Kyle Beach Interview

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A night I won't soon forget

Photo courtesy CFJC 
  • It was old. It was cramped. It was hot. It was wonderful. The Kelowna Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers turned back time Tuesday night at Memorial Arena. Justin Kirkland scored the game winning goal and Michael Herringer was a wall, making 40 saves for the shut-out, in the Rockets 1-0 win. The defending champions now own a two games to one lead in the best of seven opening round playoff series. Game four is tonight at Sandman Centre. The two teams were forced to play in the antiquated arena (built in 1948) after the Blazers home was being used for the Women's World Hockey Championships. It marked the first time since 1992 that a WHL game was played there. The two teams didn't only turn back the clock but the Rockets turned the tables on the Blazers in the one goal win.
  • You knew it was going to be a night to remember when Blazers season ticket holders began lining up down the street at 5:30 pm in an effort to get the best possible seat when the doors opened at 5:45 pm. There was no assigned seating. First come, first serve. You snooze, you loose.
  • You knew it would be a magical night when the Rockets took the ice for the pre-game warm up. With essentially the building full at that point with the fear of losing ones seat to late-comers, the sell-out crowd of close to 34 hundred booed the visitors onto the ice and applauded the Blazers every time they stepped on it from their makeshift dressing room. When the fans started chanting, 'Go Blazers Go, Go Blazers Go', it felt like 60 thousand people were urging their team on. The low ceiling and tight quarters was the reason why home ice used to be such an advantage years ago. Now, with state of the art facilities that we know and love, the crowd doesn't play the same factor and the cookie cutter arena's don't have the same odd bounces that older buildings like Memorial Arena once provided. 
  • I embraced the experience. How can you not? It was a once in a life-time experience to broadcast a game in that building. Up until Tuesday, I had never set foot in Memorial Arena. The 'old girl' had one concession, a score-clock in the corner that we as broadcasters couldn't see, and honestly, the sight lines were terrible. But the old wooden floors on the concourse and the old beams of wood and steel that held up the roof were put into place, in its day, with a lot of sweat equity. I am not sure where the smell of Creosote soaked railroad ties came from around the perimeter of the building, but it only added to its glory. Would I want to call 35 more games in that building? Honestly, no. But for that one night it was awfully cool to be apart of something special.      
  • As for the game itself, neither team had much room to work with. It was a dump and chase all night long. Picture perfect passing wasn't part of the game as the ice surface, both in terms of size and quality, didn't lend itself to enabling either team to play that style. I honestly thought it would work against the Rockets and aid the Blazers. Fact is, the visiting team made great adjustments and had no less than five golden scoring chances. In typical Connor Ingram fashion, the veteran Blazers goaltender kept his team in the game and gave them a chance.
  • Michael Herringer was as calm and cool as we've seen him in the WHL playoffs. He was in a zone. Herringer didn't over extend himself, made hard saves look easy and played with a boat load of confidence. It may be the most in control game I have seen him play. Herringer made 40 saves in the road shut-out, becoming the first Rockets goaltender to accomplish that feat since Jordon Cooke made 25 saves in a road shut-out in Seattle in the 2013 post season.
  • The only real concern heading into game four is the power play. If the power play finally lets loose for a goal, these one goal games will be history. The Rockets are 0 for 15 in this series. In 11 games between the Rockets and Blazers this season (regular season and playoffs) ten of them have been decided by a single goal.      

Monday, March 28, 2016

Blame the goalie? Not so fast!

Michael Herringer - Shoot the Breeze Photography
It is easy to blame the goalie. As the last line of defence, many fans only see the puck enter the net with Michael Herringer in a vulnerable position. Let's break down all five goals the Rockets allowed in game two in order to get a better perspective of what exactly happened.

Goal #1: Blazers 20 year-old Ryan Rehill scores from the point when the puck goes off Rockets d-man Joe Gatenby's stick and deflects over Herringer's right shoulder. No chance for Herringer.

Goal #2: Blazers forward Garrett Pilon scores a power play goal when Herringer goes to the butterfly prematurely at the right post when Collin Shirley receives a pass from Gage Quinney off the half wall. The puck goes off Shirley's skate, not his stick and bounces to the other side of the net. Herringer flops down and can't recover on his belly as the puck goes to Pilon for the tap in. You can blame Herringer for committing early, but the puck bouncing from Shirley's skate to the other side of the net is a gift from the 'Hockey Gods'.

Goal #3: Blazers d-man Dawson Davidson's attempted pass from the sideboards goes off Rockets defenceman Gordie Ballhorn and changes direction. It goes between the legs of Herringer who is attempting to slid across in an attempt to stop the anticipated pass recipient, who is Blazers forward Matt Revel stationed in front of the net. The puck could have also been cleared twice earlier on in that sequence. Cal Foote missed on the first chance and Tyson Baillie, who wasn't pressured to the degree Foote was after absorbing a hit, also couldn't clear the zone.  

Goal #4: A clear face-off win in the neutral zone by Cole Linaker. The puck goes back to team-mate Lucas Johansen. Johansen hesitates, allowing Blazers forward Gage Quinney to win the puck. Quinney fires the puck low to Herringer's right pad, which is the spot a shooter should fire it in that scenario. It creates a rebound as Herringer kicks his right pad out and Collin Shirley fires in the rebound as no defender picks up the Blazers leading scorer. If Quinney fires the puck to Herringer's left pad, it goes harmlessly into the corner.

Goal #5: A screen shot from defenceman Ryan Rehill goes through traffic and beats Herringer blocker side. Herringer doesn't even see it. Rockets forward Tomas Soustal goes out to block the shot from the point. If he is going to attempt to block it, Soustal has to make sure he gets a piece of it. If he doesn't, it only creates more of screen for Herringer. Rehill told reporters after the game it hit Soustal's shin pad and then went in. On video, it appears Soustal leans slightly away from the puck as it is shot and it goes clean through.

Conclusion: Unfortunate bounces on three of the goals. A perfectly placed shot from Quinney on the right pad of Herringer for the Shirley goal to tie the game is the most well executed. That said, let's make it perfectly clear that while it is easy to point fingers at the goalie, Michael Herringer was not the guilty party on no less than four of the five goals scored in game two.
I will agree that a goalie must make a save that essentially steals a goal away. Look at Connor Ingram's glove hand stop on Rockets forward Dillon Dube in the third period as a good example. That said, Herringer also took a sure goal away from Matt Revel in game one that allowed the Rockets to win the opener.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Third period collapse

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • It was the catch phrase of the ABC program Wide World of Sports. 'The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.' That saying from 1978 couldn't be more true after a heartbreaking loss for the Kelowna Rockets Saturday night against the Kamloops Blazers. The defending champions were 31 seconds away from taking a 2-0 lead in their best of seven opening round playoff series, but several errors on a neutral zone face-off cost them the game. Up by a goal, Rockets overager Cole Linaker won the draw and got the puck back to defenceman Lucas Johansen. Johansen hesitated, allowing Blazers forward Gage Quinney to shoot it to the right pad of Michael Herringer, who stopped it, but Blazers leading point getter Collin Shirley slammed home the rebound. Twenty five seconds later, with the Rockets and the crowd at Prospera Place still stunned at the tying goal, Blazers defenceman Ryan Rehill fired a seeing-eye slap shot through traffic that beat Herringer to the blocker side. Rehill's goal with 4.8 seconds left was the last of four the Blazers would score in the third period comeback. 
  • Honestly, I thought the Rockets played a solid game up until the gaff late in the third period. With a 3-1 third period lead the home team continued to press and didn't sit back like they did in game one. Dillon Dube could have made it 4-1 after a terrific feed from Justin Kirkland. Dube had the right side of the net wide open only to see Blazers goalie Connor Ingram come diving across and catching the puck in mid-air in a desperation save of epic proportions. While that save didn't seem to affect the Rockets to any great degree, outside of the scoreboard, it appeared to boost the Blazers bench and the rally was on. 
  • If the Rockets d-core can take anything away from Ryan Rehill's two goal night it is his willingness to shoot the puck from the point. Rehill had a team high 6 shots on net in game two. Lucas Johansen and Cal Foote are the greatest offenders of not blasting the puck from the point when a clear shooting lane is available. Look at Rehill's first goal that goes off Joe Gatenby and into the net. That is example #1 of a simple blast from 57 feet away. How about Gordie Ballhorn's blast that Ingram stops and then Tomas Soustal backhands the puck off the skate of Blazers defender Cameron Reagan and it is a 4-3 game? That is example #2. Shooting the puck is never a bad option. It is the simplest tactic in the book and it still holds it's weight in gold in an effort to create rebounds. Foote and Johansen combined for two shots in game two to only validate my point further. 
  • While the penalty killing unit surrendered three power play goals against, emotions also unravelled allowing the Blazers back in a game. Five on five, the Rockets were the better team. I didn't like Kole Lind's high sticking penalty, which the Blazers scored on, making it 3-2. That seemed to give the road team the belief that they could indeed rally like they did in the third period in game one. Lucas Johansen's cross checking penalty in a one goal game just can't happen either. While you want to defend a team-mate, you have to stay disciplined in that situation. Dawson Davidson scores a power play goal with Johansen in the penalty box and it's a 3-3 tie.
  • I really like Rourke Chartier's effort in this series. Chartier is the best forward on the ice for both teams. Chartier's battle level is immense and his care factor is extremely high. Rarely knocked off his skates, Chartier never relents. The word 'quit' does not exist in his game even if he should be gassed on a long shift. The 19 year-old had a team high 9 shots on goal in game two. I love how he is so trigger happy. While Chartier can take prolonged shifts without showing fatigue, that doesn't hold true for many of his team-mates who believe they can stay out for 90 second shifts with it not affecting their play. 
  • For my money, Gordie Ballhorn is having a real good series. The rookie is hard on pucks, makes hard clears on the penalty kill and likes to shoot the puck from the point.  
  • Soft clearing attempts by Rockets forwards in the first two games of this series is concerning. Tyson Baillie's weak attempt to clear the puck translated into the Blazers scoring their third goal Saturday night. Rodney Southam's attempt to clear the puck in game one when it looked like a simple chip off the boards and out also resulted in the puck ended up in his own net. Sorry, but at this time of the year with veteran players in those crucial situations, that puck has to be cleared.   
  • The power play has to come alive in this series. Now 0 for 10, even one goal can be a difference maker. 
  • Gage Quinney is having a nice series against his old team. The 20 year-old has 1+3=4 in the two games. 
  • The Blazers have scored seven goals in this series. Five of those seven have come in the third period. The Rockets have scored seven goals in this series. Four of those seven have come in the second period.
  • The series shift to Kamloops for games Tuesday and Wednesday. Game three should be extremely interesting with it being played at Memorial Arena. The 67 year-old facility is being used because the World Women's Hockey Championships are taking place at Sandman Centre. Game four on Wednesday will be played at Sandman Centre.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Herringer ready for playoffs

Michael Herringer knows he has to be at his best for his team to have success.

The 20 year-old wouldn't have it any other way.

As the starting goaltender for the Kelowna Rockets, the Comox, BC resident is ready for the pressure packed playoff games that are in front of him.

"I'm excited", Herringer said after practice Wednesday.

"We are ready. Especially with a lot of people pointing fingers at us this year saying we are not as good as last year and we do not have what it takes to win again, that fuels you".  

Herringer is no stranger to the WHL playoffs, closing out series wins against Tri City, Victoria and Portland last season. Starter Jackson Whistle was pulled and Herringer came into the game and earned the win.

"Every game you want to play for the guys that are in the dressing room with you. They battle tooth and nail every game for me, so I want to do the same for them".

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It is the most wonderful time of the year

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the WHL playoffs. The Kelowna Rockets face the Kamloops Blazers in game one of a best of seven Western Conference quarter-final series. Game one is tonight with game two tomorrow at Prospera Place. Game three is back in Kamloops on Tuesday with game four, also in Kamloops, next Wednesday. These two teams are meeting for the 6th time in the playoffs. They clashed in 1992, 1999, 2002, 2009, 2013 and now in 2016. In four of the five playoff meetings the series has lasted just four games. Only in 1999 did the series go six games with the Blazers prevailing four games to two. 

Rockets.Blazers Seasonal Series: The Rockets and Blazers met eight times this season with the Rockets going 5-2-1-0. The Rockets won the first five games before the Blazers won the last three meetings. Tyson Baillie led the Rockets with 6+6=12 in the eight games in the seasonal series. Tomas Soustal had 7+1=8 in the 8 games. The Rockets opened the scoring in five of the eight games. The Rockets out-shot the Blazers in 6 of the 8 games. Overall, the defending champions out-scored their BC Division rivals 27-22. Here is the breakdown of period-by-period scoring during the regular season:

Period:      1      2      3     OT   Total
Rockets:   6      9      11    1       27
Blazers     6      8        7    1       22

Rockets Review: The Kelowna Rockets finished the regular season in second place in the Western Conference with 48 wins. The team won 27 times on home ice, which was only behind Seattle’s 29 and Lethbridge’s 28 home ice victories. The team scored the 4th most goals in the WHL this season (269) while allowing 218 against, which is the exact same number of goals allowed by the Blazers. The Rockets earned 100 points for a fourth consecutive season and had 10 players with 40 or more points.  

Number Crunching Tyson Baillie has 46 games of playoff experience, the most on the Rockets roster…Baillie has 23+30=53 in those 46 games…Cole Linaker is next with 44 playoff games under his belt…Tyler Mosienko is the franchise leader in playoff games played with 81…Seven Rockets will be making their WHL playoff debuts tonight against the Blazers…Michael Herringer is 3-0-0-0 in the WHL playoffs with a goals against average of 1.96. Herringer won series clinching games over Tri City, Victoria and Portland in last year’s post season….You can’t make this up. The Rockets and Blazers have the identical age (17.43) when looking at the respective team’s defensive cores….Gage Quinney plays against his old team in this series. Quinney played in 15 playoff games last season for the Rockets on their way to a WHL championship…The Rockets reached the 100 point mark for a fourth consecutive season and 6th time in franchise history. The team accomplished the goal in 2002-2003 (109), 2004-2005 (104), 2012-2013 (108), 2013-2014 (118) and 2014-2015 (109)…Devante Stephens was the only Kelowna Rockets player to participate in all 72 regular season games this season…. The Rockets are 14 for 28 (50%) on the power play in their last 8 games…The Rockets have out-shot the opponent in 11 of the last 12 games.…The Rockets have fired 369 shots on goal in the last 9 games or 41 shots per game…Michael Herringer has started in 29 of the teams last 34 games…The Rockets have won 11 of their last 17 games overall (11-5-1-0)...The Rockets are a combined 75-1-6-0 when leading after two periods when you combine this seasons totals and last seasons…Tyson Baillie has been named a Western Conference first team all-star…The Rockets handed out its season ending awards. Tyson Baillie was named MVP.  Joe Gatenby was the top defenceman. Cal Foote was the rookie of the year. Cole Linaker was the top defensive forward for a third straight season. Rourke Chartier was the sportsmanlike player of the year for a third consecutive season. Foote was the scholastic player of the year. Justin Kirkland was the unsung hero. The humanitarian award went to Riley Stadel. 

Who’s Hot: Rourke Chartier is riding a six game point streak entering the playoffs. Chartier has 4+9=13 over that period. Chartier has goals in four of his last six games…Dillon Dube is riding a six game point streak heading into the post season. Dube has 3+6=9 over that period.. Lucas Johansen has points in 16 of his last 22 games…Cole Linaker has points in 13 of his last 17 games. Linaker has 5+10=15 over that period…Linaker had a career high 50 points, eleven more point than a season ago…Tyson Baillie has points in 15 of his last 20 games…Justin Kirkland has points in 16 of his last 20 games.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rivalry renewed

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Can a team with 100 points during the regular season be an under-dog in the opening round of the WHL playoffs? That appears to be the case for the Kelowna Rockets. If you look on various message boards across the WHL, nearly 90% believe the Blazers will defeat the defending champions. Many predict it to be a close series, ending in six or seven games.
  • The Rockets and Blazers don't meet often in the playoffs, but when they do, the difference in skill level is usually one sided. In the 2009 post season, the Rockets rolled over the Blazers in a quick four games. The opening round series was a primer in earning a WHL title. In 2013, it was Kamloops that used four games to dispose of the Rockets. The Blazers would go on to the Western Conference final where they were upended by the Portland Winterhawks in seven games. This may be the first playoff series ever between these two organizations where they are evenly matched.
  • This is the 6th time these franchises have met in post season. They collided in 1992, 1999, 2002, 2009, 2013 and now in 2016. Of the five previous series, four have ended in four game sweeps. The Blazers (1992, 1999, 2013) lead with 3 series wins to 2. The Rockets won in 2002 and 2009. 
  • From a purely financial standpoint, this series should be a win/win for the respective ownership groups. Typically, it's a tough grind getting fans into the seats to watch first round playoff hockey with the weather warming up outside. That shouldn't be the case in this series, where the opposing teams fans will be clearly visible in the home teams arena. If you asked the owners of the Rockets and Blazers, they would love to see this thing go the distance.
  • Who has the advantage in this series? The Rockets have a better forward group. They possess a higher skill level while the Blazers forwards typically grind for goals. The Blazers have the advantage in goal where Connor Ingram is arguably the best goalie in the Western Conference. Ingram was the Blazers MVP.  I think the two defensive cores are at a virtual deadlock. Neither is overly dynamic offensively. The two defenceman to watch in this series is Lucas Johansen for the Rockets and Blazers overager Ryan Rehill. Johansen is the most gifted offensive d-man in this series while Rehill may be the most physical. No disrespect to Brad Ralph, but the first year head coach can't match what Blazers bench boss Don Hay brings to the table. The Blazers have the advantage in coaching. The Rockets have playoff experience out the wozoo. Question is, what is the desire to repeat as league champions? Who was the last WHL team to repeat as champions? Oddly enough it was the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and again in 1995. 
  • What does the seasonal series tell us? These teams are much closer than the standings would indicate. Had the Blazers not started the season 0 and 6, they would have likely been one of four teams in the Western Conference to reach 40 wins. This season only Victoria, Kelowna and Seattle hit the 40 win threshold. The separation in points was just 15, so a better Blazers start and that point total could have been cut in half. 
  • Blazers captain Matt Needham is from Penticton. Name the only Rockets alumni from that south Okanagan city? Answer: Carter Rigby.
  • Why are people anticipating a close series? The Blazers were 22-10-5-0 in 37 games since January 1st. The Rockets were 21-11-2-0 in 34 games over that same period. 
  • Gage Quinney. The Rockets traded him to the Blazers for a third round bantam pick. Will he come back to haunt his old team? Without question the 20 year-old will be motivated. Last season, Quinney played in 15 of the Rockets 19 playoff games recording 13 points. Quinney was hurt for the majority of the Western Conference final against Portland, playing in only two games.  
  •  They would like nothing better than to see him healthy and on the ice, but veteran goaltender Jackson Whistle will have to cheer on his team-mates when the Rockets open the 2016 WHL playoffs. The Rockets playoff fortunes will rest on the shoulders of Michael Herringer with Whistle unable to play after undergoing hip surgery. Whistle, who led the team to a WHL title last season, will now be used as a glorified cheerleader. "I will definitely be around for the playoff run. I am hoping to go to the away games as well. I want to be there talking to the guys one-on-one if they are getting down or if things are going astray. I want to help them get back on track and just be someone to talk and help them out anyway I can", Whistle added. How was the West Kelowna resident last season in the playoffs? The then 19 year-old lost only twice in regulation time in 19 games, posting a goals against average of 2.52 which includes 4 shut-outs. 
  • Three players in this series have father's that played in the NHL. Rockets rookie d-man Cal Foote saw his dad, Adam, play over 11 hundred games, primarily with the Colorado Avalanche. Blazers rookie Garett Pilon had his father, Rich, play with the Islanders, Rangers and St. Louis Blues. Kamloops forward Nick Chyzowski's dad, Dave, was a first round pick of the Islanders in 1989 and played a handful of games with the team that drafted him and the Chicago Blackhawks. 
  • Blazers forward Deven Sideroff was born in Summerland. Can you name the only former Kelowna Rockets player born in that Okanagan community? The answer: Mitch Chapman.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Handing out the year end hardware



Tyson Baillie named MVP
The Kelowna Rockets honoured a trio of graduating 20-year-olds and named five year veteran Tyson Baillie as its team MVP on Sunday at the annual Rockets Awards Banquet.

Baillie, who spent five seasons and 375 total games played in a Rockets jersey, also picked up the team’s top scorer award after posting 95 points during the 2015-16 WHL regular season.

Baillie, Whistle and Cole Linaker were honoured by the Rockets as players who are closing out their junior hockey careers.

Linaker was given the Hollis Peirce Award as the team’s Top Defensive Forward for the third straight year.

Cal Foote - Rookie of Yr.
Defensemen Joe Gatenby and Cal Foote each were honoured twice with team awards. Gatenby was named Top Defenceman and also won the team’s Plus Minus Award, finishing the season at plus-31.

Foote was named Rookie of the Year after a season where he posted 36 points and was plus-16 in playing in all but one of the team’s  72 games

Veteran Rocket Rourke Chartier was named the team’s Most Sportsmanlike Player for the third year running while Tomas Soustal was Most Improved, Justin Kirkland was named the Unsung Hero and Riley Stadel the Humanitarian Award for his work in the community.

The Rockets open the WHL Playoffs this weekend against Kamloops, hosting the Blazers Friday and Saturday nights at Prospera Place.


Tickets are available for the game through www.selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office or by phone at 250-762-5050.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rockets end season with offensive outburst

  • For the fourth consecutive season the Kelowna Rockets earned 100 points. The defending WHL champions wrapped up the 2015-2016 regular season Saturday night with a 10-1 home ice win over the visiting Vancouver Giants. The game saw former Rockets goaltender Jake Morrissey start against his old team. It was a game with little success for the younger brother of ex-Rockets defenceman Josh Morrissey. Jake surrendered 6 goals on 30 shots and was replaced by affiliated goalie David Tendeck in the second period. Tyson Baillie and Calvin Thurkauf each scored twice in the lopsided win with a total of 17 players hitting the score-sheet. Rookie Brodan Salmond, when called upon, looked sharp in his first start in front of the Prospera Place crowd. 
  • The win at home was the teams 27th of the season, which is one better than all of last season. Only the Seattle Thunderbirds in the Western Conference won more games on home ice than the Rockets did this season. The T-Birds won 29 times.
  • Tyson Baillie collected his team leading 42nd and 43rd goals of the season. Baille ends the regular season with a career high 95 points. Recognized before the game for his five seasons with the team, Baillie played 329 regular season games and collected an amazing 310 points. Baillie was a career +107. Only Tyler Soy (46) of the Victoria Royals scored more goals in the Western Conference this season. 
  • Tomas Soustal and Calvin Thurkauf combined to give the Rockets 91 points this season. It was refreshing to see two European born players make an impact on the score-sheet. Both are still categorized as 18 year old players.
  • Kole Lind's two assists Saturday against the Giants gave him 41 points in his rookie season. The Rockets have the bragging rights of having 10 players with 40 or more points this season. First place Victoria had seven while second place Brandon had 9.
  • The last time the Rockets put up 10 or more goals on home ice was last February in an 11-4 win over the Kamloops Blazers.
  • Devante Stephens was the only Rockets player to play in all 72 games this season.
  • Cole Linaker, who edged out Gage Quinney for the final overage spot, collected 50 points in 70 games. Linaker had a career high 18 goals and 32 assists. Only Tyson Baillie (12) scored more power play goals than Linaker (9). 
  • Lucas Johansen had 41 more points than he did last season. That is the greatest improvement, points wise, on the Rockets roster from one season to the next. 
  • The Rockets meet the Blazers in game one of the WHL playoffs next Friday night at Prospera Place. The Rockets were 5-3-0-0 in the eight games but the Blazers won the last three. Seven of the eight games were decided by a single goal.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

No longer the top dog!


Coleman Vollrath - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets used to be the best. Now they know what is needed to compete with the best. The Victoria Royals out-hustled, out-competed and out-scored the Rockets in a 7-4 win Wednesday night at Prospera Place, capturing the Scotty Munro trophy as regular season champions for the first time in franchise history. The Royals top two players, Tyler Soy and Alex Forsberg, combined for 8 points in the win. The Rockets top two scorers, Tyson Baillie and Justin Kirkland, didn't reach the score sheet. That is never a good sign. That and the fact the Royals dictated the pace of the game which often left the home team flat footed. Even when loose pucks were available, the Royals were first to them, and if the Rockets had it, the Royals desperately wanted to get it back. No better example that Tyler Soy's second period goal where the smallest player on the ice, Mathew Phillips, out-muscled Devante Stephens behind the Rockets net and sent the puck to Soy, parked in front , for his fourth point of the game.
  • Despite the lopsided score, the Rockets eventually made it a one goal game with two goals 16 seconds apart in the second period. Dillon Dube would score a power play goal on a double minor to Royals d-man Ty Westgard and then Calvin Thurkauf would find the back of the net, again on the power play, to make it a 3-2 game. Momentum was on the Rockets side right? Not so quick. Like real good teams do, the Royals scored less than a minute later to regain a two goal advantage. On three separate occasions the Royals established a three goal lead when the Rockets attempted to close the gap.
  • The good news? The Rockets power play struck for all four goals. It went 4 for 6. The bad news? The penalty killing unit allowed four power play goals against. The team took far too many penalties, none worse than captain Rodney Southam's unsportsmanlike penalty for yapping at the officials. It came when the score was 3-0 and the Rockets were on the power play.
  • The Rockets had no less than three-two on ones in the game and the puck carrier wouldn't shot it. On all three occasions, the Rockets came up empty handed with not even a shot on goal. 
  • Both goaltenders fought the puck. Coleman Vollrath was not his solid self. See the Tomas Soustal goal on video in the third period if you don't believe me. With the veteran not on his game, this was an opportune time for the Rockets to take advantage. Outside of quality chances on the power play, when it came to 5 on 5 hockey, the home team couldn't match the Royals determination.         
  • The craziest sequence of the game happened when Vollrath thought a penalty was being called on the Rockets for high sticking. The 20 year-old raced to the bench only to see that no call was made. With the puck at the other end of the ice, the Royals were able to corral it, and despite their net being wide open, they scored. 
  • The Rockets have lost 5 of their last 7 heading into the final two regular season games of the season. Are they meaningless games for the Giants? Pretty much. They will miss the playoffs. For the Rockets they are huge despite it having no bearing on where they finish in the standings. This team needs an injection of confidence in a big way.
  • With Rourke Chartier's three assist effort, the 19 year-old is now one of 9 players on the roster with 40 or more points. 
  • The seven goals were the most the Rockets have surrendered at home this season.  The last time the Rockets allowed 7 goals in a regular season game on home ice was February 17/2012 in a 7-1 loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen.   
  • The Royals came into Kelowna last March 11th and beat the Rockets 6-3.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rockets/Royals game notes

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: It is the final week of the regular season. With three games remaining, the Kelowna Rockets welcome the Victoria Royals to Prospera Place. These are the top two teams in the Western Conference and have a combined record of 93-35-7-3. The Rockets are 3-4-0-0 in the seven games, having won by scores of 2-1 (in overtime), 3-1 and 5-4. The Royals have out-scored the Rockets 22-15 overall. The Royals penalty killing unit has been terrific in the seasonal series, killing off 26 of 29 power play chances. The Rockets have had 14 fewer power play opportunities than Victoria. Ten of the Royals 22 goals have been scored on the power play. Of the 15 goals the Rockets have scored, just three have come with the extra man. Justin Kirkland has 4+3=7 in the seven games while Tyson Baillie has 1+4=5. Dillon Dube has three goals. Rourke Chartier has played in just three of the seven games. Michael Herringer has a record of 2-3-0-0 with a goals against average of 3.57 and a save percentage of .892. 

Rockets Recap: The Rockets enter the final week of the regular season four points back of the Victoria Royals for first place in the WHL. The Rockets are coming off a 6-4 loss in Tri City Sunday. Rourke Chartier, Calvin Thurkauf, Tanner Wishnowski and Tyson Baillie scored in the setback. Brodan Salmond took the loss in goal. In the big picture, the Rockets have points in 42 of 55 games (37-14-4-0).

