kubic made two arm stops by flopping on his back in desperation, and with his left arm flush on the ice, stopped the puck from going over the goal line. Cal Foote was robbed in the second period while shorthanded when he out-waited Kubic after receiving a great pass from Justin Kirkland. Kubic would make the exact same desperation arm save on Rodney Southam in the third period. Kubic also robbed defenceman Lucas Johansen from close range with a nice glove hand save in the second period when the game was tied at one.
  • Another slow start for the Rockets in this one. Did it cost them the game? Likely not, but surrendering 19 shots on goal to the last place team in the Western Conference isn't a good sign. What it shows me is one team is playing with more determination while the other isn't willing to work hard enough to set the tone for the game. Instead of setting the pace, the Rockets are allowing the opposition to dictate the way the game is played. When the Giants scored three-third period goals in a span of 4:14, the road team found themselves down by three goals again for a second straight night. This time a comeback wasn't in the cards.
  • The Rockets best period was the second when they out-shot the Giants 12-5 and were able to tie the score at one heading into the third period. Tyson Baillie scored his team leading 34th goal of the season on a nice set up from Justin Kirkland. Baillie now has 297 career points. The 20 year-old now has three goals in his last four games.
  • For my money, Justin Kirkland is the most dangerous forward for the Rockets right now. I also consider him to be the teams best passer. Kirkland's soft hands and ability to distribute the puck is unmatched.
  • Lucas Johansen's strong play this month is really catching the eye of NHL scouts. Johansen is outplaying draft eligible team-mate Dillon Dube right now with his strong play and ability to contribute in the offensive zone. Johansen had a goal and an assist in the loss Saturday night and is riding a five game point streak. How good has Johansen been in February? The 18 year-old has points in 9 of 10 games and has 30 more points than he did in his rookie season.   
  • The Rockets elected to start Brodan Salmond in goal against the Giants. It was Salmond's first loss of his WHL career in a 32 save effort. Salmond was unfortunate on two of the four goals by losing sight of the puck and it being eventually jammed into the net. Salmond had little chance on Carter Popoff's third period goal, when a shot from the point, which went wide, bounced off the glass and was whacked out of mid-air and into the back of the net.  
  • For a second straight game the Rockets took far too many trips to the penalty box. Thankfully it wasn't as bad as Friday when they took 10 minor penalties, but seven minors is far too many against a Giants team that scored six power play goals against them in two games.
  • Rourke Chartier had a team high 6 shots on goal in Saturday's loss. 
  • Kole Lind was a healthy scratch Saturday night. The rookie forward hasn't scored in 18 games and has two assists in his last 16 games. In December, Lind was one of the most productive players with 5+8=13 in 12 games.
  • The Rockets have lost 5 of the last 8 games played away from Prospera Place. The only saving grace is back-to-back wins in Prince George last weekend. The three game road trip continues Wednesday night with a stop in Everett, against a team they have yet to beat in three attempts this season. Two of the three game have been decided in overtime and all three games have been decided by two goals or less. 
  • The loss and Victoria's win over Kamloops, lifted the Royals into first place in the WHL standings, a point up on the Rockets. The Royals have played two more games though. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rockets rally to win 4th straight

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Losing Vancouver Giants head coach Lorne Molleken likely aged Friday night after his team blew a 4-1 lead and lost 6-5. Winning Kelowna Rockets head coach Brad Ralph likely aged a lot too after his team scored five of the final six goals of the game in the WHL leaders 41st win of the season. Molleken won't be happy with the epic collapse and Ralph won't be pleased with his team's lack of discipline and sluggish play before rallying in front of an energetic crowd of 58 hundred fans. Rourke Chartier would score twice in the one goal win, making it 19 consecutive times the Rockets have beaten the Giants at Prospera Place. The Giants had a chance to end the losing streak but couldn't find the killer instinct in a game they should have won but ended up losing. 
  • In a game that featured two teams separated by 34 points in the standings, with one at the top of the league and another with the fifth worst record in the 22 team circuit, one looked determined while the other believed it would be a walk in the park. Fortunately for the Rockets, despite sleep walking through the first 26 minutes of the game, the Giants couldn't get a save from goaltender Ryan Kubic. Chartier would get the home team jump starter after import forward Radovan Bondra took back-to-back penalties 24 seconds apart in the second period. On Bondra's second penalty, Chartier would make it a two goal game with a power play goal. It was that goal that seemed to wake up the Rockets from their deep slumber.  A quick strike from Tomas Soustal shortly thereafter and the home team only trailed by one heading into the third period.
  • I was waiting to see Jake Morrissey make an appearance against his old team, but Molleken kept Kubic in there despite the fact he was fighting the puck. It will be interesting if we see Morrissey in Saturday's rematch. I'm sure the 18 year old would like to get back at his old team that released him. 
  • Rourke Chartier's two goals last night gives him 200 points for his WHL career. 
  • With Gordie Ballhorn missing his first game of the season with a upper body injury, Devante Stephens is now the only Rockets player to dress in every game this season.  
  • The Rockets now have the most wins in the league (41) and the fewest losses (15). 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Game notes Rockets/Giants


Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: Eighteen. That is the number of consecutive wins the Kelowna Rockets have on home ice against the Vancouver Giants over the last five seasons. The Rockets meet their BC Division rivals for the third time this season at Prospera Place and fourth of eight meetings this season. The two teams tangle again tomorrow night in Vancouver. The Rockets are 2-1-0-0 in the seasonal series. With 14 games left in the regular season, the Rockets face the G-Men four times including the final two regular season games of the season on March 18th and 19th. The Rockets are coming off a 3-1 win Tuesday night over the visiting Red Deer Rebels. Gordie Ballhorn, Cole Linaker and Cal Foote scored goals in the team’s 40th victory of the season. Michael Herringer was sturdy in his 20th victory of the season.  In the big picture, the Rockets have points in 34 of 44 games (31-10-3-0). After this home and home series, the Rockets visit Everett Tuesday before making another trip to Vancouver on February 26th.

