Monday, February 27, 2017

Rockets end February with flair (Marissa Baecker photo)
  • What a weekend! Exhausted? Yes. Considering the quality of the teams the Kelowna Rockets faced, I would consider a 2-1-0-0 record quite satisfying at the end of it all. The team played three games in three nights, all on the road, managing to out-score the opponent 20-12. Of the 12 goals surrendered, half (6) of them came while shorthanded. The team ends the month of February with a record of 10-2-1-0 and scored a mind boggling 74 goals and managed to put up 5 or more goals 8 times in those 13 games. With Sunday's 9-5 win in Spokane, the team is within a single point of Kamloops in the fight for second place in the BC Division and within 6 points of first place Prince George. The Rockets hold a game in hand on both of those teams. 
  • The 9 goal outburst in Spokane on Sunday was surprising. In a seasonal series where the Chiefs had won three consecutive games in overtime, the Rockets opened the scoring 93 seconds into the opening face-off and found the back of the net almost at will. The Chiefs couldn't get a save. Jayden Sittler, who was the first star in two of the three games against the Rockets this season, had a hole in his bucket. He was leaky all over the place and really struggled as the visitors top shooters seemed to score every time they fired the puck on goal. Eventually he was yanked but returned to the game in the second period after affiliated goalie Donavon Buskey, who didn't have much luck either, allowing three goals on 6 shots. I thought Rockets starting goalie Brodan Salmond started strong, making an especially key save on Chiefs forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan when the game was close, but he too seemed to lag in the third period as the home team rallied with a three goal third period. I didn't like the Ty Smith goal that beat Salmond to the glove side, nor did I like the power play goal that Riley Woods whiffed on, beating Salmond between the legs with a squeaker.
  • It was nice to see Reid Gardiner have a real standout game. The 21 year-old had a four point effort (2+2=4) against the Chiefs and displayed his wicked, wicked release. Gardiner also hit the post, with one of three coming off a Rockets stick in the lopsided win. Surprisingly, despite the high score, the team managed a very low 22 shots on net. The team, on average, generates close to 35 shots per game, the fourth most in the entire WHL.   
  •  The only real struggle on the weekend was a lack of discipline. The team took far too many penalties which cost them the game in Seattle Saturday night. I also, if I have to be completely honest, didn't like the goaltending in any of the three games. It was average at best with starter Michael Herringer playing in two of the three. I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, the goaltending has failed to steal a game for the team this season. Not one. It was common place last year for either Jackson Whistle, before he was hurt, or Herringer to be the best player on the ice as the team escaped with a victory. That's why, in some respects, this team may be better than last season because of the goaltending they've been getting.  
  • Nick Merkley and Dillon Dube led the team in scoring in February with 21 points apiece. Merkley had a mind blowing 10 goals while Dube had a team leading 15 assists. Kole Lind had 20 points (6+14=20) while Reid Gardiner had 19 points (8+11=19) during the month. I am not sure which was the bigger surprise during the month. Was it the play of Rodney Southam or Devante Stephens? 'Devo' had an amazing 14 points in February (3+11=14) while Southam had 13 points (6+7=13). Those are significant totals for two players who are having career seasons.
  • The Rockets earned their 20th road win Sunday, hitting the benchmark for a 5th consecutive season where 20 or more wins on opposition ice have been attained. With two road games left in the regular season, they can tie last seasons total (21) or beat it with games in Everett and Vancouver.
  • Among the highlites on the weekend was Carsen Twarynski hitting the 100 point mark Friday in Kamloops with a three point effort in a 8-2 win. Nick Merkley also hit the 250 point plateau with a three point game in Spokane on Sunday. 
  • With the win over Spokane, the Rockets have beaten every team they've played at least once this season. Against American based teams, the Rockets are 10-3-3-0.  
  • With 9 games left in the regular season, 7 of those 9 will be played on home ice. The team faces Prince George Wednesday night in another must win situation if they indeed want a chance at first place in the division. What an amazing story it would be if the team could claim the BC Division title considering how significant a lead the Cougars had at the Christmas break.
  • Random thought #1: Was it any surprise that Oil Kings goaltender Patrick Dea didn't play in either game up in Prince George on the weekend? Dea essentially pulled himself in the third period after giving up the 8th goal in last Wednesday's a 10-1 loss at Prospera Place. Dea skated to the Oil Kings bench, made his way off the ice and headed to the dressing room. Dea never returned for the final 7 minutes in a show of disgust towards his teammates for a lack of support. Does he play another game this season? It is worth watching.  
  • Random thought #2. Props to the anthem singer in Spokane Sunday. The woman had a 'cheat sheet' in her hand as she sang the Canadian national anthem. No shame. It is better to be safe than sorry by getting the words correctly. Well played. 
  • Random thought #3: A shout-out to the fans in Seattle/Kent. The atmosphere in that building is always excellent and the fans there make a truck load of noise. One of the best atmospheres in the league in my opinion. I also thought it was pretty cool how they handled the 'Parents Weekend' with the introduction of family members on the ice in the first intermission. 

No comments: