Kyle Beach Interview

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Salmond sets table for road win

Brodan Salmond - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Brodan Salmond did all he could in an effort in help his team win for a 6th consecutive time Sunday in Portland. The sophomore goaltender allowed his team to find its footing before finding their game in the third period in a 3-2 road win. Salmond was especially good in the opening 40 minutes when his team looked flat and struggled to generate offense. But with Salmond keeping the game close, the Rockets erupted for two-third period goals from Nick Merkley and Tomas Soustal in the one goal win. Salmond wasn't named a game star but Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette knew who to credit on the AM 1150 post game show. "We were fortunate to be in it after the 40 for sure. Credit to Brodan tonight. He is bar none the reason why we won the game. He stood on his head. He kept us in it and we were fortunate enough to wake up in the third period and play the game the right way". 
  • After an emotional 5-3 win Saturday night, the Rockets looked flat before coming alive in the third period. The good news? Despite how poorly they played through 40 minutes, they only trailed by a goal thanks to Rodney Southam's shorthanded marker to keep the score 2-1. The Rockets were 1 and 7 when trailing after two periods while the Winterhawks were a perfect 5-0-0-0. Those numbers were turned upside down Sunday. The Rockets end up winning for only the second time in 9 games when trailing with the Winterhawks lost for the first time in 6 games when carrying the lead.
  • Nick Merkley has come alive. The 19 year-old looked like the 16/17 year-old forward that plays with exceptional determination to get the puck back when it isn't on his stick. The assist he earned on Southam's shorthanded goal is a good example. The Arizona Coyotes prospect stripped Winterhawks d-man Keoni Texeira of the puck behind the net and sent it into the slot where Southam made a nice move to opening the scoring for the road team. Merkley then fired home a one timer on the power play in the third period to tie the score at 2. Merkley is back to fine form after a slow start to the season.
  • I sure like what I saw from head coach Jason Smith in two timeouts called in the third period. On both occasions he gathered his team around the bench and was barking out signals. What was said, who knows? I just liked the visual of him looking intense and wanting to win as much as the players. I like passionate leadership and I see it in spades from the first year head coach,
  • Again, the Rockets played this game with one skater under the limit. Dillon Dube, Nolan Foote, Riley Stadel and Gordie Ballhorn were all absent from the line-up yet the team was able to earn back-to-back wins. It was a gutsy effort both night's for a Rockets team that is starting to get into a groove.
  • The Rockets conclude the month of October with 8 wins in their final 11 games. The month started with a 3-0 loss in Prince George, but from there is was full speed ahead. I would think the team would have liked the home ice loss to Saskatoon back if they had the option, but those games tend to even themselves out over the course of the season. 
  • The Rockets welcome the Kamloops Blazers to open the month of November. Both teams have followed similar paths with slow starts followed by nice stretches of winning hockey. For the first time this season the Rockets will see MVP Connor Ingram in goal after the 19 year-old missed the first two games of the seasonal series after attending the NHL training camp of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ingram will play for Team WHL at the Canada-Russian series and is considered a good bet to play for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

'Devo' dazzles in road win

Devante Stephens - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Devante Stephens had many nights last season that he would like to forget. Having turned the page from the 2015-2016 season, the now 19 year-old is making memories in his third season in the WHL and isn't looking back. The swift skating defenceman's most memorable moment came Saturday night, at the Moda Center in Portland, in the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 win. Stephens scored three times for his first career hat trick and was named the 1st star in the process. The Buffalo Sabres draft pick scored the game winner shorthanded in the second period by using his tremendous speed to join an odd man rush with captain Rodney Southam. It was a great night for 'Devo' and an impressive outing for a team that was playing one skater short.
  • As mentioned, Stephens most impressive goal was the shorthanded effort. With Rodney Southam controlling the puck just inside his own blue-line, Stephens, who was defending in front of Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer, let loose with his tremendous speed and hustled into the play to join Southam on an odd man rush. Stephens blew away Winterhawks leading scorer Cody Glass, who was back checking, in the foot race up ice and calmly put the puck into the net as Southam feathered it across. I've spoken about Stephens speed in the past, but it was a secret among many in the WHL until now. With added confidence, Stephens is skating with the puck more and his acceleration is off the charts. I believe Stephens possesses NHL caliber speed.
  • Who was the last Rockets d-man to score three goals in a game prior to Stephens? After further review, Riley Stadel scored three goals against the Lethbridge Hurricanes, as a defenceman, on October 16/2013. 
  • The Rockets played this game short staffed. Gordie Ballhorn and Riley Stadel did not play while Dillon Dube remains sidelined with a lower body injury. First year forward Nolan Foote, who is no ordinary rookie, is participating at the Under 16's in Sault St. Marie, Ontario this week. Despite the lack of numbers, others stepped up in their absence as the Rockets ran their winning streak to an impressive five games.
  • It was nice to see Nick Merkley find the back of the net for the first time this season. Merkley's power play goal six minutes into the third period gave the visitors the 3-2 lead.
  • These two teams are evenly matched. The game was tied three times before the Rockets pulled away with back-to-back goals in the third period.
  • The Rockets have scored 16 goals in their last three games. Problem solved offensively?     
  • Negatives? Far too many penalties against the best power play unit (statistically) in the WHL. The Rockets allowed the Winterhawks six chances with the extra man and were fortunate to kill off all six.
  • The Rockets surrendered 41 shots on goal in the uptempo affair. I think that number may be a little high for the coaching staff as goaltender Michael Herringer was kept busy. The Rockets generated amply chances on goal though. With 39 shots at the Winterhawks net, Michael Bullion had to be sharp, specifically with his rebound control.
  • Bullion's best save came courtesy of a little help from the goal post. Forward Kole Lind was sent in on a second period breakaway, went to the backhand, and appeared to have Bullion beaten. But as luck would have it, Lind's attempt was in vain as the puck hit the post with Bullion flat on his stomach in an effort to make a right pad save. Overall, I thought Bullion was very good for the home team.
  • The Winterhawks have another solid European player in Joachim Blichfeld. I thought the Denmark born forward created several good chances and ended up opening the scoring. The Winterhawks have one of the best pipelines to players overseas. Over the years, it has become a constant on their team. 
  • The Rockets are now 8-7-0-0 on the season after starting the year at 3-7-0-0. The team is 4 and 4 on the road heading into a rematch with the Winterhawks this afternoon at 5 pm.
  • A reminder, 'The Kelowna Rockets This Week' will air from 4 pm until 4:30 pm this afternoon prior to the pre-game show. Featured guests include Calvin Thurkauf's father and Kelowna Rockets public address announcer Bill Barnes. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Hard nosed hockey against familar playoff foe