Baillie 300: Tip your hat to Tyson Baillie. The 20 year-old forward is approaching the 300 point mark for his WHL career. The third round bantam pick, who is the highest scoring 3rd rounder in franchise history, has 295 points heading into tonight’s game. Only four other players in franchise history (Tacoma/Kelowna) have recorded over 300 career points with the Rockets. Brett McLean is the franchise leader with 375 points (1994-1999). John Varga had 333 points (1991-95). Jason Deleurme had 313 points (1994-1999) while Marty Flichel had 301 career points (1992-1996). Tyson Baillie leads the team in five categories (goals/assists/points/power play goals and is tied for +/-).  

Lordy, Lordy it’s 40! The Kelowna Rockets won their 40th game of the season Tuesday night. It marked the fourth consecutive season the team has won 40 or more games and is the 10th time they have accomplished the feat in franchise history. Those ten 40+ win seasons have come in the last 14 seasons. By comparison, the BC Divisions oldest team, the Kamloops Blazers, have won 40 or more games 15 times since 1984. The Rockets have been around since 1991. The Vancouver Giants have 6-40+ win seasons including five in a row from 2005-2009. Prince George has two 40 win campaigns while wet behind the ears Victoria has one.  

Number Crunching: The Rockets are a combined 69-1-5-0 when leading after two periods when you combine this seasons totals and last seasons….The Rockets are one of only three teams in the WHL that have not lost when leading after 40 minutes. The Rockets are 28-0-2-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods…The Rockets have taken the 6th most penalties in the WHL (298). No surprise that the fewest minor penalties have been taken by the Everett Silvertips (166)…The Rockets average more fans per game this season on home ice than the Giants do. The Rockets average 5,170 per game while the Giants average 4,935. The Rockets have seen a 2% drop in attendance from last season while the G-Men have noticed an 11% drop which is slightly better than league leading Kootenay, who have seen a reduction in attendance of 12% from a season ago…Rourke Chartier enters tonight’s game with 198 career points.…The Rockets are a combined 53-17-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 21-2-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Red Deer and Saskatoon…..The Rockets are attempting to become the first team to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 10 of their final 14 games or they can suffer only 4 more regular losses in order to hit the 50 win mark…The Rockets have 14 games left in the regular season. Of those 14 games, 7 will be played on home ice. Of those 14 games, 10 are against BC Division rivals…The Rockets were 13-1-0-0 against Central Division opponents this season. The only loss came in Lethbridge in the sixth game of the season….The Rockets have been out-shot in 39 of 58 games this season.  

Who’s Hot: Rourke Chartier has three hat tricks this season…Jamie Benn also had three-three goal games in 2008-2009. Justin Keller, who went on to score 51 goals in 2005-2006, had three hat tricks as well…Who was the last Rockets d-man to score three goals in a game against the Giants? Tyson Barrie (March 6/2010)…Tyson Baillie has 3+7=10 in his last 6 games….Tyson Baillie has points in 36 of his last 46 games and has been held off the score-sheet 14 times this season…Justin Kirkland has 4+5=9 in his last 6 games…Kirkland has 22 points in his last 20 games. The 19 year-old had just 12 points in his first 20 games.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Impressive win against high powered Rebels

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • While coaches want their teams to get off to a good start, I will take a team finishing strong and weathering the storm after an early onslaught. That was exactly the Kelowna Rockets formula for success last night in a 3-1 home ice win over the Red Deer Rebels. As advertised, the highly flying, front end loaded Rebels, came out in the first period and dominated play. But the Rockets, who played a smart tactical game, seemed to take over at times in the second period and were tough to play against in the third period when they out-shot the Rebels 11-8. Both team's scored 'gift goals' in the first period before rookie defenceman Cal Foote scored the game winner in the second period to give the Rockets a 2-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes. 
  • It may have been the best commitment to defence we have seen from the Rockets this season. Defenceman Lucas Johansen made two spectacular plays to essential take goals away from the Rebels, who went 0 for 6 on the power play. Michael Herringer was sturdy when called upon, but I thought the forwards noticeably tracked back, like never before, in an effort to defend their own net. 
  • Rourke Chartier didn't score, but he made an impression with two solid hits. We don't normally see it from the 19 year-old, who does his best work with his stick, not his body. When one of your most skilled forwards is hitting, that can't but motivate others on the Rockets bench.
  • I thought Justin Kirkland was again terrific. Working hard and shooting the puck every time he had the puck on his stick. I thought Kirkland and Chartier were the best two forwards for the home team. Kirkland has been excellent and his soft hands are on display as the 19 year-old is playing his best hockey of the season. Kirkland will have to be an impact player with the loss of Nick Merkley, who's season is over with a torn ACL.    
  • The Rockets earned their 40th victory of the season, marking the 10th time in franchise history the organization has accomplished the feat. 
  • Cole Linaker scored a third period power play goal to essentially put the game away. Isn't confidence a funny thing? Linaker went 23 games without a goal and now has three goals in his last four games.
  • The win allows the Rockets to move two points up on Lethbridge for first place in the WHL standings with 14 games left in the regular season. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rockets/Rebels game notes


Rebels HC Brent Sutter - Shoot the Breeze
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the final five weeks of the regular season.  The Kelowna Rockets close out the busy month of February with three of six games on home ice. The Red Deer Rebels pay a visit tonight in the third meeting of the season between the two teams. The seasonal series is deadlocked at one win apiece after the Rockets were a 5-4 winner on home ice (Oct 14th ) but lost in Red Deer by a 7-4 score (Oct 3rd). The Rockets are coming off a double header sweep in Prince George on the weekend. In Saturday’s 6-4 victory, rookie Brodan Samond made 30 saves for his first career WHL victory in his first WHL start. Justin Kirkland had two goals while Tyson Baillie had a goal and two assists. In the big picture, the Rockets have won 35 of their last 49 games overall and are 22-4-2-0 on home ice and 17-11-1-0 on the road. The Rockets have points in 33 of 44 games (30-10-3-0). The team has won 20 of its last 31 games. After tonight’s game, the Rockets host Vancouver Friday before facing the Giants at Pacific Coliseum Saturday night.  

Going for 40! The Kelowna Rockets will be looking for their 40th win of the season tonight against the Rebels. Only one other team has 40 wins this season. The Lethbridge Hurricanes hold that distinctive honour. The Rockets are trying to win 40 games for the 10th time in its 25 seasons in the WHL. It would also mark the fourth consecutive season the club has hit the benchmark.

