|Liam Kindree - Shoot the Breeze Photgraphy|
- Tri City Americans goaltender Beck Warm didn't have to look far for inspiration Tuesday night. The 18 year-old only needed to look at his own bench where NHL great Olaf Kolzig was standing in as a guest assistant coach. With Americans assistant Brian Pellerin at the WHL Cup, Kolzig, a former Vezina trophy winner with the Washington Capitals, had little to say on the bench but his presence alone may have been enough to help Warm put in a first star performance. The undrafted goaltender was sharp making several key saves, including a second period stop on Rockets leading point getter Kole Lind in a 2-1 win. Had Warm been average, the outcome of the game would have been much different. In a 33 save effort, the Americans ran their winning streak to three games while the Rockets are winless in four.
- The positives out of the one goal loss? I think it is easy to find many. For starters, allowing only two goals against is impressive. That is the lowest goal total the Rockets have allowed since a 5-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers on the opening weekend of the season. James Porter Junior, who has started three of the last five games, provided ample goaltending for a team that surrendered only three shots on net in the second period. I thought the Rockets supplied lots in the way of offense, with Carsen Twarynski, Liam Kindree and Dillon Dube, on a breakaway, having grade 'A' chances on net. Warm was the best player on the ice and was the main reason why the Americans escaped, yes I say escaped, with the one goal win. On this night, the Rockets deserved a better fate.
- When the Americans made the score 2-0 with less than eight minutes to play in the third period and Warm clearly on his game, it looked like a loss for the visitors was inevitable. But that all changed with Americans 20 year-old Jordan Topping, Kyle's older brother, took a 5 minute major penalty after a careless hit on Rockets forward Jack Cowell. With Jordan Topping ejected from the game, the Rockets used the power play, with Porter on the bench for a 6 on 4, to finally get a puck past Warm. Dillon Dube scored his fourth goal of the season. With close to 90 seconds remaining in the game, while still on the power play and Porter again at the bench, the Americans defended there net with a series of heroic shot blocks and getting into shooting lanes. While the Rockets were able to move the puck around the perimeter, few glorious chances were created with time ticking down.
- It will be interesting to see if Americans forward Jordan Topping is suspended by the WHL for his hit on Cowell. While Cowell wasn't hurt on the play and assisted on the goal to make it 2-1, Topping's contact on the second year forward looked equally, if not more vicious, than a second period hit on Eric Gardiner. Fortunately, Gardiner too was able to skate away from the incident, but two very questionable hits, which frankly were down right dangerous, should have the skilled player thinking abut his actions if the league indeed gives him a game to watch from the sidelines.
- Marek Skrvne is starting to grow on me. The little bundle of energy plays hard and his teammates love him. Skrvne is especially good on the penalty kill and has shown no hesitation in blocking shots.
- One player that was a pleasant surprise for me last night was rookie d-man Kelvin Hair. Playing in only his second WHL game, the 17 year-old played a very simple game and made a series of solid outlet passes. Hair looks poised with the puck. While he was out for the game winning goal, it wasn't the 6th round WHL bantam picks fault in any way.
- Cal Foote was guilty of turning over the puck on the game winner, but I thought he was terrific. Logging tons of ice time, he is often given the puck by teammates to settle the play down in their own zone. Foote is calm and cool with it and when he doesn't see a play, which was the case in the second period, he just rifled it off the boards in an effort to clear the zone. Rookie Kaeden Korczak has that same mentality where he rarely forces plays.
- A tough portion of the schedule for the Rockets which produced little in the way of results. The team played four games in five night's and ended up going 0-3-1-0. One point when 8 were available isn't very good no matter which way you slice it.
- The good news is the team returns home for a four game home stand Friday against Portland. As good as the Winterhawks are, winners of 6 straight, my feeling is the Rockets want to prove to them that they aren't as bad as they showed last weekend at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.