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Playoffs in October? In major league baseball, yes. In the WHL, we are just getting started. That said, I have to admit Wednesday night's game at Prospera Place between the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals had a playoff feel to it. Was it a carry over from last seasons epic seven game Western Conference semi final series? Maybe? All I know is these two teams played with emotion from the opening face-off and it remains abundantly clear that no love has been lost from a year ago. When the dust settled, the Rockets earned an impressive 6-4 win over their BC Division rivals courtesy of a four point night from Kole Lind (1+3=4) and two goals from the stick of Calvin Thurkauf and Rodney Southam. The win moved the Rockets back to the .500 mark with an overall record of 7-7-0-0. While that doesn't look overly impressive, the four game winning streak has the team trending in the right direction as they close out the month of October with back-to-back games this weekend in Portland.
  • This game was likely the most physical we've witnessed at Prospera Place this season. Rockets d-man Devante Stephens was nailed in the second period by Royals overager Carter Folk on an icing call. Stephens didn't miss a shift, but was blasted into the end board in what looked like a dangerous play. Do I fault Folk for the collision? Not really. I fault the linesman who was slow on the whistle. Clearly it was icing but the linesman wouldn't blow the play dead. What else is Folk supposed to do in that situation? You play until you hear the whistle. Fortunately, Stephens didn't miss a shift and no penalty was accessed on the play. While I will give Folk the benefit of the doubt on that hit, the WHL should keep a close eye on this player. He plays very close to the line and sometimes likes to dip his toe in the dirty side of the pool if you know what I mean.
  • A game with this type of intensity deserved a fight and it featured Riley Stadel dropping the gloves with Royals rookie Kaid Oliver. This tilt broke out after Oliver was accessed a minor penalty for kneeing Tomas Soustal. As soon as Oliver came out of the penalty box, he seemed to lock horns immediately with Stadel at the Rockets blue-line. To be honest, I am not a fan of a 20 year-old fighting a 16 year-old.  In fact, I strongly dislike it....unless...Oliver came at Stadel and was the aggressor. All I know is, I would not be impressed if Royals overager Ryan Gagnon elected to trade punches with, let's say, 16 year-old Nolan Foote. Bad example, considering Foote wasn't in the line-up, but you get the idea. In the WHL, it is an unwritten code that 20 year-old's shouldn't fight 16 year-old's. It still happens occasionally, but I wish it didn't happen at all.   
  • While this game had no lack of emotion, it also had a series of great goals. Calvin Thurkauf continues to deploy his great wrist shot and Rodney Southam deflecting home a shot from the blue-line, on the power play, were some of the bright spots. Eight players hit the score-sheet including Lucas Johansen and Jonathan Smart, who each had a pair of assists in the victory.
  • The Rockets look like a totally different team than a few weeks ago. The passing is better, the calmness in their game and overall execution has taken a huge step forward. The power play struck for three goals for heaven sake! Again, the team was getting into shooting lanes and blocking shots and allowed the Royals to play all night on the perimeter if they wanted too...which they did. I don't know if it's a tendency, but the Royals frequently pass up shot opportunities by over passing. It happened numerous times as the visitors attempted to score the highlite reel goal. The skill is there for the Royals, but sometimes dumbing it down is not a bad option. 
  • Are the Royals not the best 'stretch pass' team in the Western Conference? The d-man is always looking for an awaiting forward at the opposition blue-line. Most times, it works.
  • Nick Merkley chipped in with an assist on Tomas Soustal's second period goal and collected his 200th career point in the process.
  • Rookie Connor Bruggen-Cate earned an assist for his first career WHL point on Rodney Southam's second period goal.
  • For my money, Devante Stephens has really ramped up his game. The 19 year-old, who had a down year in 2015-2016, is really looking good back on the blue line. Still making the odd passing error in his own zone, 'Devo' is joining the attack, finding good shooting areas and his tremendous speed is on display for all to see. Would I love to see Stephens race Royals overager forward Jack Walker. My money would be on Stephens if it was a race from goal line to centre ice. My money would be on Walker if both skaters had to carry a puck on their stick. Both have blinding speed. 
  • The Rockets now prepare for two games in Portland this weekend. The team heads down Friday with games Saturday (7 pm) and Sunday (5 pm). 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Rockets game notes vs. Royals

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets face-off against the Victoria Royals for the first time since last year’s epic Western Conference semi-final series. It was decided in seven games with Justin Kirkland scoring the tying goal with .2 seconds left in regulation time before Calvin Thurkauf ended the Royals season with the game winner in overtime. These two teams are meeting eight times this season. The Rockets make two visits to the Island on November 20th and 22nd and again on January 11th and 13th. The Rockets were 3-5-0-0 in eight meetings a season ago including just 1-3-0-0 at Prospera Place. The Royals out-scored the Rockets 27-21 overall.  The Rockets are coming off a 5-1 win Saturday night in Seattle. Kyle Topping had three goals while rookie Jack Cowell scored his first career WHL goal. Kole Lind added his team leading 5th of the season. The Rockets have won three straight games, with wins over Everett (4-3 OT), Tri City (4-2) and Seattle (5-1). The Rockets travel to Portland for two games this weekend. 

Hurrah for ‘Herry’: Veteran 20 year-old Michael Herringer is the WHL Goaltender of the Week. Herringer went 3-0-0-0 last week, posting a goals against average of 1.99. Herringer is the WHL nominee for CHL Goaltender of the Week. 

Hockey Canada Calls: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets will represent the WHL and Hockey Canada, at the CHL Canada-Russia series. Team WHL, who’s roster consists of Nick Merkley, Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, will compete against the Russian Selects in games November 7th in Prince George and November 8th in Edmonton. The Rockets 

Milestone Makers: Jordan Borstmayer is one point shy of his career high 5 points set last seasonKole Lind has points in three straight games (1+3=4)…Nick Merkley has played 190 WHL regular season games….Jake Kryski is 3 games shy of 150 games in his career…16 year-old Nolan Foote has points in three straight games (2+1=3)....Nick Merkley is one point shy of 200 for his WHL career…Devante Stephens is three games shy of 150.

Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets have opened the scoring in three straight games….The Rockets have carried the lead into the third period in three straight games…..The Rockets have not allowed a power play goal against in their last two games (9 for 9)…The team reduced its roster earlier this month by releasing 19 year-old forward Tate Coughlin. Originally listed by the team, Coughlin played 107 games with the RocketsSixteen year-old Nolan Foote won’t play in tonight’s game. Foote is one of 66 players participating in the 2016 Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario October 27th to November 5th. Assistant Travis Crickard is a video coach for Team Canada at the event…The Rockets lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 252….The Rockets have been shorthanded a league high 76 times….Nine members of the Rockets participated in NHL training camps. Tomas Soustal and Gordie Ballhorn earned tryouts with Edmonton and Dallas respectively. Nick Merkley (Arizona), Lucas Johansen (Washington), Dillon Dube (Calgary), Devante Stephens (Buffalo), Calvin Thurkauf (Columbus), Braydyn Chizen (Minnesota) and Justin Kirkland (Nashville) are all drafted players… A rare trade between the Kelowna Rockets and Spokane Chiefs was consummated October 17th. The Rockets traded 19 year-old Tanner Wishnowski to the Chiefs for 16 year-old prospect Colum McGauley. McGauley, a 4th round pick of the Chiefs, is playing this season with the Nelson Leafs.

Three Identified by NHLCS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s ‘Player’s to Watch List’. Defenceman Cal Foote is an ‘A’ prospect. Kole Lind is a ‘B’ prospect while defenceman Jonathan Smart is a ‘C’ prospect. The NHL draft is this June in Chicago.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 23
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s – 3   Stadel, Herringer, Southam
19’s – 6   Johansen, Merkley, Soustal, Stephens, Ballhorn
18’s – 7   Dube, Kryski, Lind, Borstmayer, Chizen, Salmond, Thurkauf
17’s -  6   C. Foote, Topping, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Smart, Mattson
16’s – 2   N. Foote, Belcourt


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rockets finding mojo

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Feeling a little bit better about the Kelowna Rockets now? The team is riding a three game winning streak after earning two points over the Everett Silvertips, Tri City Americans and Seattle Thunderbirds. They are making life a lot easier on themselves by opening up the scoring and are leading the game heading into the third period. Funny how that lessens the pressure on a team that scored only 16 goals in the first 8 games. That was an average of 2 goals per game. In the last five games, the team has scored 16 goals or 3.2 goals per game. 
  • One NHL scout who watches the Rockets extensively says you really need to ignore the first two weeks of the regular season. It isn't a true indication of how good or how bad a team is. If that is indeed the case, then we should erase from our memory the slow start the team had in the first seven games where they went 3 and 4.  
  • The most significant improvement I've noticed in the teams turnaround is the commitment to 'sell out' for one another. That means blocking shots, getting into shooting lanes and committing to defending. Lucas Johansen is blocking shots. Devante Stephens is having his stick snapped in two by getting a piece of a slap shot from an opponents stick. Rodney Southam is sacrificing his body. No one is exempt from shying away from a puck coming at them with velocity. It is impressive to watch. The team had no where near that commitment level one season ago. Makes you wonder how much head coach Jason Smith plays into that? He probable demands it. 
  • You win with your older players. It is a known fact at the NHL level and the WHL is no different. That said, it is nice to see rookies make an impression on the ice and with their new teammates. Kyle Topping's three goal effort in only his 11th WHL game is an early season highlite. It is such a rare feat for a rookie, yet alone a 16 year-old, to score three goals in one game. Topping, who is regarded as a 17 year-old in hockey years (turns 17 November 18th) scored his first career goal on a nice feed from 15 year-old Nolan Foote. How integral will those two players be in years to come as two of the teams offensive spark plugs? When rookies can chip in offensively, it sure makes the job of winning games so much easier for a Rockets team that doesn't have the offensive depth they did one season ago.     
  • Jack Cowell did what he needed to do. After dressing in the first six games of the season, the 17 year-old was a healthy scratch in five of the next six games. When he was inserted in the lineup Saturday in Seattle, Cowell scored his first career WHL goal and looked a lot more composed with the puck. Players don't like to admit it, but learning the game by watching from above in the stands is beneficial, specifically for rookie players. It gives them a better sense/understanding of how much time they have with or without the puck at this level. Cowell obviously absorbed what he was watching while being a health scratch and made the most of his return to the line-up with a solid effort.      
  • The biggest change from a season ago is the way the d-core is being used to join the attack. It is absolutely awesome. A defenceman is routinely joining the rush in some capacity. It looks eerily similar to the Portland Winterhawks from last season, who seemed to active the d-men under head coach Jamie Kompon. It simply provides another layer of offensive, and when used properly, it can really put pressure on the opposition. The Rockets have the personnel to activate the d-core with everyone returning from a season ago. What was a sign of weakness last season should now be an area of strength.  
  • Another aspect of the teams play that has improved is its discipline. A work in progress, fewer lazy penalties are being taken and the team isn't expending excessive energy on the penalty kill. The hooking, holding and tripping penalties are always the back breakers. Control your stick and make an extra stride to get better body positioning on an opponent. It takes a little extra work but goes a long way between winning and losing.
  • While Kyle Topping scored three goals Saturday night in Seattle, for my money, the most consistent rookie this season has been Nolan Foote. The 15 year-old (turns 16 November 29th) is always around the puck and likes to shoot it. I love that mentality. That said, Foote isn't a greedy player and will make smart plays to distribute it when he recognizes a teammate in a better scoring area. What I like most about Foote is his battle level. I think his compete and willingness to get involved in loose battles for pucks is exceedingly good. I don't see 'lazy' in his game at all.  It would be interesting to see the number of shots Nolan Foote takes per game. For a first year player, those numbers have to be fairly high.         
  • The team has won three straight games and still hasn't seen veteran forward Nick Merkley break out....yet. With no goals in his first 8 games, it is only a matter of time before he becomes a constant threat when he is out there. Playing with Jake Kryski and Calvin Thurkauf, those three are bound to make some noise in the offensive zone. It is interesting that Thurkauf has moved into the middle with Merkley and Kryski now on the wings. 
  • To think the team has yet to play with Dillon Dube in the line up. That is 13 games and counting without the point a game player. In the 2014-2015 season, then as a 16 year-old rookie, Dube played only three regular season games in the first two months of the season because of injury. After scoring 17 goals as a rookie and 26 in his second season, you would think in the range of 30 to 40 goals would be possible in his 18 year-old season?
  • The Kelowna Rockets are now 7-0-0-0 against the Tri City Americans on home ice dating back 5 seasons. That is the most success they have had of any team in the U.S Division over that time frame. Everett is next on that list, having failed to beat the Rockets in regulation time in 7 straight appearances (at Prospera Place). The Rockets are 5-0-2-0 in those seven games against the Tips. 
  • A trip across the U.S border crossing often provides for a unique experience. The team routinely reports the number of players on board the bus to the border guard and breaks down those numbers by nationality. With Calvin Thurkauf holding dual citizenship, the Swiss born forward has with him his Canadian passport. Thurkauf's father is Canadian. The Foote brothers, Cal and Nolan, also have dual citizenship and carry Canadian passports with them as well.  
  • Good luck to Nolan Foote and assistant coach Travis Crickard at the Under 17's in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The two won't be with the team for possibly the next six games.
  • Michael Herringer is the WHL Goaltender of the Week. The 20 year-old went 3-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.99.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Topping Time!

What 16 year-old forward Kyle Topping did last night in Seattle was abnormal. Rookies with a handful of games under their belt don't go out and score three goals in one game and lead their team to a 5-1 road win. Or do they? Ok, I guess they do, but what the 11th round bantam pick accomplished last night was a first in the Kelowna Rockets record books.
Topping opened the scoring, provided the insurance marker and then rounded out the scoring for the visiting team in the third period. Topping did one better than Kyle McLeod's hat trick, in Seattle, when the power forward scored three times as a 17 year-old in the 2000-2001 season. As mentioned, three goal games are rare for first year rookies in the WHL, Kyle Topping has the bragging rights of being in a select group. It is an impressive feat for a player who doesn't turn 17 until November 18th.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Rockets vs. Americans

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets wrap up a four game home stand tonight against the visiting Tri City Americans. This is the first of four games between the two teams this season. The Americans make a return visit on March 4th before the Rockets make two separate visits to Kennewick on November 30th and December 9th. Last season, these two teams met four times with the Rockets winning three of the four games. The Rockets were a 4-2 and 7-5 winner at Prospera Place and split a pair of games at Toyota Center, winning 3-1 and losing 6-4. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 overtime win Wednesday night over the Everett Silvertips. Lucas Johansen scored the game winning goal. Nolan Foote, Devante Stephens and Rodney Southam, all with their first goals of the season, helped the Rockets snap a three game losing streak. The Rockets are in a stretch of playing five of their next six games against a U.S based team. The Rockets visit the Seattle Thunderbirds tomorrow night. The team travels for two games to Portland, Oregon on October 29th and 30th.

Hockey Canada Calls: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets will represent the WHL and Hockey Canada, at the CHL Canada-Russia series. Team WHL, who’s roster consists of Nick Merkley, Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, will compete against the Russian Selects in games November 7th in Prince George and November 8th in Edmonton. The Rockets 

Let’s make a Deal: A rare trade between the Kelowna Rockets and Spokane Chiefs was consummated on Monday. The Rockets traded 19 year-old Tanner Wishnowski to the Chiefs for 16 year-old prospect Colum McGauley. McGauley, a 4th round pick of the Chiefs, is playing this season with the Nelson Leafs. It is the first trade between the two organizations in 12 years. The last one was in 2004.

Milestone Makers: Nick Merkley has played 188 WHL regular season games….Jake Kryski is 5 games shy of 150 games in his career…16 year-old Nolan Foote earned his first career point with an assist Friday against the Saskatoon Blades....Riley Stadel has 40 career WHL fights (1 at Memorial Cup). Rodney Southam has 29…Nick Merkley is two points shy of 200 for his WHL career.

Broadcasters Bits: The team reduced its roster last Tuesday by releasing 19 year-old forward Tate Coughlin. Originally listed by the team, Coughlin played 107 games with the RocketsSixteen year-old Nolan Foote is one of 66 players participating in the 2016 Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario October 27th to November 5th ....The Rockets have acquired 17 year-old forward Leif Mattson from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a 9th round bantam pick. Mattson, from Thompson, Manitoba, was the Wheat Kings 8th round selection in 2014Nick Merkley is three points shy of 200 for his career…The Rockets lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 212….The Rockets have been shorthanded a league high 63 times….Nine members of the Rockets participated in NHL training camps. Tomas Soustal and Gordie Ballhorn earned tryouts with Edmonton and Dallas respectively. Nick Merkley (Arizona), Lucas Johansen (Washington), Dillon Dube (Calgary), Devante Stephens (Buffalo), Calvin Thurkauf (Columbus), Braydyn Chizen (Minnesota) and Justin Kirkland (Nashville) are all drafted players.

Three Identified by NHLCS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s ‘Player’s to Watch List’. Defenceman Cal Foote is an ‘A’ prospect. Kole Lind is a ‘B’ prospect while defenceman Jonathan Smart is a ‘C’ prospect. The NHL draft is this June in Chicago. Foote’s father, Adam, was a second round pick of the Quebec Nordiques (22nd overall) in 1989. Adam Foote played his junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 23
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s – 3   Stadel, Herringer, Southam
19’s – 6   Johansen, Merkley, Soustal, Stephens, Ballhorn
18’s – 7   Dube, Kryski, Lind, Borstmayer, Chizen, Salmond, Thurkauf
17’s -  6   C. Foote, Topping, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Smart, Mattson
16’s – 2   N. Foote, Belcourt


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A wins a win

Lucas Johansen - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • A night of firsts for the Kelowna Rockets. Lucas Johansen scored in overtime, on the power play, in a 4-3 win Wednesday night over the Everett Silvertips. It was the 19 year-old's first tally of the season. Rodney Southam, Devante Stephens and rookie Nolan Foote, all with their first goals of 2016-2017, found the back of the net as the Rockets snapped a three game losing streak. The victory didn't come without its warts, but when you have 3 wins in your first 10 games....a win is a win!!
  • Playing from behind isn't easy. Playing with the lead isn't either. For only the third time this season the Rockets enjoyed the luxury of having the lead heading into the third period. That's right, in 8 of the first 10 games, the Rockets were facing a deficit heading into the final 20 minutes. With a 3-1 lead Wednesday night, the team looked rattled as the Tips rallied with two goals, including the tying marker with just over a minute left in regulation time with the goaltender pulled. Considering the Tips had played the night before in Spokane and were down two goals heading into the final period, the fact they managed to earn a point must have quietly felt like a victory for the visitors.   
  • Devante Stephens had, without question, the best goal he has scored in his WHL career. Sure, the soft spoken d-man had only 6 careers goals heading into last night's game, but the 19 year-old had a great individual effort in helping his team built up a 2-0 lead. Stephens, who is one of the quickest skaters in the WHL, carried the puck up ice, skated to the outside of the Tips defender and then swiftly cut back towards the net and tucked the puck past goaltender Carter Hart. Stephens often carries the puck up ice, but I have never seen him take it to the net like he did in his 7th career goal. 
  • The best goal of the night likely came from 16 year-old rookie Nolan Foote. It wasn't necessarily how the puck was shot past Tips goaltender Mario Petit, who came into replace starter Carter Hart after giving up two goals on five shots. Foote's first career WHL goal came on a pass from his older brother Cal, who fired a long stretch pass from blue-line to blue-line which allowed his younger brother to spring loose behind the Tips defence. It was cool to see Cal pick up the puck and hand it to his younger brother after the goal was scored. A terrific moment for all to witness and the execution of the goal, with both Foote brothers involved, couldn't have gone down any better.   
  • A more disciplined effort by the Rockets, but the screws need to be tightened even further. Head Coach Jason Smith was seen doing the right thing when forward Jake Kryski wasn't given playing time after taking two of the teams five minor penalties. Defenceman Jonathan Smart was a healthy scratch Wednesday night. It makes you wonder if that was also a message sent by Smith that bad penalties won't be tolerated? Smart had taken a penalty in five of his last 7 games.  
  • The Rockets needed to win this game. The Tips had played the previous night in Spokane and had to be road weary. Amazingly, they didn't look fatigued outside of Carter Hart, who looked sleepy on both goals he surrendered. The Tips also played the game with essentially six-16 year-old's. I will throw Riley Sutter and Wyatte Wylie into the mix considering those two are 16 now, with Sutter turning 17 on Ocotber 25th and Wylie also turning 17 on November 2nd.  
  • The Rockets scored two power play goals on 4 chances. Rodney Southam's opening goal on the power play snapped a 0 for 14 slump with the man advantage.
  • The Rockets conclude a four game home stand Friday against the Tri City Americans before traveling to Seattle to face the T-Birds Saturday night in a rematch of last seasons Western Conference final. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Rockets/Tips game notes

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game three of a four game home stand tonight when they welcome the Everett Silvertips to Prospera Place. This is one of four meetings between these two teams this season. The Tips make a return visit on March 15th. The Rockets stop in Everett on January 16th and March 3rd. Last season, the Rockets lost twice to Everett at Prospera Place in overtime. The scores were 3-2 and 2-1. The teams split games in Everett with the Rockets winning 6-5 and losing 3-1. In the last 6 regular season games in Kelowna, the Rockets are 4-0-2-0 against the Tips. In the last 12 regular season meetings, the Rockets have lost in regulation time only twice. The Rockets enter tonight’s game riding a three game losing streak at home and three straight losses overall. The team is coming off a 5-1 loss to the visiting Swift Current Broncos Saturday night. Tomas Soustal scored the lone goal in the teams 7th loss in 10 games. This is the start of a stretch of games where the Rockets play a U.S based team in five of their next six games. The Rockets welcome Tri City Friday before visiting the Seattle Thunderbirds Saturday night. The team travels for two games to Portland, Oregon on October 29th and 30th.