The race to 1st place: With 15 games left in the regular season, the Kelowna Rockets are tied with the Lethbridge Hurricanes for first place overall. The team hasn’t earned the WHL regular season title since 2013-2014. Of those 15 games, 8 will be played on home ice. The Hurricanes also have 15 games remaining with 8 of those on home ice. In 2013-2014 the Rockets needed no less than 114 points to earn the regular season title. The Rockets had 118 points that season while second place Portland had 113 points.

Number Crunching: The Rockets are 9-2-0-0 in their last 11 regular season games against the Rebels….The Rockets are one of only three teams in the WHL that have not lost when leading after 40 minutes. The Rockets are 27-0-2-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods…Rourke Chartier hit the 100 goal plateau for his career this weekend with three goals Friday in a 4-3 overtime win in Prince George. Chartier now has 102 career goals and 198 career points…The Rockets are a combined 53-17-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 21-2-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Red Deer and Saskatoon…..The Rockets are attempting to become the first team to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 11 of their final 15 games or they can suffer only 4 more regular losses in order to hit the 50 win mark… The Rockets have scored the first goal in 32 of 57 games this season. When they accomplish that goal, they are an impressive 26-3-3-0…The Rockets have 15 games left in the regular season. Of those 15 games, 8 will be played on home ice. Of those 15 games, 10 are against BC Division rivals…The Rockets have been out-shot in 38 of 57 games this season. 

Who’s Hot: Rourke Chartier has points in 14 of his last 21 games. Over that period, the 19 year-old has 15+10=25...Dillon Dube has 22 goals this season which is a career high….Dube has 8+18=18 in his last 21 games…Tyson Baillie has 8+10=18 in his last 16 games….Tyson Baillie has points in 35 of his last 45 games and has been held off the score-sheet 14 times this season…Justin Kirkland has points in 10 of his last 16 games. Kirkland has 11+9=20 over that period.


This and That: Jackson Whistle has missed 19 games with a lower body injury….The Rockets added 17 year-old goaltender Brody Salmond for the remainder of the season. Salmond was the Rockets 10th round bantam pick in the 2010 WHL draft and was playing this season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Camrose Kodiaks. Salmond is the son of Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond. Scott Salmond had a brief stint with the Kelowna Spartans in 1990-91…The Rockets are rated this week as the 7th best team in the CHL Top 10 rankings. Last week they were also rated 6th …The Rockets play 13 games in 25 nights in the month of February…Only one birthday to celebrate in February. Tomas Soustal turned 19 on Monday…The Kelowna Rockets named 19 year-old Rodney Southam as the franchises 22nd captain on January 25th. Southam was acquired in November, 2014 from the Tri City Americans for a 5th round bantam draft pick.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rookie goalie makes most of 1st career start

Rookie goalie Brodan Salmond
  • Brodan Salmond likely never envisioned putting on a Kelowna Rockets jersey this season, let alone win his first WHL game as a goalie with the defending WHL champions. With veterans Jackson Whistle and Michael Herringer anchoring the Kelowna crease this season, their was no room for a 17 year-old rookie to shine. Or was there? With an injury to Whistle, Salmond was added to the roster February 1st after starting the season with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Camrose Kodiaks. As luck would have it, the Calgary resident made his first official start against the Prince George Cougars Saturday night before a crowd of just under 38 hundred that mostly wanted to see the Rockets 10th round bantam pick from 2013 fail. Instead, Salmond made 30 saves in the Rockets 6-4 win, sweeping both games from the Cougars at CN Centre after a 4-3 overtime victory Friday night. Salmond is the first Rockets rookie goalie to win in his first WHL start since Jordon Cooke, who was also 17 at the time, made 35 saves in a road win in Everett back in 2010.
  • Salmond's appearance marked the first time in 19 games that Michael Herringer was awarded the luxury of watching the entire game from the bench. Herringer was 11-6-1-0 in those 18 games which is more than admirable for a goalie, who up until Whistle's injury at the end of December, had started just four consecutive games with the Rockets in 2014-2015. 
  • The Rockets rallied around the rookie goaltender and played their best defensive game of the two on the weekend. After surrendering a season high 46 shots against Friday night, a great commitment in their own zone resulted in 34 pucks sent Salmond's way Saturday night. The team also did a good job of providing Salmond with 'run support', finding the back of the net six times, allowing the 5'11, 180 pound goalie some wiggle room to make a few mistakes in his WHL debut as a starter.
  • It must be the smell of the pulp mill in the air that contributes to the Rockets success in Prince George. The team is an impressive 16-4-0-0 in their last 20 regular season appearances at CN Centre. The team swept the Cougars in back-to-back games becoming only the second team this season to accomplish that feat. The Vancouver Giants did it in January.
  • Since the start of the new calender year, Justin Kirkland may be the Rockets best forward. The 19 year-old had two goals Saturday night in Prince George and now has 12 goals in his last 18 games. With 24 goals this season, 30 is within striking distance for the Nashville Predators draft pick.
  • Tyson Baillie had three points Saturday night (1+2=3), which allowed him to set a new career high in points with 79. Last season Baillie had 76 points. Nine points in his last five games is nothing to shake a stick at either. 
  • A solid crowd in Prince George Saturday night. Just under 38 hundred fans took in the game. The number wasn't fudged either. It was legit. Season ticket holders were rewarded with a Cougars 3rd jersey blue baseball cap when they entered the building. A tip of the cap, pardon the pun, to the Cougars organization for the generous gesture. The caps didn't look cheap, like some free give-aways can be, with most of the fans wearing them with pride. Can I have one? On second thought, that would just be wrong!
  • Up next, a date with the Red Deer Rebels at Prospera Place Tuesday night followed by a home and home series with the Vancouver Giants next weekend.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Chartier takes no offense to snub on 3 star selection

