Sunday, February 19, 2017

Moving up the standings

Calvin Thurkauf - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Have you been questioning the Kelowna Rockets character? Question it no more. For the second time in three games the Rockets saw the opposition open up the scoring only to bounce back and cruise to victory. Monday afternoon, the Rockets rallied with three-third period goals in a 6-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Last night at Prospera Place, despite trailing 1-0, the Rockets scored four unanswered goals on their way to a 5-2 home ice win. Nick Merkley had a goal and an assist and Calvin Thurkauf scored his team leading 30th goal of the season in the victory. The Rockets are now 3 points back of second place Kamloops and only 7 shy of first place Prince George heading into a home game Wednesday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
  • We talked about it on last night's broadcast. Colour Analyst Kent Simpson pointed it out that it has taken Nick Merkley, essentially, a full year to recover from knee surgery. While the knee was completely healed prior to that point, our general belief is Merkley had some mental healing to do before he could tell himself that the knee is strong, will hold up and he can play as hard and be as effective as he was when he earned 90 points as a 16 year-old rookie. Merkley has 8 goals in his last 10 games and is noticeable every time he is on the ice. That couldn't be said earlier on this season. Outside of Calvin Thurkauf, Merkley is the teams most consistent forward. I should mention, Merkley has 7+8=15 in the month of February.
  • Speaking of Thurkauf, his 30th goal came into an empty net to seal the win. But the 19 year-old was making a huge contribution throughout the game despite being held off the score-sheet to that point. Why is Thurkauf  elevating his play? My belief is his ability to avoid the penalty box is a huge factor. Thurkauf has taken two minor penalties in his last 15 games. TWO!! Is it any reason why he has scored goals in 4 straight games and has 8+5=13 points this month? Thurkauf isn't focusing on frustration. Instead he is frustrating others with his bullish play.
  • It was nice to see the defensive core score a few goals last night. Devante Stephens had a three point game (1+2=3) and James Hilsendager found the back of the net with a squeaker from the blue-line that found a lane between the pads of Cougars goaltender Nick McBride. No shot is a bad shot. What's that? No shot is a bad shot.
  • I thought Michael Herringer had a strong performance in goal after being yanked against Spokane on Friday night. Herringer has had three straight solid starts against the Cougars and now owns a 2.34 goals against average vs. his BC Division rival. The only thing he needs to figure out is Colby McCauley. McCauley has 5 goals in 7 games in the seasonal series.
  • The first period featured 33 whistles. It was as sluggish a period as I've seen from these two teams this season. The opening period looked like two teams that will miss the playoffs. The Rockets surrendered the opening goal by gifting the Cougars. The puck was given up no less than three times before it found the back of the net. The Cougars were equally as fractured and the two teams went into the dressing room in a 1-1 tie. 
  • Brad Morrison was invisible two weeks ago in Prince George when these two teams met for back-to-back games at CN Centre. That said, I thought he was one of the best players on the ice. The 19 year-old was quick to pucks and showed a lot of urgency in his game. The only problem was his linemates, Radovan Bondra and Nikita Popugaev. Both are very underwhelming. Popugaev has 3 goals in 19 games with his new team. For a so called 'scorer;' that is an ugly stat line. It should be mentioned that 15 players last night had more ice time on the Cougars roster than Popugaev and Bondra, so head coach Richard Matvichuk doesn't overuse those two players. 
  • According to Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier, the Rockets hit 5 goal posts. If even three of those go in, what is the final score at the end of the night? Higher mathematics= an 8-2 final.  Reid Gardiner hit the pipe twice.  
  • While the Rockets earned a 5-2 win, I have seen them play considerably better this season. So, what does that say about the Cougars effort then? 
  • These two teams meet for the final time this season in March 1st. 
  • The Rockets have points in 8 of their last 9 games.

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