Let’s make a Deal: A rare trade between the Kelowna Rockets and Spokane Chiefs was consummated on Monday. The Rockets traded 19 year-old Tanner Wishnowski to the Chiefs for 16 year-old prospect Colum McGauley. McGauley, a 4th round pick of the Chiefs, is playing this season with the Nelson Leafs. It is the first trade between the two organizations in 12 years. The last one was in 2004.

Milestone Makers: Forward Riley Stadel played in his 250th career game Friday vs. the Blades…Nick Merkley has played 187 WHL regular season games….Jake Kryski is 6 games shy of 150 games in his career…16 year-old Nolan Foote earned his first career point with an assist Friday against the Saskatoon Blades....Riley Stadel has 40 career WHL fights (1 at Memorial Cup). Rodney Southam has 29.

Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets have failed to score a power play goal in four games (0/14)…The Rockets have surrendered 6 power play goals against in four games (6/19)….The team reduced its roster last Tuesday by releasing 19 year-old forward Tate Coughlin. Originally listed by the team, Coughlin played 107 games with the Rockets …Kole Lind turned 18 on Sunday…The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 after 10 games last seasonSixteen year-old Nolan Foote is one of 66 players participating in the 2016 Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario October 27th to November 5th ....The Rockets have acquired 17 year-old forward Leif Mattson from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a 9th round bantam pick. Mattson, from Thompson, Manitoba, was the Wheat Kings 8th round selection in 2014Nick Merkley is three points shy of 200 for his career…The Rockets lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 212….The Rockets have been shorthanded a league high 63 times….Nine members of the Rockets participated in NHL training camps. Tomas Soustal and Gordie Ballhorn earned tryouts with Edmonton and Dallas respectively. Nick Merkley (Arizona), Lucas Johansen (Washington), Dillon Dube (Calgary), Devante Stephens (Buffalo), Calvin Thurkauf (Columbus), Braydyn Chizen (Minnesota) and Justin Kirkland (Nashville) are all drafted players.

Three Identified by NHLCS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s ‘Player’s to Watch List’. Defenceman Cal Foote is an ‘A’ prospect. Kole Lind is a ‘B’ prospect while defenceman Jonathan Smart is a ‘C’ prospect. The NHL draft is this June in Chicago. Foote’s father, Adam, was a second round pick of the Quebec Nordiques (22nd overall) in 1989. Adam Foote played his junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 23
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s – 3   Stadel, Herringer, Southam
19’s – 6   Johansen, Merkley, Soustal, Stephens, Ballhorn
18’s – 7   Dube, Kryski, Lind, Borstmayer, Chizen, Salmond, Thurkauf
17’s -  6   C. Foote, Topping, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Smart, Mattson
16’s – 2   N. Foote, Belcourt


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Things that make you go hmm...

Justin Kirkland
  • The Justin Kirkland watch continues. The 20 year-old was a healthy scratch as the Milwaukee Admirals opened the American Hockey League season on the weekend with back-to-back wins. Kirkland, who is signed by the Nashville Predators, is expected to play this season with the Admirals. The theory is if Predators management believe he may need more seasoning, instead of dumping him in the East Coast Hockey League, he would returned to the WHL for his overage season. The fact that Kirkland didn't play in either game on the weekend makes the situation even more intriguing.
  • Where is Myles Bell playing this season? I will tell you later down the column. 
  • The Rockets don't often lose two home games on back-to-back nights, but it happened Friday and Saturday with setbacks to the visiting Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos. When was the last time he Rockets came away empty handed without even recording a loser point thanks to a overtime or shootout loss? The Rockets lost back-to-back home games against the Portland Winterhawks on February 8/9, 2013 by scores of 5-3 and 5-1. 
  • The Kelowna Rockets elected to trade 19 year-old Tanner Wishnowski to the Spokane Chiefs for 16 year-old prospect Colum McGauley. McGauley will play Junior B this season in Nelson, BC after winning a Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League title last season with the Notre Dame Hounds. In subsequent weeks, the Rockets have traded or released two players that they listed, not drafted in the WHL bantam draft. Tate Coughlin, who was released by the team, and Wishnowski were both listed players by the organization. If you include Danny Gatenby to the mix, who was traded to the Kamloops Blazers, management has moved three players this season that were listed by director of player personnel Lorne Frey. 
  • How rare are trades between the Rockets and Chiefs? Very. Up until Monday's deal, the last time the two were trading partners was January 8, 2004 when the Rockets obtained the playing right to college bound Jeff Tambellini. That was basically 12 years between trades involving the Western Conference rivals. I guess we can expect another one between Kelowna and Spokane in 2028?
  • While the Rockets 3-7-0-0 start is concerning, it really isn't that uncommon in these parts. Last season the team was 6-4-0-0 after 10 games. Both in 2011-2012 and again in 2012-2013, the team had identical records of 4-5-0-1. The worst 10 game start in recent memory was 2006-2007 when the Rockets were a dismal 2-7-0-1.
  • Am I worried with the 3-7-0-0 start to the season? Let's remember we are not even a month into the season yet. The puck only dropped for real on September 23rd. Talk to me on November 28th and we will have a better gauge of where we are headed.  
  • Two players on the visiting Swift Current Broncos roster Saturday night should give anyone hope if they fail to hear their name at the NHL draft. Lane Pederson attended Arizona Coyotes camp as a free agent and signed an entry level deal with the NHL club. Teammate Colby Sissons story may be even  better. Sissons wasn't selected in the WHL draft nor the NHL draft. The defenceman ended up attending the NJ Devils training camp, again on a tryout, and ended up being offered a three year deal. Those two players alone are reason enough to believe that not being selected in the NHL draft doesn't mean the dream is over.
  • Speaking of the Broncos, are they not the Prince George Cougars of the Eastern Conference? I don't think anyone expected the Broncos to be at the top of the standings in what was considered a year of rebuilding. That said, the Broncos do have a glut of 19 year-old players but just one overager. The PG Cougars are atop the Western Conference and many believed they would contend for a BC Division title, but no one would have forecasted a start that saw them win 10 of their first 12 games. 
  • An interesting observation from a out of towner who attended weekend games at Prospera Place. Once considered to be one of the best arena's in the WHL, the individual remarked that the building, which is now 19 year-old, is looking quite tired and needs upgrading. Can't argue with that. Essentially the building has seen little in the way of improvement, to the untrained eye, outside of a can of paint. RG Properties, which owns and operates the building, will hand it over to the city of Kelowna in 2029. Surely, it won't take that long for a renovation of the building until then? It is in dire need of better dressing room facilities for the visiting team. Trust me, visiting trainers tell me Prospera Place is one of the worst set ups for them of the 21 other rinks they visit. As for the cramped press box.....  
  • If you are creeping through my Twitter feed (ReganRants) you will notice Saskatoon Blades GM Colin Priestner sent me a quick note. Appreciate the gesture.  
  • Remember Myles Bell? Sure you do. Bell had 38 goals in 2012-2013 and then scored 42 times in 2013-2014 after being acquired from the Regina Pats. Bell is now playing senior men's hockey with the Lacombe Generals and is chasing the Allan Cup along with former Kelowna Rockets forward Zach Franko. You may remember last season, Carter Rigby scored the game winning goal for the Generals in the Allan Cup finals. Rigby is now an assistant coach with the Summerland Steam of the KIJHL.  
  • In the QMJHL, already 30 games have seen crowds of under 2,000 fans. In the WHL? Only 11 games have seen less than 2 grand. Kootenay (5), Swift Current (4) and PA (2) lead the way. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Houston, we have a problem!

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

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Out-shoot but can't out-score

Kole Lind - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets shouldn't hang their heads after Friday night's 4-2 home ice loss to the Saskatoon Blades. They fired 38 shots on goal. The allowed only 17 towards starter Brody Salmond. Sure, at the end of the day is was the teams 6th setback in 9 attempts, but they deserved a better fate. But when wins are hard to come by, the mistakes are magnified. Penalties, even if they are few and far between, can be costly if they are taken at inopportune times. The Blades scored twice on the power play while the Rockets were snuffed out on just two extra man chances. 
  • Kole Lind scored twice in the loss and could have recorded his first career hat-trick had the Hockey God's been shining brightly upon him. With the goaltender pulled and the Blades clinging to a one goal lead, Lind found the puck on his stick in a grade 'A' scoring area with net to shoot at and Saskatoon goaltender Logan Flodell unsure where the puck was during the goal mouth scramble. Lind fired the puck towards the net but it hit the post and stayed out. Moments later, Blades leading scorer Mason McCarty won a border battle at centre ice, and on his knees, fired a puck towards an empty net to make the score 4-2. Hockey is truly a game of inches. The Rockets were an inch away from, in a worse case scenario, earning a point. 
  • The game marked the debut of 17 year-old Leif Mattson. Acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings last week, Mattson showed some offensive flair and a willingness to make body contact. I thought he had an excellent debut with his new team. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw.
  • Nolan Foote is starting to find traction in his game. The rookie 16 year-old is making some nice plays and earned his first career point, an assist, in last night's loss. Foote could have had another helper, when in the second period, he fired a quick snap shot on goal from a sharp angle that Blades goaltender Logan Flodell handled. Flodell couldn't contain the rebound that teammate Lucas Johansen almost converted on with an in tight scoring chance. Foote, the younger brother of Cal, has a real nice release and will use it more as his confidence with the puck builds.  

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rockets/Blades battle

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open a four game home stand tonight when they welcome the Saskatoon Blades to Prospera Place. This is the lone meeting of the season between the two teams. The Rockets traveled to Saskatoon last season (December 19th) and lost 5-3. The Rockets host the Swift Current Broncos tomorrow night before welcoming Everett next Wednesday (October 19th) and Tri City on October 21st. The Rockets enter the weekend with a record of 3-5-0-0, having played six of their first eight games on the road. On a recent five game road trip, the team was able to win twice against Lethbridge (6-3) and Edmonton (1-0). The hockey club is coming off a 5-0 loss in Red Deer Saturday night. The Rockets fired 38 shots at the Rebels net but were shut out for the second time this season. Brodan Salmond took the loss in goal.  

Milestone Makers: Forward Riley Stadel will play in his 250th career game tonight vs. the Blades…Nick Merkley has played 185 WHL regular season games….Jake Kryski is 6 games shy of 150 games in his career…Alumni Duncan Kieth enters this NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks with 833 regular season games played, the most of any active player that wore a Rockets uniform. New Jersey Devils’ Vern Fiddler is next with 818 regular season games played. Shea Weber of the Montreal Canadiens has 763 games under his belt followed by Josh Gorges of the Buffalo Sabres with 683…The Kelowna Rockets have 15 players on opening day rosters in the NHL.

Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets reduced their roster Tuesday by releasing 19 year-old forward Tate Coughlin. Originally listed by the team, Coughlin played 107 games with the Rockets …Kole Lind turns 18 on Sunday…The Rockets were 5-3-0-0 after 8 games last season and 6-3-0-0 after 9 games…Goalie Brodan Salmond celebrated his 18th birthday last SaturdaySixteen year-old Nolan Foote is one of 66 players participating in the 2016 Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario October 27th to November 5th …The team scored 34 goals after 8 games last season. This season the team has 16 goals after 8 games..The Rockets have acquired 17 year-old forward Leif Mattson from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a 9th round bantam pick. Mattson, from Thompson, Manitoba, was the Wheat Kings 8th round selection in 2014Nick Merkley is three points shy of 200 for his career…The Rockets lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 175….The Rockets have been shorthanded a league high 54 times….Nine members of the Rockets participated in NHL training camps. Tomas Soustal and Gordie Ballhorn earned tryouts with Edmonton and Dallas respectively. Nick Merkley (Arizona), Lucas Johansen (Washington), Dillon Dube (Calgary), Devante Stephens (Buffalo), Calvin Thurkauf (Columbus), Braydyn Chizen (Minnesota) and Justin Kirkland (Nashville) are all drafted players.

Three Identified by NHLCS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s ‘Player’s to Watch List’. Defenceman Cal Foote is an ‘A’ prospect. Kole Lind is a ‘B’ prospect while defenceman Jonathan Smart is a ‘C’ prospect. The NHL draft is this June in Chicago. Foote’s father, Adam, was a second round pick of the Quebec Nordiques (22nd overall) in 1989. Adam Foote played his junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Smith Guides Team: The Kelowna Rockets made a head coaching change at seasons end. After just one year on the job, Brad Ralph parted ways with the team on May 9th. Then on July 6th, Jason Smith was hired as Brad Ralph’s replacement. Smith is the Rockets fourth coach in the last four years. Smith, who retired September 2, 2009, played 16 seasons in the NHL before joining the coaching staff of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, a role Smith has held for the last four seasons’.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 24
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s – 3   Stadel, Herringer, Southam
19’s – 7   Johansen, Merkley, Soustal, Stephens, Wishnowski, Ballhorn
18’s – 7   Dube, Kryski, Lind, Borstmayer, Chizen, Salmond, Thurkauf
17’s -  6   C. Foote, Topping, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Smart, Mattson
16’s – 2   N. Foote, Belcourt

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Coughlin released

The Kelowna Rockets have released 19-year-old forward Tate Coughlin.

Coughlin was in his third full season for the Rockets, having skated in 107 regular season games for the team as well as five playoff games, amassing four goals and nine assists in that time.

A native of Victoria, Coughlin had played in four games for the Rockets this season.

The Rockets organization would like to thank Tate for his efforts, both on the ice and in the community.

The Rockets are back at home this weekend, hosting Saskatoon on Friday night and Swift Current on Saturday at Prospera Place.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Everything's bigger...in Edmonton?