Rourke Chartier - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • It isn't often that a player scores three goals in one game and is left off the three star selection when the buzzer sounds. It happened last night in Prince George in the Kelowna Rockets 4-3 overtime win. Chartier scored the equalizing goal in the second period to tie the game at two. The 19 year-old would then score the dramatic tying goal with 1:10 left in the third period with Michael Herringer pulled for the extra attacker. Then in overtime, Chartier would receive a pass from Tyson Baillie, who won a puck battle in the corner and calmly out waited Cougars goalie Nick McBride before tucking it past him for the game winner. Chartier was more concerned with hitting the score-sheet and helping his team win then taking the ceremonial skate after the game to the expected boos from the Prince George Cougars crowd. Chartier is rolling. With 17 goals in just 26 games this season, Chartier has two hat tricks in three games after a similar effort, yet not as dramatic, in a home ice win against the Seattle Thunderbirds.  
  • For the record, the three stars balloting in Prince George is handed in with five minutes left in regulation time. That said, with modern technology, a quick text could have changed the three star recipients in the blink of an eye. I've never taken much value away from three star selections at games end anyway. It is mainly to appease the home town fans. One ECHL team, as an example, hands out all three stars to the home team win or lose.   
  • Chartier's first goal of the games was the 100th of his career. The San Jose Sharks draft pick, who is as close to a pure goal scorer as you will find in the WHL, has three-three goal games this season. The last Rockets forward to record three-three goal games in a season was Jamie Benn back in 2008-2009. Oh ya, Benn also wore sweater number 14. 
  • All three goals that Chartier scored can't be understated. The first one came only :24 seconds after the Cougars took their first lead of the game at 2-1. Those goals are valuable in the big scheme of things when you strike quickly after the opposition appears to be taking momentum away. 
  • Chartier, on his current pace, would have 37 goals right now if he would have played in all 56 games this season. 
  • Chartier had 28 goals in 26 games last season. As previously mentioned, Chartier has 17 goals in 26 games this year.
  • I thought Michael Herringer was again solid when his team needed him most. Named the game's second star, Herringer made 17 saves in the first period and was one of the key reasons why his team was in a position to succeed in a 2-2 tie heading into the third period.  Herringer finished the game with 43 saves on 46 shots, the most pucks he has faced in one game this season. The 46 shots allowed was a season high, surpassing the 44 given up to the Kamloops Blazers back in September when Jackson Whistle was in goal.
  • A fairly tame game for both teams who have a propensity in taking penalties. The Cougars have taken the most trips to the penalty box and the Rockets have taken the fourth most minor penalties. That said, the Rockets took only two minors and the Cougars made four trips to the box for non-aggressive infractions. 
  • The Rockets will take the win on the road. With 6 losses in their last 8 road games heading into Prince George, it was nice to see the team score after being shut-out the previous two games in Seattle. The power play manufactured a power play goal on a 5 on 3 in the first period and as I mentioned, the team didn't have any quit despite trailing by a goal on two separate occasions.
  • Tanner Wishnowski and Joe Gatenby returned to the line up after both players missed a significant amount of time with lower body injuries. Gatenby was getting back to game speed and Wishnowski delivered a hard hit on Cougars d-man Shaun Dosanjh early in the first period that sent the 19 year-old crashing into the side boards. 
  • The two team's meet again tonight at CN Centre. Only one team has come into Prince George this season and has won both games of the double header. The Vancouver Giants did it January 2nd and 3rd. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Game notes Rockets/Cougars

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of a three game road trip tonight in Prince George. This is the 6th of 8 meetings between the two teams this season. The Rockets are 3-2-0-0 in the first five games, having split a pair of games at CN Centre back in October (Oct 16th and 17th – 3-0 loss and 6-2 win). The Rockets are 15-3-0-0 in their last 18 regular season appearances in Prince George dating back five seasons.  These two teams last met January 19th, in Kelowna, with the Rockets earning a 7-4 win. The Rockets are coming off a 6-0 loss in Seattle Tuesday night. It marked the fourth time this season the hockey club has been shut out. In the big picture, the Rockets have won 33 of their last 47 games overall and are 22-4-2-0 on home ice and 15-11-1-0 on the road. The Rockets have points in 31 of 41 games (28-10-3-0). The team has won 18 of its last 29 games. After these two games this weekend, the Rockets head home before hosting the Red Deer Rebels Tuesday night.

Digging Deeper: The Kelowna Rockets leading scorer in the seasonal series against the Prince George Cougars is Dillon Dube. Dube has 5+6=11 in five games. Tyson Baillie has 2+7=9 in the five games while Nick Merkley has 3+5=8 in the five games. Michael Herringer is 3-0-0-0 against Prince George with a goal against average of 2.67. When you combine the two team’s records when leading after 40 minutes, it translates to 47-1-2-1. The Rockets have taken the 4th most minor penalties in the WHL.vs. Prince George have taken the most penalties.

Number Crunching: The Rockets are a combined 51-17-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…Rockets boast 9 players with ten or more goals…The Rockets are 20-2-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Red Deer and Saskatoon…..The Rockets are attempting to become the first team to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 13 of their final 17 games or they can suffer only 4 more regular losses in order to hit the 50 win mark…Did you know rookie Kole Lind has not earned a power play point this season?….The Rockets have only trailed heading into the third period 16 times this season. They are 3-13-0-0 in those games…. Michael Herringer is making his 18th straight start tonight…Torrie Jung started 19 straight games in 2006-2007…Kevin Swanson started 38 straight games in 1999-2000…The Rockets have scored the first goal in 30 of 55 games this season. When they accomplish that goal, they are an impressive 24-3-3-0…The Rockets have 17 games left in the regular season. Of those 17 games, 8 will be played on home ice. Of those 17 games, 12 are against BC Division rivals…The Rockets have been out-shot in 36 of 55 games this season…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL without a 20 or 19 year-old defenceman and only one of four teams without an average defenceman.  

