Monday, March 27, 2017

Venue changes for game three

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  • What have we learned in the first two games of the Kelowna Rockets opening round playoff series with the Kamloops Blazers? These two teams are more evenly matched than what we witnessed in game one. The Rockets were almost flawless in the 4-0 victory and the Blazers were nowhere near to the level they needed to be at this time of the year. When you have two teams that were separated by 5 points in the toughest division in the standings during the regular season, neither is a slouch. No one is a push over. While the Rockets have a 2-0 lead in the best of seven series, it could easily be tied 2-2 if the Blazers hold court with two consecutive games at Sandman Centre. That's why game three is so important tomorrow night. If the Rockets win, they are clearly in the drives seat. If the Blazers earn the victory, it's a completely new series.
  • Everyone I talked too expressed how they thoroughly enjoyed both games at Prospera Place this weekend. As a broadcaster, I often find my judgment clouded by players making mistakes with the puck that they wouldn't otherwise, but it is those mistakes that translate into goal scoring chances, which in the end, creates entertainment. At the end of the day, isn't that the reason why people watch major junior hockey in the first place? The entertainment value is terrific and I didn't talk to one Rockets fan who complained after game two that it was boring. They didn't leave their seat until the final buzzer as the Blazers battled back from a 3-0 deficit. In the end, regardless of the outcome, if the game is entertaining, which it was both nights, the paying public can't but be happy...which they indeed were. Ok, the exception would be a few Blazers fans, but you get the idea.
  • Michael Herringer is indeed a pressure goalie. How many times has he come up big in the big game? I mean really? Countless times. In game 7 wins over Kamloops and Victoria last season, was Herringer solid? How good was he in game four against Seattle where he faced over 70 shots as it went deep into overtime. How good was he in game two Saturday night? Herringer has proven time and time again he can perform in the big game, yet he still has his doubters. Such is the life of a 20 year-old goaltender who had his share of ups and downs this season. Will he struggle in this series? Did Connor Ingram, an elite goaltender in this league, struggle in the first two games by allowing goals he probably should have stopped? It happens to the best of them.
  • From a Rockets perspective, the ability to score on Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram in game one was huge. I am not saying it came easy, but they were able to find success against him and have indeed proven that he is human. Oh sure, he will frustrate you at times, much like Michael Herringer did to Quinn Benjafield and Collin Shirley in game two. My fear was Ingram opening the series by looking like a piece of plywood over the net, with no chance for the Rockets skilled forwards to get a puck past him. Then it becomes a mind game and the Rockets shooters become too fine in their approach to shoot for corners. Dillon Dube's shorthanded squeaker through the 5 hole in game two was a good reminder that no shot is a bad shot. 
  • One fan asked me after game one why Cal Foote doesn't wear the same number his father, Adam, wore in the NHL? The Rockets do not give a 'skater' a number exceeding 29. That jersey is worn by Nolan Foote. Cal did the next best thing. The 17 year-old wears sweater #25, which is the reverse digits of what his father wore for 19 seasons in the NHL.   
  • Why does Nolan Foote wear #29? His birthday is on the 29th of November. 
  • To think, Cal Foote was born pre-mature in December, 1998. At the time he weighed just 5 pounds, 10 ounces. Now he has size 16 feet and is 6'4 and weighs 210 pounds.
  • I am often asked about this team and if it is indeed better than a season ago? I believe the overall chemistry/harmony within the team is better. Not like it was bad in 2015-2016, but the players really, really like one another. What I've witnessed on the bus this season often made me smile, knowing full well, that they would battle hard for each other when it really counted.
  • In the last 6 playoff games between the Rockets and the Blazers, dating back to last season, I've come to the conclusion that no one game is a springboard to success in the next game. I haven't seen a momentum shift one way or the other after one team losses and the other team wins. In fact, in the last two playoff series between these two teams, it marked the first time (games 1 and 2) that the same team won back-to-back games. The old cliche', 'Don't get too high and don't get too low' really applies here. Just when you think you have the other team down and out, they rise from the ashes and put in a great effort.    
  • What can we expect in game three? The Blazers need to play their best game. They do not want to go down 3-0 in the series, which would be playoff suicide. While it is doable to come back from that deficit (just ask the 2012-2013 edition of the Kelowna Rockets) it would be extremely unlikely against two teams so closely matched. The Rockets need a better effort from everyone in game three and play much like they did in the third period of game two. I thought they finally got back to what made them successful despite giving up two, bang, bang goals late in the game. 
  • We will see you in Kamloops tomorrow night. Gord McGarva will make the trip with me for both games and will provide colour commentary. Talk to you on the radio (AM 1150) at 6:30 pm.

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