Michael Herringer is named 1st star
  • Big venue. Big score-clock. Big win. The Kelowna Rockets are riding a modest two game winning streak after a 1-0 win last night in Edmonton. Michael Herringer, who still doesn't get the respect I believe the 20 year-old deserves, made 38 saves and was solid in his 4th career shutout. Herringer was simply sharp, didn't overplay shots and let them hit him in a controlled and calm manner. Honestly, Herringer was tested too much for my liking as the Oil Kings manufactured some significant scoring chances. The Rockets too had some great chances and were foiled by Kelowna born Oil Kings netminder Liam Hughes. The 17 year-old's best save came against Kole Lind, who was stuffed by the right pad of Hughes on a second period breakaway. 
  • The majority of the Rockets quality chances came either 5 on 5 or when the teams were playing 4 on 4. The power play just seems to be a step out of sync right now, but we are only 7 games into the regular season. It wasn't much of a threat last night and needs to be in a tight hockey game. The Oil Kings only made four trips to the penalty box and were successful in killing all of them off.
  • Calvin Thurkauf continues to impress. The 18 year-old's wrist shot has to be one of the best on the team and his accuracy with it is impressive. Thurkauf has three goals and four points on this road trip after scoring twice in Lethbridge Wednesday night. Let's be cautious here though. Thurkauf scored three goals in his first 7 games last season and then went 12 games without finding the back of the net. Let's see if the extra year of maturity enables him to play a consistent game. I should mention, Thurkauf was involved in his first career WHL fight last night with Branden Klatt. Thurkauf took a couple in the tilt but had a huge smile on his face on the bus after the game. My only concern was Thurkauf throwing punches with Klatt's helmet firmly on his head. A knuckle dislocation or a break can happen with a quick punch to the opponents headgear.
  • If Kole Lind could score for every opportunity he creates, the draft eligible forward may have five goals this season. Jake Kryski may be in the same boat. Both players are snake bitten, with Kryski having an open shot on his off wing in the second period that he fired into the mid section of Oil Kings goaltender Liam Hughes.
  • Nolan Foote, the 16 year-old brother of Cal Foote made his WHL/Kelowna Rockets debut last night in Edmonton. With limited ice time, I thought he looked pretty good. He was around pucks and his first shift of the game may have been his best. You have to remember Nolan Foote hasn't played a competitive game for a long time. Foote missed the pre-season and the first 6 regular season games with mono. 
  • It was my first experience inside the 480 million dollar Rogers Place. Of course it was impressive. The WHL visitors dressing room was huge and the building itself is massive. It is easy to get lost in there. The broadcast location is very nice with individual booths and has more of a high end feel than the other NHL arena where a WHL team calls home - the Saddledome in Calgary. It isn't fair to compare those two buildings because the 'Dome' is 33 years older, but you get the idea. Rogers Place has a 'modern' almost office feel to it. At least that's my take from ice level, where I was able to walk through the dressing rooms before taking the 8th floor to the broadcast location. 
  • I find the location of the broadcast booth a little far from the ice for my liking. It isn't the height off the ice that is so much the problem, its the fact the broadcast booths are back off the ice so the distance is far greater. In Calgary, while high from the ice, at least you are over top of the action. That is only a minor complaint though. I am sure in time, one would get used to the distance from ice level.
  • Oh, a nice video screen recognition on the first stoppage of play for Rockets head coach Jason Smith. With the video screen showing Smith on the bench, the public address announcer welcomed the former Oilers captain back to Edmonton.   

Friday, October 7, 2016

Game notes vs. Oil Kings

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of three straight in the Central Division with a stop in Edmonton to face the Oil Kings. These two teams met twice last season, with the Rockets winning 5-3 on October 2/15 in Edmonton before skating to a 6-1 win in Kelowna on November 20/15. The Rockets are 4-1-0-2 in his last 7 games between the two teams. The Rockets visit the Red Deer Rebels tomorrow night. The Rockets are coming off a 6-3 win in Lethbridge Wednesday night. Calvin Thurkauf scored twice and added an assist and was named the 1st star. Tomas Soustal, Jordan Borstmayer, Gordie Ballhorn and Kole Lind added singles in the team’s first road win of the season. Michael Herringer made 24 saves while the power play struck twice on four opportunities. The win also snapped a three game losing streak. The Rockets are technically playing their fifth of six straight games on the road. The next home action for the Rockets is Friday October 14th against the visiting Saskatoon Blades.

Smith’s Homecoming: Kelowna Rockets Head Coach Jason Smith returns to Edmonton, a place he made home for 7 seasons with the Oilers. Smith was the captain of the Oilers for five of those seven seasons and helped the team to Stanley Cup birth in 2006. Smith was traded to the Oilers by the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 3, 1999. Smith is tied with Wayne Gretzky for the longest serving captain (5 seasons) in Oilers history.   
  
Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets have acquired 17 year-old forward Leif Mattson from the Brandon Wheat Kings for a 9th round bantam pick. Mattson, from Thompson, Manitoba, was the Wheat Kings 8th round selection in 2014Nick Merkley returned to the line-up Wednesday night after attending the training camp of the Arizona Coyotes….Merkley is three points shy of 200 for his careerCalvin Thurkauf has three-two goals games his career. The 18 year-old had two goals last season against Everett and VancouverThe Rockets are 2-4-0-0 this season after 6 games. Last season the team was 4-2-0-0 after 6 games….The Rockets lead the WHL in penalty minutes with 127….The Rockets have been shorthanded a league high 44 times….Rookie Kyle Topping has three assists in six games…Calvin Thurkauf and Lucas Johansen returned to the lineup last Friday in Prince George after attending NHL training camps in Columbus and Washington respectivelyThe Rockets were 3 and 2 in five pre-season games. Jake Kryski and Kole Lind led the team in pre-season points with 8 each….Nine members of the Rockets participated in NHL training camps. Tomas Soustal and Gordie Ballhorn earned tryouts with Edmonton and Dallas respectively. Nick Merkley (Arizona), Lucas Johansen (Washington), Dillon Dube (Calgary), Devante Stephens (Buffalo), Calvin Thurkauf (Columbus), Braydyn Chizen (Minnesota) and Justin Kirkland (Nashville) are all drafted players.

Three Identified by NHLCS: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s ‘Player’s to Watch List’. Defenceman Cal Foote is an ‘A’ prospect. Kole Lind is a ‘B’ prospect while defenceman Jonathan Smart is a ‘C’ prospect. The NHL draft is this June in Chicago. Foote’s father, Adam, was a second round pick of the Quebec Nordiques (22nd overall) in 1989. Adam Foote played his junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Smith Guides Team: The Kelowna Rockets made a head coaching change at seasons end. After just one year on the job, Brad Ralph parted ways with the team on May 9th. Then on July 6th, Jason Smith was hired as Brad Ralph’s replacement. Smith is the Rockets fourth coach in the last four years. Smith, who retired September 2, 2009, played 16 seasons in the NHL before joining the coaching staff of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, a role Smith has held for the last four seasons’.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 24
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s – 3   Stadel, Herringer, Southam
19’s – 7   Johansen, Merkley, Soustal, Stephens, Wishnowski, Coughlin, Ballhorn
18’s – 7   Dube, Kryski, Lind, Borstmayer, Chizen, Salmond, Thurkauf
17’s -  5   C. Foote, Topping, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Smart
16’s – 2   N. Foote, Belcourt