This and That: Joe Gatenby returns to the line-up tonight after missing six games with a lower body injury. Gatenbty was hurt January 30th vs. Victoria….Jackson Whistle has missed 17 games with a lower body injury….The Rockets play 5 of their next 7 games on the road….The Rockets lost 8 games in regulation time at Prospera Place last season….The Rockets added 17 year-old goaltender Brody Salmond for the remainder of the season. Salmond was the Rockets 10th round bantam pick in the 2010 WHL draft and was playing this season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Camrose Kodiaks. Salmond is the son of Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond. Scott Salmond had a brief stint with the Kelowna Spartans in 1990-91…The Rockets are rated this week as the 7th best team in the CHL Top 10 rankings. Last week they were also rated 6th …The Rockets play 13 games in 25 nights in the month of February…Only one birthday to celebrate in February. Tomas Soustal turns 19 on February 15th… The Kelowna Rockets named 19 year-old Rodney Southam as the franchises 22nd captain on January 25th. Southam was acquired in November, 2014 from the Tri City Americans for a 5th round bantam draft pick.

Who’s Hot: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 10 of his last 17 games. The rookie has 5+10=15 over that period…Rourke Chartier has points in 12 of his last 19 games. Over that period, the 19 year-old has 12+9=21…Chartier has 99 career goals and 95 career assists...Dillon Dube has 21 goals this season which is a career high….Dube has 7+9=16 in his last 19 games… Nick Merkley has 6+13=19 in his last 14 games…Tyson Baillie has 7+7=14 in his last 14 games….Tyson Baillie has points in 33 of his last 43 games and has been held off the score-sheet 14 times this season…Justin Kirkland has points in 8 of his last 14 games. Kirkland has 9+8=17 over that period.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Road woes continue

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Devante Stephens hit the goal post in the opening minute of the game and it was all downhill from there for the Kelowna Rockets. Mathew Barzal scored three times and collected an assist Tuesday night in the Seattle Thunderbirds 6-0 win, snapping a three game losing streak. The T-Birds scored two goals :44 seconds apart late in the first period and then erupted for three-third period goals in a span of 1:29 in the lopsided win. It was the fourth time this season the Rockets have been shut out and marked the second in the last four games that the team has trailed 6-0. Against Spokane last Friday, the Rockets trailed 6-0 before scoring three-third period goals to make it respectable.
  • Regardless of the teams play over the opening 40 minutes, they were still in a decent position to mount a comeback in the third period only trailing 2-0. That was snuffed out though, when Mathew Barzal scored his second goal of the game just 1:19 into the period and Tyson Baillie took an unsportsmanlike penalty following the goal. With Baillie helplessly watching in the penalty box, Barzal netted his third of the game on the ensuing power play and it was essentially lights out from there.
  • Much like a January 31st game at ShoWare Center when the T-Birds earned a 2-0 win, goaltender Logan Flodell had a relatively easy night. While facing 31 shots, the best stop likely came in the third period when Tate Coughlin found Riley Stadel down the middle of the slot, but Flodell calmly stopped the tremendous scoring chance with a nice blocker save.
  • Positives? How about captain Rodney Southam going out of his weight class to fight 6’5, 225 pound T-Birds defenceman Jared Hauf? Southam held his own in an attempt to defend a teammate after Hauf flattened Dillon Dube with a solid hit in the second period.  In a 2-0 game, you would think the tilt would have jump started the visitors.
  • The 6-0 loss was the worse regular season road loss since a 7-0 setback in Vancouver on February 11/2007. That season the team was shut-out 13 times, including ten on the road.
  • Goal scoring has been hard to come by with 13 goals in the team’s last nine road games. The last road goal was scored by Justin Kirkland in a 2-1 overtime victory in Victoria on January 16th.
  • The Rockets have just two wins in their last 8 road games heading into a two game set in Prince George Friday and Saturday night.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Best players make impact

Stadel scraps with Uhrich - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Like a sour carton of milk in the fridge, Kelowna Rockets forward Cole Linaker was overdue. The 20 year-old forward scored his first goal in 24 games in a 7-4 win Monday afternoon against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Linaker scored on a wrap-around chance in the third period as part of a five goal third period which broke open a 2-2 tie. Linaker was all smiles after the goal, his first since mid-December in a game in Regina. The win solidified the Rockets hold on first place in the WHL standings, two points up on the second place Victoria Royals and three up on the third place Lethbridge Hurricanes. 
  • It is amazing what happens when your best players indeed make an impact on the game. Rourke Chartier earned his second hat trick of the season while Tyson Baillie and Justin Kirkland each had four point outings. Tomas Soustal collected three assists in a game where the Rockets out-shot the T-Birds 21-4 in the second period alone. At times in the third period, the Rockets had sustained pressure inside the T-Birds zone.
  • Chartier is now one goal shy of 100 for his career.
  • The Rockets power play scored twice on five chances. It was a good sign considering the team hadn't scored a power play goal in five games. The fact that the Rockets scored twice on a Seattle penalty killing unit which is number one in the WHL is even more impressive.
  • Justin Kirkland scored twice in the win. The 19 year-old is probably playing at the best pace we have seen all season long and the Hockey God’s are rewarding him. Kirkland’s empty netter was his 22nd of the season, which is a new career high. If Kirkland keeps playing with pace, at both ends of the ice, I can’t see why 30 goals isn't a possibility.
  • A spirited fight between Rockets forward Riley Stadel and Seattle’s Josh Uhrich. Uhrich threw some landing rights to the side of Stadel's face before the 20 year-old retaliated with some significant lefts to the right side of Uhrich jaw in an effort to return the favour. I liked the end of the fight where Uhrich tapped Stadel on the back in a sign of ‘well done’.
  • Despite giving up four goals, Michael Herringer made several timely stops. Herringer had the misfortune of a bad bounce on a Mathew Barzal goal, when the T-Birds leading scorer’s point shot on the power play hit Cole Linaker’s stick and fluttered past his glove hand side.
  • Nick Merkley took the pre-game warm up but did not play. It is a good sign after being helped off the ice by teammates after a player landed on him last Friday in a 6-3 loss to Spokane.  Merkley made the trip with the team to Seattle which means he will play either tonight in the rematch at ShoWare Center or this weekend when the team travels to Prince George to face the Cougars.
  • The Rockets have scored seven goals at home three times this season. 
  • The Rockets out-shot the opponent for the first time in six games. The final shots were 41-31.
  • I don’t often speak ill about the officiating, but I thought this was the worst officiated game I have seen, maybe all season. It was bad both ways with soft calls and several inconsistencies where a marginal cross check was called on T-Birds Ryan Gropp and then almost a carbon copy cross check wasn’t called against Rockets d-man Gordie Ballhorn.    
  • The team's close out the seasonal series Tuesday night in Kent. No excuses this time for the Rockets, who lost 2-0 at ShoWare Center back on January 31st after busing through the night after playing the previous evening at home. Both teams will be playing their 4th game in 5 night's and both made the trek from Kelowna to Kent, arriving at 12:30 am to unload their wet gear.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Character win against high powered Hitmen

