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Tuesday's Preview: Welcome to game three of the Western Conference final. The Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds are tied at one win apiece after the T-Birds won game one (5-4) before the Rockets earned an overtime win (4-3) in game two. Games three and four are at Prospera Place tomorrow and Wednesday with game 5 in Seattle on Friday. In Saturday’s win, Reid Gardiner scored his team leading 15th goal of the season in overtime. The 21 year-old also scored a shorthanded goal in the opening period. The Rockets, twice, had a two goal lead before the T-Birds fought back to tie it. It is the 4th consecutive year that the Kelowna Rockets are appearing in the final four. The team made appearances in 2014 (Lost in 5 games to Portland), in 2015 (Won in 6 games vs. Portland), and in 2016 (Lost to Seattle in 4 straight.) In last season’s WCF, the Rockets lost game one (2-1), game two (3-2), game three (3-1) and game 4 (5-4 in double overtime). During the regular season, the Rockets were 3-1-0-0 against Seattle, out-scoring them 20-10. The Rockets have met the T-Birds in the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 years.
Reid in the record books: Reid Gardiner set a new Kelowna Rockets franchise record Saturday night. Gardiner’s shorthanded goal in game two was his 14th of the playoffs. That sets a new franchise mark set originally by Jamie Benn, when the power forward scored 13 times in the 2009 post season. It was duplicated by Rourke Chartier in 2015. Justin Keller and Jesse Schultz scored 12 goals in a playoff season when the team won WHL titles in 2003 and 2005 respectively. Benn is still the franchise leader for playoff points in one season with 33.
What’s Happened? The Rockets and T-Birds have each opened the scoring once in the two games…The team that opens the scoring has won both games…These two teams have carried a two goal lead – three times – only to see the opposition fight back and tie it…A goal has been scored with under 30 seconds left in 5 of the 6 periods in regulation time…In 12 of the last 17 playoff meetings between these two teams, the game has been decided by a single goal.
Dare to Compare: The Rockets and T-Birds were separated by only 3 points in the Western Conference standings during the regular season. The Rockets had 95 points while Seattle had 98. The Rockets won 45 games while the T-Birds won 46 times. The Rockets scored the third most goals in the WHL, while Seattle scored 20 fewer times. Both teams surrendered 206 goals against, which were tied for fourth best in the WHL.
Hot as a Pistol: Reid Gardiner is riding a 9 game point streak. The 21 year-old has 14+11=25 over that period….Nick Merkley has points in 7 of his last 8 games. Merkley has 4+9=13 over that period…Dillon Dube has points in 7 of his last 8 games. The 18 year-old has 3+10=13 during that span…Calvin Thurkauf has points in 6 of his last 7 games (6+10=16)…Kole Lind has points in 7 of his last 8 games (4+4=8).
Refreshed Memory: The Rockets advanced to the third round of the WHL playoffs with a 5 game series win over Portland. Reid Gardiner had 7+9=16 points in the series. The Rockets advanced to the second round with a 6 game series victory over the Kamloops Blazers. Dillon Dube (4+2=6) and Reid Gardiner (5+1=6) were the offensive spark plugs against the Blazers.
Broadcasters Note Book: Reid Gardiner had 2+1=3 in two games against the T-Birds this season….The Rockets are playing in their 86th game of the season tonight….Kyle Topping is not eligible to be drafted until 2018….Nolan Foote is not eligible to be drafted until 2019….Nick Merkley has 61 career WHL playoff points. The franchise leader is Tyson Baillie, who had 63 career playoff points in 64 playoff games…The Rockets are 5-4 in their last 9 playoff appearances at ShoWare Center dating back to the 2013 playoffs…Reid Gardiner is the WHL Player of the Week for a second straight week. Gardiner had 5 points (2+3=5) in games one and two against the T-Birds. Gardiner was also named the CHL and WHL Player of the Week ending April 16th. Gardiner recorded 12 points including 6 goals and 6 assists in three games with a plus rating of +2.
That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 41 of their last 45 games….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 16 losses in the last 63 (playoffs included) games…The Rockets are 29-11-2-0 since the trade deadline (playoffs included)…The Rockets have opened the scoring in 10 of the 13 games in this year’s playoffs.
Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150