Saturday, January 14, 2017

A 'Royal' beatdown

Devante Stephens battles with Matthew Phillips - Jon Howe photo 
  • Beating the Victoria Royals on home ice is doable. Beating them in consecutive meetings is almost impossible. The key word here - almost. The Kelowna Rockets destroyed their BC Division brethren 9-2 Friday night in front of a crowd of over 7 thousand patrons. The win came on the heels of a 4-3 victory Wednesday night at Save on Food's Memorial Centre. Many of the Royals faithful in attendance last night have witnessed the Rockets upset the apple cart before, but not to this degree. Dillon Dube, who is as dominant as we've ever seen him, scored three times in the lopsided win and was named the first start for a second consecutive game. Dube, since returning from the World Junior's, has 5+3=8 in four games and appears to be hitting his stride as one of the best 18 year-old's in the WHL. The 'Golden Jet', as I like to call him considering he was born in Golden BC, has played just 14 regular season games but has 19 points. At this pace and healthy enough to play in every game, Dube would be north of 60 points this season which would have him leading the team in scoring.
  • Playing in only his second game, 19 year-old Carsen Twarynski earned his first point with his new team. It has been suggested that Twarynski is creating more room for Dube and the scoring chances that the Calgary Flames draft pick is creating can be attributed, in part, to Twarynski's presence on the ice. I though the Rockets latest acquisition from the Calgary Hitmen was significantly more noticeable than in Wednesday's debut. Twarynski and Dube led the team with 5 shots on goal apiece.  
  • I didn't have any doubts about the Royals goaltending coming into this series of games on the Island, but honestly, I am not so sure what to think of Griffin Outhouse. The 18 year-old, who I regarded as one of the top three goalies in the Western Conference heading into the road trip, struggled mightily Wednesday and looked worse two days later. From an outside observer, the only thing I can think of is fatigue. While top three in wins and top five in save percentage, Outhouse has played a whopping 40 games this season. That is a ton of work.That number can only be matched by Lethbridge Hurricanes goaltender Stuart Skinner.
  • It was Friday the 13th and that may have played a factor in last night's lopsided score. When defensive defenceman James Hilsendager scored his second goal of the season less than three minutes into the game, it was a sign that it may be a long night for Outhouse and the Royals d-core. After surrendering four goals, Royals head coach Dave Lowry pulled Outhouse in favour of affiliated goalie Dean McNabb. The 16 year-old brother of NHL'er Brayden McNabb didn't fare well, surrendering two goals on four shots before Lowry re-inserted Outhouse in an attempt to stop the bleeding. 
  • At one point in the game, the Rockets had more goals (8) than the Royals had shots (6). Playing almost exclusively in the offensive zone, Michael Herringer had another easy evening where he faced under 22 shots for the 8th time in his last 12 starts. 
  • The rematch after the Rockets earned a 4-3 win Wednesday was a chippy affair. When Lucas Johansen is fighting Vladimir Bobylev, you know frustration is boiling over. Johansen has gone to the penalty box just 8 times this season and has never gotten into a fight at the WHL level. I loved the way captain Rodney Southam skated past the penalty box, with Johansen sitting inside, tapping his stick on the glass as a gesture to the 19 year-old that it was a job well done.
  • While Devante Stephens had the puck taken away from him by Jack Walker for a first period breakaway goal, the 19 year-old took away a goal when he blocked a shot that Walker took towards, what appeared to be, a wide open net. With a rare mad scramble around the net and Herringer down and out of position, Stephens calmly skated into a shooting lane and made the save. 
  • The Rockets coaches believed the two games in Victoria would be won or lost on specialty teams. If that indeed was the case, the Rockets were 3/4 on the power play in the two games and 12 for 14 on the penalty kill. Those numbers are awfully impressive. 
  • After further review, rookie Jack Cowell will be credited with a goal and two assists in last night's win. It is Cowell's first-three point game of his career as he battles with rookies Leif Mattson, Kyle Topping and Nolan Foote for playing time. 
  • The back-to-back wins in Victoria was last accomplished October 25/26, 2013.
  • The Rockets had 13 players hit the score-sheet. Among those that didn't, surprisingly, were leading scorer Kole Lind and Nick Merkley.   
  • Up next, a game in Everett against the stingy Silvertips Monday afternoon. That game will be a clear indicator if the Rockets 'new team' has the ability to play against the elite in the Western Conference.

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