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Tyson Baillie was in a goal scoring slump that your average WHL player would welcome with open arms. Baillie, if you haven't already noticed, isn't your average, run of the mill, junior hockey player. The 20 year-old snapped a season high five game goal scoring slump by finding the back of the net with :50 second left in regulation time, helping the Kelowna Rockets to a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Calgary Hitmen. With Michael Herringer on the bench for the extra attacker and a face-off inside in the Hitmen's zone, Cole Linaker essentially won the face-off by pushing the puck forward, not backwards which allowed it to sit against the end boards. Justin Kirkland raced to the loose puck, sent it out in front to an awaiting Baillie who buried it past Hitmen goaltender Cody Porter.
  • While Linaker assisted on the game tying goal, the 20 year-old was almost the goat when he took a delay of game minor penalty with one second left in regulation time. Linaker took the puck behind his own net to kill off the final seconds of the third period, but instead of gently rimming the puck against the left boards, the dependable defensive forward saw the puck go off his stick and into the crowd. It was almost comical how it happened, yet few Rockets supporters were laughing at the time. It gave the Hitmen a power play in overtime, and without Michael Herringer's heroics, the Rockets would have walked away with one point not two.
  • I thought Cal Foote was terrific. In maybe his best game of the season, the 17 year-old logged a ton of ice time and made smart decisions with the puck, shot it and made strong defensive decisions against a Calgary team that is tough to handle with so many offensive weapons. The Hitmen have nine players with 10 or more goals. So do the Rockets, who many suggest have the most dynamic forwards in the Western Conference. 
  • While ending the night with a minus 1 rating, I thought Devante Stephens also had a solid game on the blue line. Why? Stephens, while still slight physically, played a physical game and was often seen skating the puck up the ice in an effort to relieve pressure. Stephens had two nice hits on Pavel Karnaukhov and Beck Malenstyn. The hit on Malenstyn is a clear message to others that the 18 year-old isn't afraid to throw caution to the wind in order to get a piece of an upcoming forward. I thought Stephens had a better than average game for a defender who has struggled for a good portion of the season.
  • Michael Herringer was terrific, which is a good and bad thing. It is great for the goaltender to be razor sharp, but does he need to be that spectacular in order for his team to win? The team is still giving up far to many quality scoring chances in my opinion. If Herringer is only average, the Rockets likely lose.   
  • The Rockets again moved past Lethbridge into first place in the WHL standing heading into Monday afternoon's home game against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Tough night on home ice

Brodan Salmond - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Too bad Michael Herringer's teammates couldn't pick up the veteran goaltender when he stumbled. Herringer was looking for a return favour after doing the same thing for his 19 closest friends over the past four weeks. Herringer, making his 14th straight start with an injury to Jackson Whistle, had a rough evening allowing two long distance goals in a 6-3 home ice loss last night to the visiting Spokane Chiefs. That said, I won't hang the loss on his shoulders. The players in front of him showed no spark, no emotion and didn't want to put in the work, which resulted in the top team in the WHL (up until last night) trailing 3-0 and 6-0 by the period breaks. Herringer was yanked after allowing four goals on 20 shots and in came 17 year-old rookie Brodan Salmond for his first taste of WHL action.
  • Herringer's night started off strong. The 20 year-old made a nice glove hand save on a grade 'A' scoring chance less than two minutes into the game and appeared to be mentally engaged in the game. The goal that likely had him second guessing himself was a long slap shot from Chiefs forward Keanu Yamamoto that appeared to glance off a stick of defenceman Gordie Ballhorn at centre ice. The contact on Ballhorn's stick either changing the speed or direction of the puck, or both, and beat Herringer to the blocker side. A second period goal, again from Yamamoto, saw the Chiefs forward fire the puck from just outside the blue line that Herringer attempted to catch across his body and it trickled into the net. That goal make it 4-0 and Herringer was pulled. What I liked most about his exit was the fans appreciation with applause, recognizing how good he has been during Jackson Whistle's absence. It also was a sign that he has backing from the home town crowd that they have faith in him on being a solid force as long as Whistle is on the injury list.
  • So, have I made it perfectly clear that Michael Herringer is not at fault in the 6-3 loss? Ok, let's move on. A power play 7 minutes into the game in a scoreless tie was a clear indication that the Rockets skaters were going through the motions. The unit didn't even manufacture a shot on goal on the Chiefs back up goaltender. The power play unit has come up empty handed now in four straight games.
  • Coaches can make the players aware of the oppositions tendencies, can write up a solid game plan on the white board, but it is the players that have to preform and execute on the ice. Where was the effort? It is never a good sign when your top seven forwards fail to lead your team in shots on goal. Instead the defencemen, led by Cal Foote, Gordie Ballhorn and Jonathan Smart each had three shots to lead the Rockets in that category. Tomas Soustal was the most proactive forward, firing three pucks on net. Leading scorer Tyson Baillie didn't have a single shot. That can't happen.
  • It should be pointed out that the team did show some resilience in the third period, by outscoring the Chiefs 3-0 and out-shooting them 11-4. It is a small positive that needs to be taken from a game where the team was flat for the opening 40 minutes.
  • Enough with the negatives. Rookie Jonathan Smart scored his first career goal last night in only his 26th regular season game. Smart's point shot beat the Chiefs goaltender high to the glove hand side in one of three goals the Rockets would score in the third period. I like Smart, both on and off the ice. Smart has a outgoing personality and isn't afraid to engage with me in conversation whether it is hanging around the rink or on the bus. I have probably had longer conversations with Smart than I have had with several veteran players who have been around for two to three years. What that tells me is Smart is a confident 16 year-old, isn't intimidated by others and that personality will serve him well as he matures into a solid WHL defenceman. 
  • It was the first chance to see back up goaltender Brodan Salmond in action. Salmond was put in a tough position when he faced a 5 on 3 Spokane power play only moments after entering the game. While surrendering two goals on 12 shots, I thought he performed well under the circumstances.
  • Since the Christmas break, the Rockets are 10-5-2-0. A rough patch of late with the team having won only one of their last four games.
  • Up next is a date with the Calgary Hitmen at Prospera Place Saturday night. These two teams met earlier this season with Jackson Whistle earning the shut-out in a 3-0 win.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Rockets game notes vs. Chiefs

Chiefs HC Don Nachbaur
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open a stretch of playing four games in five nights when they welcome the Spokane Chiefs this evening to Prospera Place. The team hosts Calgary tomorrow, Seattle on Monday and travel to Kent to face the T-Birds on Tuesday night. The Rockets are coming off a 2-1 win Tuesday night over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. Tomas Soustal snapped out of a 14 game goal scoring drought with two goals in the one goal win. Michael Herringer was named the first star with yet another terrific performance. The Rockets were 0 for 2 on the power play and killed off both Hurricane power play chances. In the big picture, the Rockets have won 31 of their last 43 games overall and are 20-3-2-0 on home ice and 15-10-1-0 on the road. The Rockets have points in 29 of 37 games (26-8-3-0). The team has won 16 of its last 25 games.

Seasonal Series vs Spokane: These two teams are meeting for only the second time this season. Back on November 14th, in Spokane, the Chiefs were a 4-3 winner in overtime. The Chiefs make a return visit on February 27th before the seasonal series concludes March 12th in Spokane.  In the last 17 regular season games between these two teams, the Rockets are 10-5-1-1. Gordie Ballhorm leads the Rockets in scoring against the Chiefs in the seasonal series with 1+1=2.

Number Crunching: The Rockets are 18-2-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Red Deer and Saskatoon….The Rockets have lost 13 games in regular time this season. That is the exact same number of losses from all of last season….The Rockets are attempting to become the first team to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 15 of their final 21 games or they can suffer only six more regular losses in order to hit the 50 win mark…Did you know rookie Kole Lind has not earned a power play point this season?…Did you know that Devante Stephens and rookie Gordie Ballhorn are the only two Rockets to play in all 51 games this season? The last rookie to play in all 72 games was Zach Franko in 2010-2011….The Rockets have only trailed heading into the third period 13 times this season. They are 2-11-0-0 in those games…. Michael Herringer is making his 14th straight start tonight…Torrie Jung started 19 straight games in 2006-2007…Kevin Swanson started 38 straight games in 1999-2000…The Rockets have scored the first goal in 30 of 51 games this season. When they accomplish that goal, they are an impressive 24-3-3-0…The Rockets have 21 games left in the regular season. Of those 21 games, 11 will be played on home ice. Of those 21 games, 12 are against BC Division rivals…The Rockets have been out-shot in 34 of 51 games this season…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL without a 20 or 19 year-old defenceman and only one of four teams without an average defenceman…The Rockets have not lost three straight games this season. 

This and That: The Rockets added 17 year-old goaltender Brody Salmond for the remainder of the season. Salmond was the Rockets 10th round bantam pick in the 2010 WHL draft and was playing this season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Camrose Kodiaks. Salmond is the son of Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond. Scott Salmond had a brief stint with the Kelowna Spartans in 1990-91…The Rockets are rated this week as the 6th best team in the CHL Top 10 rankings. Last week they were also rated 7th …Five of the team’s next eight games are on home ice. The only road games over that stretch are in Seattle next Tuesday, in Prince George for back-to-back games February 12th and 13th and in Vancouver on February 20th…The Rockets play 13 games in 25 nights in the month of February…Only one birthday to celebrate in February. Tomas Soustal turns 19 on February 15th… The Kelowna Rockets named 19 year-old Rodney Southam as the franchises 22nd captain on January 25th. Southam was acquired in November, 2014 from the Tri City Americans for a 5th round bantam draft pick.

Who’s Hot: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 9 of his last 13 games. The rookie has 4+10=14 over that period…Rourke Chartier has points in 11 of his last 15 games. Over that period, the 19 year-old has 9+9=18…Chartier has 96 career goals and 95 career assists...Dillon Dube has 20 goals this season which is a career high….Dube has 6+7=13 in his last 15 games… Nick Merkley has 6+13=19 in his last 13 games…Tyson Baillie has 5+4=9 in his last 10 games….Tyson Baillie has points in 31 of his last 39 games and has been held off the score-sheet 12 times this season…Justin Kirkland has points in 6 of his last 10 games. Kirkland has 7+5=12 over that period.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The 'fight' for first

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Two men enter, one man leaves. It is the famous line from the 1985 movie Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome. I don't think it was a fight to the death last night at Prospera Place, but it clearly was a battle between the two top teams (statistically) in the Western Hockey League. Tomas Soustal erased a 14 game goal scoring drought with two goals and Michael Herringer was terrific in the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 win over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. The 20th home ice win of the season allowed the Rockets to leapfrog over the Hurricanes and into first place in the overall standings (one point up) with 21 games left in the regular season. The Rockets sweep the season series 3-0-0-0, but this was clearly the most entertaining game of the three. 
  • Both teams didn't disappoint. For a Tuesday night game in early February that can be humdrum, this one had sizzle with two fights, numerous scoring chances and great saves. The Rockets were the better team in the first period with the Hurricanes holding the slight edge in the second. The third period was up for grabs with the home town team holding a slim one goal lead. The room for error was slim against the top scoring team in the WHL, but 20 year-old Michael Herringer saved his best work for the final 20 minutes. Herringer made three sensational 'five alarm saves' on Hurricanes forward Tyler Wong, Jordy Bellerive and a game saving glove hand stop off Ryan Vandervlis that had the 17 year-old shaking his head in amazement. At games end it was no surprise Herringer was named the 1st star.
  • The Rockets had several great chances to score at the other end of the ice. Nick Merkley had a wide open net with Hurricanes goaltender Stuart Skinner down and out, yet worked it wide with a sharp angle backhand attempt. Rourke Chartier hit the goal post in the third period too. At times the game opened up with scoring chances traded both ways. It is hard to imagine, but WHL leading scorer Brayden Burke and Rockets leading point producer Tyson Baillie were both held off the score-sheet when the buzzer sounded.
  • The Rockets were playing their fourth game in five night's while the Hurricanes were playing their third game in five night's to conclude a BC Division road trip. The Eastern Conference leaders failed to win a game against Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna.
  • It was tough to watch when Hurricanes forward Giorgio Estephan crashed into the end boards in the first period and appeared to hurt his  ankle. Estephan immediately grabbed the ankle which had everyone guessing in the building that it was either a deep sprain, or in a worse case scenario, a broken ankle. 
  • Rockets rookie Kole Lind was reunited with linemates Tyson Baillie and Dillon Dube.
  • The Rockets are an impressive 11-1-0-0 against the Central Division this season. The Calgary Hitmen are in Kelowna Saturday night with the Red Deer Rebels paying a visit on February 16th.     
  • Up next is a home game with the Spokane Chiefs Friday night in game two of a four game home stand. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Game Notes vs. Hurricanes