Rockets Career Games Played List:
1)     Jason Deleurme: 341 games   5)  Gavin McLeod: 321 games
2)     Tyler Mosienko: 338 games     6)  Ryan Cuthbert: 319 games 
3)     Tyson Baillie: 326 games      7)  Brett McLean: 308 games 
4)     Brett Palin: 324 games            

Number Crunching The Rockets have eight players with 40 or more points. Rourke Chartier is next to join that group with 39 points. The team had 9 players with 40+ points last season….The Kelowna Rockets are attempting to reach the 100 point mark for a fourth consecutive season. With two more wins, the team will reach 100 points for the 6th time in franchise history. The team accomplished the goal in 2002-2003 (109), 2004-2005 (104), 2012-2013 (108), 2013-2014 (118) and 2014-2015 (109)….Rourke Chartier has 100 career assists. The 19 year-old hit the milestone last Saturday in Spokane. Justin Kirkland has 97 career assists…Devante Stephens will be the only Kelowna Rockets player to participate in all 72 regular season games this season…. The Rockets are 8 for 17 (47.1%) on the power play in their last 5 games…The Rockets have out-shot the opponent in 9 straight games. It is the first time that has happened this season…The Rockets have fired 250 shots on goal in the last 6 games or 42.1shots per game…Michael Herringer has started in 27 of the teams last 31 games…Tyson Baillie is 8 points shy of 100. The last Rockets player to hit 100 points was Colin Long in 2007-2008…The Rockets have won 9 of their last 14 games overall (9-4-1-0)...The Rockets are a combined 73-1-6-0 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 in regulation time when leading after 40 minutes. The Rockets are 31-0-3-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods …The Rockets are a combined 54-19-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 26-5-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Vancouver, Red Deer, Saskatoon and Kamloops…..The Rockets were 12-5-3-0 in 20 games against US Division opponents this season. The team was 13-1-0-0 against Central Division opponents. The only loss came in Lethbridge in the sixth game of the season….The Rockets have been out-shot in 39 of 69 games this season… Riley Stadel has 12 fighting majors this season and 32 over his career….Justin Kirkland has 35 points in his last 30 games.

Who’s Hot: Lucas Johansen has points in 10 of his last 14 games…Johansen has (1+10=11) over that period. Johansen has points in 14 of his last 19 games…Cole Linaker has points in 10 of his last 14 games. Linaker has 4+7=11 over that period…Linaker has a career high 46 points, seven more point than a season ago…Tyson Baillie has points in 13 of his last 17 games…Justin Kirkland had his 10 game point streak snapped last Wednesday. Kirkland had 5+10=15 over that period…Kirkland has points in 14 of his last 17 games…The Rockets are 208-58-12-6 in their last 284 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 campaign.

Monday, March 14, 2016

One win in three games won't cut it

Is Cal Foote the next Madison Bowey? Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • The hopes of the Kelowna Rockets finishing in first place in the WHL standings took a sever blow last night with a 6-4 loss in Tri City. While the Rockets suffered the setback, the Victoria Royals won their 10th in a row with a 4-3 win over Prince George. The loss keeps the Rockets four points back of the Royals for first place with three games remaining in the regular season for both teams. They clash Wednesday at Prospera Place with it being must win territory for the defending champions. A loss and it is likely a date with the Kamloops Blazers in round one of the WHL playoffs. For the Rockets to avoid Kamloops, they must win their remaining three games and the Royals must lose no less than two of their final three. The Royals are in Kelowna Wednesday before concluding the season with a home and home weekend series against the Everett Silvertips.  
  • The Kelowna Rockets won't win 50 games this season. That was erased with last night's loss. The Rockets were attempting to set a new WHL record by recording 50 wins in four consecutive seasons. The best they can do with three games left in the regular season is win 49 times. 
  • What did I think of the weekend? The team needed all six points to give them a fighting chance of finishing first overall. They managed only three. While not mathematically eliminated from clinching the Scotty Munro Trophy, so many things have to go right for the team to earn top spot. It starts with beating the Royals, which in itself would be a massive psychological step forward for the team heading into the playoffs. Just knowing you can beat the hottest team in the WHL would be huge, even if the two teams don't collide until further down the road. 
  • What did I like? I liked the teams mental strength by bouncing back after surrendering a 3-1 lead to the Kamloops Blazers Friday night in a 4-3 overtime loss. The team played a solid game in Spokane the night after and were full marks for the 6-1 win. When three players end the night with 1+2=3, the chances of winning are significantly increased. Some would suggest that it should have been an easy two points considering the Chiefs are disseminated by injuries. That is true, but I find all the teams in the U.S Division and the Western Conference for that matter are strong and the parity has never been better. Even the last place Vancouver Giants are a handful. Two points in this conference is never a gimme. Just ask the Eastern Conference teams.
  • The Rockets so called 'fourth line' had a really good weekend. Tate Coughlin, Kole Lind and Tanner Wishnowski made a massive impact. The trio were creating scoring chances, were buzzing in the offensive zone and making life tough for the opposition. Wishnowski scored a goal and also dropped the gloves. Lind also fought. Coughlin, who has all the skill in the world but rarely shows it, made smart plays with the puck. Coughlin is playing the best hockey of his career.  
  • What didn't I like. The Rockets needed to win Sunday night. They didn't. I thought coming back from a 2-0 deficit was encouraging, but to be honest they just didn't get a save in the game. If you have read my remarks on this blog in the past, you will notice more times than not that I am a huge backer of the goalies. That said, Sunday night was not Brodan Salmond's finest hour. Nor will it be his last. It is the life of a goalie. Salmond is a young netminder who has huge potential, but in a must win situation, it is awfully tough circumstances when you are required to keep your team in the hunt for first place while playing 4 games in 5 nights. With number one goalie Michael Herringer on the bench for Sunday's game, Salmond allowed five goals through 40 minutes and was hooked heading into the third period. Hindsight says the change in goal should have been made earlier, but the team trailed only by a goal with 20 minutes to play. As luck would have it, the team was unable to score and the Americans put the game away with an empty netter. 
  • Tyson Baillie scored his 40th and 41st goals of the season on the weekend. Baillie becomes the first player to hit the 40 goal plateau since Rourke Chartier scored 48 times last season. Baillie also played his his 325th game, moving into third place all time for games played in a Rockets uniform. Baillie won't catch Tyler Mosienko for second place. Mosienko played 338 regular season games.
  • Rourke Chartier hit the 100 assist mark in his WHL career Saturday night in Spokane. Chartier had a good weekend with goals in three straight games. On Chartier's current goal scoring pace, the 19 year would have found the back of the net 44 times.
  • The teams top line, which consists of Cole Linaker, Justin Kirkland and Tomas Soustal had mixed results on the weekend. Soustal had a point in all three games (2+1=3) while Kirkland had just two points (1+1=2) in the three games. Cole Linaker didn't have a point in all three games. That line has been really good over the last month and will be a massive factor in a long playoff run.
  • Cal Foote had a good weekend. The rookie d-man, who is my pick for rookie of the year, had a goal and four assists in the three games. Foote was also a +2. You have to remember Foote often times leads the team in ice time and is playing against the oppositions best players. That isn't easy but Foote is making it look that way. To put Foote's progression into perspective, the 17 year-old, who isn't draft eligible until next year, has more points (35) than Madison Bowey (30) did at the same age. Do you appreciate him more after I pointed that out?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rockets game notes vs. Blazers

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets close out a three game home stand tonight against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. This is the 8th and final meeting of the season between the two teams. This is the third meeting in the last week. Last Friday the Rockets suffered a 3-2 loss before falling 3-2 a night later at Prospera Place. The Rockets are 5-2-0-0 in the seven games against the Blazers and are 16-5-0-0 in their last 21 home games against their closest rival. Of the seven games this season, six have been decided by a goal. The only lopsided score was a 7-2 Rockets win in Kamloops on September 26th. Tyson Baillie leads the Rockets in the seasonal series with 6+6=12. Kole Lind has 5+3=8 while Tomas Soustal has 6+1=7 in the seven games. Michael Herringer is 1-2-0-0 against the Blazers with a goals against average of 2.82 and a save percentage of .912.

