Sunday, March 26, 2017

Herringer's heroics needed in game two win

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  • In the playoffs, one game does not mirror the next. A good example was Saturday night in game two of the Kelowna Rockets opening round playoff series with the Kamloops Blazers. While the Rockets own a 2-0 lead in the best of seven, had it not been for goaltender Michael Herringer, this series would be going back to Kamloops tied at one win apiece. After dominating every facet of the game in a 4-0 win Friday night, the Blazers, not surprisingly, were considerably better in game two. What was shocking was how the Rockets game regressed from game one. I was doubtful the home team would be able to put on a clinic for a second straight game, but I didn't expect them to struggle in the smaller areas of the game that make a huge difference. The passing wasn't crisp, the intensity was significantly lower and the execution took a step back from what we witnessed in game one. That said, was it an entertaining game? Yes. Did the Rockets win? Yes they did. 
  • Again, the story in game two was Michael Herringer, With the Rockets holding a 1-0 lead, the 21 year-old took a goal away from Blazers forward Quinn Benjafield with a blocker save that, at the time, looked like the turning point in the game. It wasn't. In the second period, on a great three way passing play, with the score still 1-0, Herringer dove across to his right, and with the paddle of his stick, knocked the puck out of mid-air from a shot by Blazers 20 year-old Collin Shirley. Herringer was named the 1st star and was clearly the best player on the ice. While surrendering two late third period goals, his heroics were the reason behind the game two victory. 
  • Michael Herringer's shutout streak was 113:59. 
  • Dillon Dube was the offensive hero with two-third period goals. The shorthanded goal he scored was massive but it was his power play goal with about 6 and a half minutes left in the game that stood up as the game winner. Dube, with those two goals, has equaled his playoff goal total from all of last season when he scored only twice in 18 post season games. 
  • Everyone will be talking about the officiating after this one. The sour tone will come after Dillon Dube was tripped up (no call) inside the Blazers zone before Gordie Ballhorn was assessed a tripping minor on the same sequence less than 30 seconds later. With Ballhorn in the penalty box, the Blazers scored to make it 3-2. The officiating crew handed out a soft, third period  tripping penalty on Ondrej Vala after Nick Merkley went down easily behind the Kamloops net. Frankly, Merkley could have been called for embellishment. It always seems to even itself out at games end.   
  • The Rockets have opened the scoring, have carried the lead into the third period and have out-shot the Blazers in both games in this series. 
  • Cal Foote was one of the bright spots again for the Rockets with a goal and an assist. The teams' defenceman of the year always plays well and makes smart plays with and without the puck. His younger brother, Nolan, was clipped with a high stick late in the second period by Garrett Pilon and had to go for stitches.  
  • This game was played 21 minutes faster than game one. While more penalties were called, the needless pushing and shoving after the whistle wasn't as prevalent as in game one.
  • Who was the best Blazer? I thought Deven Sideroff was more noticeable and 20 year-old Lane Bauer worked hard. Rudolfs Balcers has been as quiet as a field mouse in the first two games. It is hard to believe but Sideroff, the Blazers leading scorer and Kole Lind, the Rockets leading point producer during the regular season, are pointless in this series. Sideroff and Lind also have one other thing in common. Neither has scored a post season goal...ever. Sideroff is 0+3=3 in 9 playoff games while Lind is 0+3=3 in 25 post season appearances. 
  • It doesn't get any easier as the next two games will be played in Kamloops on Tuesday and Wednesday night. The Blazers had the best home ice record in the BC Division and had the second most wins (26) at home in the Western Conference this season. Only Seattle (27) had more wins in front of their home town fans than the Blazers did. 

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