Hurricanes HC Brent Kisio - Shoot the Breeze
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open the month of February with a home game against the Lethbridge Hurrricanes. This is the third and final meeting of the season between the two teams. They met October 4th in Lethbridge with the Rockets earning a 6-3 win. Gage Quinney had 2+1=3 and Tomas Soustal had 1+2=3 in the victory. Jackson Whistle was named the first star with a 39 save performance. The Rockets were then a 5-3 winner at Prospera Place on October 31st. This game features the top two teams (statistically) in the WHL with the Hurricanes holding a slim one point lead for first place in the overall standings. The Rockets are coming off a 2-0 shutout loss Sunday in Seattle. Michael Herringer made 41 saves and was named the third star. The Rockets were 0 for 4 on the power play. In the big picture, the Rockets have won 30 of their last 42 games overall and are 19-3-2-0 on home ice and 15-10-1-0 on the road. The Rockets have points in 28 of 36 games (25-8-3-0). The team has won 15 of its last 24 games. Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Spokane Friday and Calgary Saturday night. The team welcomes Seattle BC Family Day Monday before facing the T-Birds in Kent on Tuesday night for the third meeting between the two teams in the last 10 days.

Dare to Compare: The Hurricanes have two more wins (36/34) but the Rockets have one fewer loss (13/14)…The Rockets have allowed one fewer goal against yet the Hurricanes have scored 30 more goals. The Hurricanes have scored the most goals in the WHL. The Rockets are 5th.  The Rockets have allowed the 4th fewest goals against in the WHL while the Hurricanes are 5th….Combined; these two teams have a record of 70-27-3-0 in 100 regular season games this season…The Rockets are 11-2-0-0 in their last 13 regular season meetings between the two teams including 6-1-0-0 in their last 7 home dates with the Hurricanes.

Number Crunching: The Rockets have lost 13 games in regular time this season. That is the exact same number of losses from all of last season….The Rockets are attempting to become the first team to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 16 of their final 22 games or they can suffer only six more regular losses in order to hit the 50 win mark…Did you know the Rockets have taken the 4th most minor penalties in the WHL? The team has been to the penalty box for a minor penalty 274 times…The Rockets have only trailed heading into the third period 13 times this season. They are 2-11-0-0 in those games….The Rockets have scored the 7th most power play goals in the WHL (44) while the Hurricanes have scored the most in the WHL (60)…Michael Herringer is making his 13th straight start tonight….Adam Brown started 13 straight games to start the season in 2009-2010…Torrie Jung started 19 straight games in 2006-2007…Kevin Swanson started 38 straight games in 1999-2000…The Rockets have scored the first goal in 29 of 50 games this season. When they accomplish that goal, they are an impressive 23-3-3-0…The Rockets have 22 games left in the regular season. Of those 22 games, 12 will be played on home ice. Of those 22 games, 12 are against BC Division rivals…The Rockets have been out-shot in 33 of 50 games this season…The Rockets are 34-12-3-0 after 50 games this season. Last season the team was 38-8-3-0 after 50 games…The team has scored 180 goals after 50 games this season after scoring 217 times at the same point last season.….The team has allowed 142 goals against, only 14 more than at the same time last season…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL without a 20 or 19 year-old defenceman and only one of four teams without an average defenceman…The Rockets have not lost three straight games this season.  

This and That: The Rockets added 17 year-old goaltender Brody Salmond for the remainder of the season. Salmond was the Rockets 10th round bantam pick in the 2010 WHL draft and was playing this season in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Camrose Kodiaks. Salmond is the son of Hockey Canada’s Scott Salmond. Scott Salmond had a brief stint as a goalie with the Kelowna Spartans in 1990-91…The Rockets are rated this week as the 7th best team in the CHL Top 10 rankings. Last week they were also rated 7th …This is game one of a four game home stand for the Rockets, who host Spokane Friday and Calgary Saturday night. The team welcomes Seattle on BC Family Day on Monday February 8th for a special 2:05 start…Six of the teams next nine games are on home ice. The only road games over that stretch are in Seattle next Tuesday, in Prince George for back-to-back games February 12th and 13th and in Vancouver on February 20th…The Rockets play 13 games in 25 nights in the month of February…Only one birthday to celebrate in February. Tomas Soustal turns 19 on February 15th… The Kelowna Rockets named 19 year-old Rodney Southam as the franchises 22nd captain on January 25th. Southam was acquired in November, 2014 from the Tri City Americans for a 5th round bantam draft pick.


Who’s Hot: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 9 of his last 12 games. The rookie has 4+10=14 over that period…Rourke Chartier has points in 11 of his last 14 games. Over that period, the 19 year-old has 9+9=18…Chartier has 96 career goals and 95 career assists...Dillon Dube has 20 goals this season which is a career high….Dube has 6+7=13 in his last 14 games… Nick Merkley has 6+13=19 in his last 12 games…Tyson Baillie has 5+4=9 in his last 9 games….Tyson Baillie has points in 31 of his last 38 games and has been held off the score-sheet 11 times this season…Justin Kirkland has points in 6 of his last 9 games. Kirkland has 7+5=12 over that period.