Rockets Recap: The Rockets enter the game three points back of the Victoria Royals for first place in the WHL. The Rockets do have one game in hand on the Royals. The Rockets are coming off a 3-2 shootout win Wednesday night over the visiting Prince George Cougars. After skating to a scoreless tie through two periods, Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker scored third period power play goals to send the game into overtime. Nothing was settled there before Tomas Soustal won it in the shootout. The Rockets fired 41 shots on net. The Rockets were 2 for 5 on the power play. In the big picture, the Rockets have points in 40 of 52 games (36-13-3-0).

Rockets Career Games Played List:
1)     Jason Deleurme: 341 games   5)  Gavin McLeod: 321 games
2)     Tyler Mosienko: 338 games     6)  Ryan Cuthbert: 319 games 
3)     Brett Palin: 324 games             7)  Brett McLean: 308 games 
4)     Tyson Baillie: 323 games

Number Crunching The Rockets have scored four regulation time goals in their last two games. All four goals have been scored in the third period and all four have been on the power play….The Rockets are 4 for 11 (36.4%) on the power play in their last two games.…The Rockets have out-shot the opponent in 6 straight games.      It is the first time that has happened this season…The Rockets have fired 142 shots on goal in the last three games or 47.3 shots per game…Michael Herringer has started in 25 of the teams last 28 games…Tyson Baillie is 11 points shy of 100. The last Rockets player to hit 100 points was Colin Long in 2007-2008…The Rockets have won 8 of their last 11 games overall...The Rockets are a combined 72-1-5-0 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 31-0-2-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods …The Rockets are a combined 54-19-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 25-4-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Vancouver, Red Deer, Saskatoon and Kamloops…..The Rockets are attempting to become the first team in the WHL to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 5 of their final 6 games…The Rockets have 6 games left in the regular season. Of those 6 games, 3 will be played on home ice. Of those 6 games, 4 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 66 games this season… Riley Stadel has 12 fighting majors this season and 32 over his career….Justin Kirkland has 33 points in his last 27 games.


Who’s Hot: Lucas Johansen had 2+10=12 in February and has points in 9 of his last 11 games…Johansen has (1+9=10) over that period. Johansen has points in 13 of his last 16 games…Cole Linaker has points in 10 of his last 11 games. Linaker has 4+7=11 over that period…Linaker has a career high 46 points, seven more point than a season ago…Tyson Baillie has points in 11 of his last 14 games…Justin Kirkland had his 10 game point streak snapped Wednesday. Kirkland had 5+10=15 over that period…Kirkland has points in 12 of his last 14 games…The Rockets are 207-57-11-6 in their last 281 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 campaign.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Energy/Emotion/Execution=Victory

Calvin Thurkauf - Shoot the Breeze
  • If the Kelowna Rockets play with the same commitment, emotion and passion they did Wednesday night, they will undoubtedly make a long run in this years playoffs. The same holds true for the Prince George Cougars. In a display of the best that the Western Hockey League has to offer, both BC Division teams received solid goaltending, created numerous scoring chances and received significant efforts from throughout the line up. It was a shame at games end that one team had to lose considering how well it was played. Tyson Baillie and Cole Linaker scored third period power play goals and Tomas Soustal scored in the shoot-out in the Rockets 3-2 home ice win. It was the best game of the eight game seasonal series between the teams because of how hard both played and how dynamic the two are in the offensive zone.
  • As my colour analyst Kent Simpson pointed out before the start of the game, Ty Edmonds can be lights out or leaky. The Cougars goaltender was at his best Wednesday night and his first save of the game, a solid glove hand stop on Rodney Southam 30 seconds into the first period, was a clear indicator that the 19 year-old was locked in. Edmonds, the games first star, made several solid stops to keep the Rockets off the board before the power play struck twice in the third period. The best part of Edmonds game was not overplaying pucks. Edmonds stood tall and didn't overcommit to any shooter. The Whitehorse, Yukon born Edmonds made an amazing save on a one timer from Tyson Baillie in the third period and how good was his save on Dillon Dube in overtime? For the record, Michael Herringer was equally as good at the other end of the ice and was aided by no less than two goal posts and a cross bar. 
  • How good was Dillon Dube? Dube was a threat every time he had the puck. It should be common place with his skill set. Unfortunately it hasn't been that way over the last 6 weeks.  The 17 year-old, up until last night has struggled, playing a mostly individualistic game which saw him over think plays rather than trusting on his hockey instincts. Last night though, Dube was using his greatest asset, his skating, which created the penalty shot chance in the second period. I thought Dube's greatest contribution was his composure late in the third period when he received a high stick between the benches and no call was made. Instead of retaliating in frustration, Dube sucked it up and continued to battle before Cougars overager Luke Harrison punched Dube in the face and the 20 year-old was sent to the penalty box. Moments later the Rockets scored on the power play. Dube didn't get an assist on the Cole Linaker goal but he should have with his ability not to take a selfish penalty in a 1-1 game.  
  • Speaking of the Cole Linaker goal, it was greasy and it was gorgeous. I love those goal mouth scramble goals. That tells me the team is determined to score. It is easy to play a perimeter game, but getting tight on the goaltender for secondary chances is so rewarding.
  • Lucas Johansen was great on the blue line. Aided by the return of Gordie Ballhorn after a 7 game absence, Johansen was seen joining the rush and making smart plays with the puck. I think Johansen has turned into a terrific defenceman and seems to be getting better with every game. When he is more proactive in the o-zone it makes such a difference in creating odd man rushes.
  • I don't often speak about Devante Stephens, but he too has been really good over the last five games. Honestly, it has been a trying season for the 18 year-old, who is being exposed a bit with Madison Bowey moving on to pro hockey. That said, Stephans is making safer plays with the puck in his own zone and his battle level has been ramped up substantially. Watch him battle for a puck in the corner in his own zone. No longer is he the loser in that situation. Stephens is skating hard to the puck, separating the man from it and taking it away. It is a small detail but it's noticeable for all who are watching.    
  • Rodney Southam's third period fight with Kody McDonald took me off guard. The two elected to fight with just over 6 minutes left in the third period in 1-1 game. I thought it was odd timing for the tilt considering what was on the line and the possibility of giving the Cougars a spark if McDonald was able to win the scrap. As it would turn out, Southam handily won the fight and his team scored 1:32 minutes later to take a 2-1 lead. 
  • The win snapped a two game losing streak and moved the Rockets within three points of Victoria for first place in the WHL standings with six games to play. The Rockets still hold a game in hand.  Up next is a date with the Kamloops Blazers Friday night. The two teams will meet for the third time in a week.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rockets game notes vs. Cougars

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of a three game home stand tonight against the visiting Prince George Cougars. The Rockets host the Kamloops Blazers Friday night. This is the eighth and final meeting of the season between two teams that could possibly meet in the opening round of the playoffs. The Rockets are 5-2-0-0 in the first 7 meetings after back-to-back wins in Prince George in mid-February. The Cougars have the bragging rights of beating the Rockets at Prospera Place (2-1) back on October 30th. In the big picture, the Rockets are 31-8-0-0 in the last 39 regular season appearances against the Cougars and are 14-5-0-0 in their last 19 games vs. their BC Division rivals at Prospera Place. The Rockets power play has just 4 goals in 29 chances (13.8%) while the Cougars are 7 for 25 (28%) in the seven games. Dillon Dube and Tyson Baillie lead the Rockets in the seasonal series with 13 points apiece. Dube has 6+7=13 while Baillie has 3+10=13. Justin Kirkland has five goals in the seven games. Rourke Chartier has been impressive, despite playing in only three games against the Cougars. Chartier has 3+4=7. Michael Herringer is 4-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.72 and a save percentage of .924.    