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Random thoughts

Nick Merkley at morning skate in Lethbridge
  •  A 9 hour bus ride is painful from Kelowna to Lethbridge. It is the honest truth. You have a sense of relief once you arrive that the travel will be much better on this three game Central Division road swing. The drive from Lethbridge to Red Deer is 3 and a half hours, which is easy street by Western Conference standards. From Red Deer to Edmonton is about an hour and a half, so again, another easy bus ride. I often wonder if players in the Eastern Conference realize how good they've got it when it comes to travel? Ok, Brandon, you are excluded from the conversation. 
  • Last fall when the Rockets made a trip out to Alberta for three games, the weather was significantly warmer. It was often sunny and in the 20's, which was balmy for this time of the year. Today in Lethbridge, different story. It is a more seasonable +4 with prairie wind. Oh, the prairie wind. Growing up in Swift Current, the wind was an every day element. Now that I've been in BC for a significant amount of time, specifically in Kelowna where a windy day is 20 kilometers an hour, the wind stands out like someone poking you in the eye. People here aren't phased though. They are a hardy bunch. When I think of the prairie wind, I think of Bryan Adams hit single, 'Cuts Like a Knife'. 
  • The gas prices in Alberta blow me away. While they vary, when a Petro-Can is displaying a price of 94.9 cents a litre, it shows how much we are being bent over the gas barrel in BC, specifically in Kelowna. No wonder I witnessed a Lethbridge driver in his large pickup truck racing from stop light to stop light. I would too if fuel was that cheap back home. It would be hammer down on every green light I encountered. 
  • The new catch phrase used to be, 'It is what it is'. The new catch phrase in my opinion now is 'That is above my pay grade.' 
  • The Rockets morning skate is always interesting to watch following a long road trip. The players have to get the kinks out after expending no energy on the bus during a long day of travel. I always look for crispness in passing and overall mental focus. While a morning skate doesn't necessarily indicate how the team will preform that evening, I rather see some positive signs of energy than a listless group. I thought the team had good energy here in Lethbridge in the brief workout.  
  • The mood is lite in the dressing room despite a 1 and 4 start to the season. And honestly, it should be. Nick Merkley is back with the team and will be a threat to score every time he is on the ice. The 19 year-old also makes players around him better. My belief is one player, if elite like Merkley is, can make a major impact in the fortunes of the team. The Arizona Coyotes first rounder makes a physical impact on the ice but also lifts the spirits of teammates which translates into a mental boost. The most impressive aspect of Merkley, in my brief conversation with him this morning, was his mindset being sent back to junior. He seems focused and ready to play.
  • Shot blockers. Do you know what they are? They are a protective piece attached to the skate of a player to protect the foot/angle from pucks while attempting to block a shot. More and more players were wearing them during the morning skate. They look somewhat ugly, but it be better to have them than a broken foot because they don't look cool. If I'm a penalty killer - hello Rodney Southam - I'm wearing them religiously. For the record, the Rockets captain sports a pair and isn't hesitant in getting into shooting lanes.
  • Speaking of Southam, it appears he is a pretty big Blue Jays fan. He was fashioning a Blue Jays jersey Tuesday on the bus and is a supporter of 'Canada's Team'. What a ball game that was last night. I was watching it like a hawk when we arrived at our Lethbridge hotel and my phone was going off following the three run home-run from friends watching across Canada. Yes, many, many people are interested in the Jays. Anyone who isn't is missing out on sports drama at its finest. 
  • This road trip allows me to get to know some of the younger players on the roster. Often scared of the radio guy by the way we look (Ok, some of us aren't that ugly), they start opening up a little more once they see that we are indeed human. Sixteen year-old Nolan Foote seems like a good dude. Foote has been sitting directly behind me during this road trip and has a pleasant demeanour about him. What nickname did the players give him? 'Little Footer'. Nolan's older brother Cal is just known as 'Footer'. 
  • My biggest surprise before the morning skate was an interview with rookie Kyle Topping for the first time. I was impressed how relaxed and well spoken he was in our first encounter.  I am not saying he was long winded and told many out of school tales, but he came across really well in my four minute conversation with him. You can hear the interview on our pre-game show at 5:30 pacific standard time. 
  • Head Coach Jason Smith better be prepared for his visit to Edmonton on Friday. While the team is basing out of Red Deer, which means no overnight stay in the City of Champions, several scribes from Edmonton newspapers will be on hand to speak with the former Oilers captain about his new role as a WHL coach.
  • I am not sure if Calvin Thurkauf will play tonight. The 19 year-old was hurt Friday in Prince George and didn't play the next night against the Cougars in the rematch. Thurkauf, who has a real outgoing personality, did skate this morning in Lethbridge and looked fine to me. 
  • Getting back to Nolan Foote, he has been cleared to play after being diagnosed with mono this summer. Foote will make his debut on this trip, likely in Edmonton if I'm a guessing man.     

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Early struggles indeed

Shoot the Breeze Photography
    • The Kelowna Rockets didn't lose three games in a row all of last season. The Prince George Cougars never won 6 straight games to start the season. Oh, what a difference a year makes. The Rockets open the third week of the regular season in the basement (1-4-0-0) of the BC Division with the Vancouver Giants will the Cougars are riding high in the saddle atop the entire WHL standings. This must be a dream? This isn't really happening is it? Safe to say it is uncharted waters for both of these franchises after hooking up for a pair of games in Prince George on the weekend. The Cougars beat the Rockets twice at CN Centre, earning a 4-1 win Friday night on the strength of three power play goals and then a night later earned a 3-0 victory thanks to goaltender Nick McBridge. It marked the first time since the 1998-99 season that the Cougars won three straight games against the Rockets in a seasonal series, with Prince George recording a 2-1 win Wednesday night at Prospera Place. Both two teams were playing without two key forwards. The Rockets were without Nick Merkley and Dillon Dube while the Cougars played without the services of Jansen Harkins and Jesse Gabrielle. It will be all hands on deck when they meet again in November.
    • Goal scoring has been a problem in the early stages of the season for the Kelowna Rockets. In three games against the Cougars they managed only two goals. We need to give the Cougars some credit for playing solid defense, but the Rockets managed only 16 shots on net in a 4-1 loss Friday night. That will likely be a season low when the regular season comes to an end in mid March. In those three games, only Jake Kryski and Tomas Soustal have found the back of the net. Soustal's goal came shorthanded while Kryski's came on a sharp angle shot Friday night that Cougars goaltender Ty Edmonds should have stopped.
    • While a lack of goal scoring is a concern, so is discipline. The Rockets have taken a league high 100 penalty minutes in five games. That is 20 minutes in pims per game. In the last three games, the Rockets have allowed the Cougars to go on the power play 21 times. Without good goaltending, the scores may have been more lopsided than 2-1, 4-1 and 3-0. Michael Herringer was terrific in two of the three starts with a 40 save performance Friday night. Back up Brodan Salmond, outside of the Cougars second goal Saturday night, also had a strong effort between the pipes in his first start of the season.
    • The Rockets have been shorthanded a league high 36 times this season. The coaching staff admitting that playing shorthanded that many times has taken a toll on a team that is short on numbers, having been forced to play 16 year-old d-man Konrad Belcourt at forward. 
    • Should we be alarmed with a 1-4-0-0 record to start the season? The team was 3-2-0-0 after five games a year ago. While better, it still wasn't exactly an encouraging start for a team that would eventually win 48 times.
    • The Cougars are 6-0-0-0 to start the season, which is the best start in franchise history. Should we be surprised? Maybe a little, but the Cougars were a solid 20-12 after 32 games last season before the wheels fell off the wagon. 
    • Do you remember when people were scoffing when the Cougars traded for Russian Yan Khomenko? The ex-Everett Silvertip now has 2+3=5 in 6 games and is creating significant scoring chances when he is out on the ice. Pretty good pick up if you ask me.
    • Nick Merkley will return to the line up Wednesday when the team plays game three of a five game road trip. Merkley will suit up against the Lethbridge Hurricanes after being reassigned Sunday by the NHL's Arizona Coyotes. Can Merkley help the Rockets ailing offense? Without question. The 19 year-old has 196 points in 182 career games.