Rockets Recap: The Rockets enter the game five points back of the Victoria Royals for first place in the WHL. The Rockets do have two games in hand on the Royals. The Rockets are coming off a 3-2 loss to the Kamloops Blazers Saturday night. It was only the team’s 5th home ice loss of the season. It came on the heels of a 3-2 loss in Kamloops Friday night. The team fired 101 shots on goal in the two games. The last time the team lost two in a row prior to this past weekend was on December 18th and 19th on a prairie road trip and January 30th and 31st.  In the big picture, the Rockets have points in 39 of 51 games (35-13-3-0).

Rockets Career Games Played List:
1)     Jason Deleurme: 341 games   5)  Gavin McLeod: 321 games
2)     Tyler Mosienko: 338 games     6)  Ryan Cuthbert: 319 games 
3)     Brett Palin: 324 games             7)  Brett McLean: 308 games 
4)     Tyson Baillie: 322 games

Number Crunching Michael Herringer has started in 24 of the teams last 27 games…Tyson Baillie is 13 points shy of 100. The last Rockets player to hit 100 points was Colin Long in 2007-2008….Justin Kirkland has scored the game winning goal in three of the teams last 6 wins…The Rockets have won 7 of their last 10 games overall...The Rockets are a combined 72-1-5-0 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 31-0-2-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods …The Rockets are a combined 54-19-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 24-4-1-0 when Tyson Baillie scores. The only regulation losses when the 20 year-old finds the back of the net were against Vancouver, Red Deer, Saskatoon and Kamloops…..The Rockets are attempting to become the first team in the WHL to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 6 of their final 7 games…The Rockets have 7 games left in the regular season. Of those 7 games, 4 will be played on home ice. Of those 7 games, 5 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 65 games this season… Riley Stadel has 12 fighting majors this season and 32 over his career….Justin Kirkland has 33 points in his last 26 games.


Who’s Hot: Lucas Johansen had 2+10=12 in February and has points in 8 of his last 10 games…Johansen has (1+8=9) over that period. Johansen has points in 12 of his last 15 games…Cole Linaker had his 9 game point streak snapped last Saturday. Linaker had 3+6=9 over that period…Linaker has a career high 44 points, five more point than a season ago…Tyson Baillie has points in 10 of his last 13 games…Justin Kirkland has a 10 game point streak (5+10=15)…Kirkland has points in 12 of his last 13 games…The Rockets are 206-57-11-6 in their last 280 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 campaign.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shooting blanks

  • Shooting blanks. Parents to be cringe at the very phrase. So do coaches of WHL team's who struggle to score. Throw Kelowna Rockets head coach Brad Ralph into that category after a pair of losses to the desperate Kamloops Blazers on the weekend. The Rockets fired 101 shots on Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram in the two games and manufactured only four goals. That averages out to a goal every 25.25 shots. Ingram picked up the number one star honours on both night's and has to be considered for the POW (Player of the Week) award when it is announced by the WHL office on Monday. While Ingram wasn't as busy as Friday, when the Blazers earned a carbon copy 3-2 win, the 18 year-old was required to make more quality saves Saturday night in the one goal victory. Solid goaltending and desperate hockey are a lethal combination when a team heads into the playoffs. The Blazers have both in spades right now. Opponents...beware!
  • Where the Blazers fall short on skill, they appear to make up for it in heart. The Nick Chyzowski goal was a great example. While falling down, Chyzowski beats Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer with a backhand shot to make the score 2-0. The goal comes from the lip of the crease. It's a greasy goal. It is a gutsy goal. It is a goal that wins you games at this time of the year. Ya, the pretty ones look good on video but the ugly ones provide results in the standings.
  • Tyson Baillie scored his 38th goal of the season, passing his career high of 37 goals set last season.
  • Justin Kirkland extended his point streak to 10 games with an assist on Baillie's third period power play goal. Kirkland has the longest point streak of any Rockets player this season. Baillie had a 9 game point streak earlier this season.
  • Cole Linaker had his career high 8 game point streak end Saturday night.
  • Lucas Johansen has made the greatest improvement of any Rockets players this season. Johansen has 35 more points than he had all of last season. Johansen has points in 13 of his last 15 games after an assist Saturday night on Baillie's power play goal. 
  • The Rockets are 10-5-0-0 in their last 15 games. Of those 10 wins, seven have been one goal victories. The Victoria Royals, the hottest team in the WHL in the last 15 games are 13-1-1-0. The Royals lead the Rockets by 5 points with 7 games left in the regular season. The Royals only have five games remaining.  
  • Kelowna Rockets Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer will be inducted this summer into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton. Hoyer was presented with the ‘Larry Ashley Award’ prior to Saturday’s home game against the Kamloops Blazers. The award is given each year to a trainer, equipment manager or medical person associated with the game of hockey in BC. Blazers athletic therapist Colin Robinson has high praise for Hoyer. "He has great character. One thing that I think separates him from a lot of other guys is his care level of his players. He is a true professional and carries himself very well. When he came back to the Western Hockey League after that small stint, it made the WHL a better league". Kelowna Rockets forward Cole Linaker says Hoyer is an unsung hero on his team. "I can't say Scotty has had a bad day. He is always outgoing and happy and makes the guys feel better. He is an important part of keeping our team positive. I remember a quote he had during our long playoff run last year. 'Good times boys, good times'. When ever we faced adversity, he would say that to us and it seemed to lighten the mood on the bench", Linaker added. 
  • I am a big fan of Don Hay. Why? I always have solid encounters with Hay chatting about the game even after the pre-game interview is over. A great example was Saturday night where we talked for several minutes about the Joe Gatenby hit on Jake Kryski the night prior. Hay is so comfortable with me, or so I assume, that he physically demonstrated on me how he saw the hit. No, he didn't actually run me over at full speed, but it again shows that Hay is willing to take some extra time with me in his busy schedule and the relationship, visiting broadcaster to visiting coach, isn't entirely impersonal.  
  • The Rockets host the Prince George Cougars Wednesday in what could be a preview of an opening round playoff match-up between the two teams. If the playoffs were to begin, the two teams would square off for the first time since the 2011 playoffs. In that series, the Rockets eliminated the Cougars in four straight.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lots of shots. Few goals.

Sometimes the shot clock doesn't tell the entire story
  • The Kelowna Rockets dominated puck possession. Territorial play was clearly on their side. The shot clock heavily favoured the visitors. The only result that really mattered at the end of the night though was the score-clock at Sandman Centre. It read, Blazers 3 Rockets 2. Connor Ingram was steady in the Blazers net making 53 saves in the one goal win. While the shot total looked impressive for the Rockets at games end, how many were from the outside? How many were shots from the blue line that forwards, the strength of this group, were unwilling to gather up for rebounds? You often hear goalies comment to the media after a game about a heavy workload by responding, “my team-mates did a great job of keeping the shots to the outside”. If Ingram used those exact words in a post-game media scrum, the 18 year-old would be right on the money. It will probably be Ingram’s easiest 53 save performance of his WHL career.
  • I have no data to back up my claim, but I think it's safe to suggest the d-core delivered more pucks on net then we have seen in any game this season. 
  • The Blazers start was impressive. It was the best part of the game for them outside of the score at the final buzzer. With a 6-1 shot advantage, Jermaine Loewen scored on an innocent wrist shot that beat Rockets goalie Michael Herringer to the block side. The Blazers were rewarded with the peppy start. The tide quickly turned though, with the Rockets out-shooting the home team 15-1 the rest of the way. The opening period ended 1-0 Blazers. Tomas Soustal would tie the score less than 90 seconds into the second and it was game on. The Blazers regained the one goal advantage less than four minutes later before rookie Garrett Pilon, who has scored at will against the Rockets this season, gave Kamloops a two goal cushion heading into the third period.
  • The Rockets elected to pull starter Michael Herringer and insert Brodan Salmond to start the third. The change was made to send a message to the 20 year-old goaltender that he needs to be better. Herringer is usually at his best when he has a lot of work, but needs to show he can be relied on when the shots are few and far between.
  • The hit. Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby teed off on Blazers forward Jake Kryski with a massive hit at centre ice about 8 minutes into the second period. Blazers d-man Ryan Rehill made a five foot pass to an awaiting Kryski and Gatenby closed in on the unsuspecting forward and laid the boom. No penalty was called on the play. Kryski, surprisingly, returned for a shift or two before finally leaving the game. 
  • In looking at video of the hit, Gatenby didn’t leave his skates/feet before contact was made, but I have no dispute over the fact that Kryski’s head was the initial point of contact. Could Gatenby have avoided the head? In my opinion, no. Kryski was slightly bent over, in a typical skater’s posture, and was looking back when the pass was delivered by Rehill. The only way head contact could have been avoided is if Gatenby doesn’t step up on Kryski at all. You see many hits where the head is clearly targeted in a malicious manner. That needs to be stopped and the WHL does a pretty good job of policing that ‘dirty’ aspect of the game. If you leave your feet to hit anyone on the ice, head shot or not, it's a cheap hit. End of story. In this instance though, while the first point of contact was the head, it was unavoidable unless Gatenby makes no body contact at all. 
  • If the game is being called to the book in regards to eliminating hits to the head, then why not eliminate fighting all together? No, seriously. What is the first point of contact in a fight? The head. Is contact on an opponents head being initiated in a malicious manner? Uh, ya! The only thing eliminated in two players squaring off in a fight is neither player is in a vulnerable position before the fists start flying.
  • The Rockets are 5-1-0-0 in the seasonal series, yet five of the six have been one goal games. It was the Blazers first win over the Rockets this season. The two teams meet tonight in Kelowna before renewing the rivalry again next Friday in K-Town.
  • The Blazers went back in time by wearing retro Cooperall looking long pants in Friday’s win. I thought it was a great idea and they looked awesome. If people were criticizing the attire, give your head a shake and you are bitching just to bitch. It was trending on Twitter! Mission accomplished. People were talking about it. The only thing that would have added to the experience is if the Rockets also fashioned the same look.
  • Cole Linaker extended his point streak to a personal best 9 games with an assist on Tomas Soustal’s second period goal. Justin Kirkland matched that mark with a third period goal to make the score 3-2. Tyson Baillie was held off the score-sheet, snapping an 8 game point streak.
  • The Rockets now trail the Victoria Royals by three points for first place in the WHL. The Royals were a winner in Vancouver Friday night. The Rockets still have two games in hand. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rockets game notes vs. Blazers

Blazers HC Don Hay - Shoot the Breeze Photography 
Tonight’s Preview: With just three weeks left in the regular season, the Kelowna Rockets open a weekend home and home series with the Kamloops Blazers. These two teams haven’t seen one another since December 28th. The Rockets are 5-0-0-0 in the seasonal series, but don’t be fooled by the record. Of the five games, four have been decided by a single goal. The Rockets will face the Blazers three times in the next week. After tonight’s game, the two teams meet tomorrow at Prospera Place before wrapping up the seasonal series next Friday in Kelowna. The Rockets are 13-5-3-0 in their last 21 appearances at Sandman Centre and 29-9-3-0 in their last 41 regular season games against their closest BC Division rival. Tyson Baillie leads the team with 11 points (5+6=11) in the five games. Kole Lind (5 goals) and Tomas Soustal (4 goals) have also had strong seasonal series success against the Blazers. Michael Herringer is 1-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.70. These two teams haven’t met since the 2012-2013 post season when the Blazers were a power house, going all the way to the Western Conference final. Kamloops eliminated the Rockets in four games. They could meet in round one.

Rockets roll’n: The Rockets enter the game a single point back of the Victoria Royals for first place in the WHL. The Rockets do have two games in hand on the Royals. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 shootout win Saturday night over the Spokane Chiefs. Tomas Soustal and Justin Kirkland scored in the shootout. Rourke Chartier and Jonathan Smart scored in regulation time. In the big picture, the Rockets have points in 38 of 49 games (35-11-3-0).

Mr. 300: Last Friday, Tyson Baillie became only the fifth player in Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets franchise history to record over 300 points. Baillie joins Brett McLean, the franchise leader with 375 points (1994-1999), John Varga (333 points from 1991-95), Jason Deleurme (313 points from 1994-1999) and Marty Flichel (301 career points from 1992-1996) on that list. Baillie has 301 career points (132+169=301) in 320 regular season games.

Rockets Career Games Played List:
1)     Jason Deleurme: 341 games   5)  Tyson Baillie: 320 games
2)     Tyler Mosienko: 338 games     6)  Ryan Cuthbert: 319 games 
3)     Brett Palin: 324 games             7)  Brett McLean: 308 games 
4)     Gavin McLeod: 321 games

Number Crunching Michael Herringer has started in 22 of the teams last 25 games…Tyson Baillie is 14 points shy of 100. The last Rockets player to hit 100 points was Colin Long in 2007-2008….Justin Kirkland has scored the game winning goal in three of the teams last five wins…The Rockets have won three straight and 7 of their last 8 games overall...The Rockets are a combined 72-1-5-0 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 31-0-2-0. The Kamloops Blazers and Prince Albert Raiders are also without a regulation loss after two periods …The Rockets are a combined 54-18-8-0 against BC Division teams on the road in the last five seasons…The Rockets are 24-3-1-0 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 in the WHL to reach the 50 win plateau in four straight seasons. For that to happen, the team must win 6 of their final 9 games…The Rockets have 9 games left in the regular season. Of those 9 games, 5 will be played on home ice. Of those 9 games, 7 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 63 games this season… Riley Stadel has 11 fighting majors this season….Justin Kirkland has 31 points in his last 24 games.

Who’s Hot: Lucas Johansen had 2+9=11 in February and has points in 6 of his last 8 games…Johansen has (1+6=7) over that period. Johansen has points in 10 of his last 13 games…Cole Linaker is riding an 8 game point streak (3+5=8)…Linaker has a career high 43 points, four more point than a season ago…Tyson Baillie is riding an 8 game point streak (6+5=11)…Baillie has points in 10 of his last 11 games…Justin Kirkland has an 8 game point streak (4+9=13)…Kirkland has points in 10 of his last 11 games…The Rockets are 206-56-11-6 in their last 279 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 campaign.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cooke helping Huskies

Congratulations to Kelowna Rockets alumni Jordon Cooke for being named Canada West's Most Outstanding Player and Top Goaltender. Cooke, in his second season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, set a new program record with 19 wins this season. Cooke helped the Huskies to a 22 win season and a birth in the Canada West final this weekend against the University of Alberta. The U of S Huskies are lead by head coach Dave Adolph, the father of former Kelowna Rockets forward Max Adolph. One of Cooke's teammates with the Huskies is Zak Stebner, who played one season with the Rockets in 2010-2011.