Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rockets Notebook

Gordie  Ballhorn puts on the brakes - Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • You have often heard in football of a quarterback controversy. Does the same hold true in hockey? If so, we may have one with the Kelowna Rockets when referring to Brodan Salmond and James Porter. While Salmond was declared the starter on opening night, Porter's relief appearance against the Victoria Royals last week and a 42 save performance Saturday night in Prince George has one thinking that the 18 year-old may see more time between the pipes than originally thought. While again a small sample size, Porter is a nice insurance policy if Salmond struggles. In a three-in-three weekend on the horizon, why not give Porter another start  in Portand either Saturday or Sunday? 
  • Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan explained goaltending this way. "The backup is part of the team. We can flip flop the forwards and the d, but goal is the obvious position".
  • Speaking of Porter; to think he played his minor hockey in Creston, BC because he had few if any options while growing up just over the U.S border in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Twice a week, Porter and his dad would drive 45 minutes North to Creston to pursue his hockey career.  
  • When it comes to overtime, I will put my money on the Rockets thank you very much. How intimidating it must be when the Rockets put out three players for overtime that include Dillon Dube, Kole Lind and Cal Foote. That is a lot of fire-power with that trio. Few teams can ice a first round NHL draft pick and two second rounders on the ice at the same time. Is it any surprise the team is 2-0-0-0 in the extra session? 
  • I like the fact that the coaching staff elected to split up Dube and Lind and put them on separate lines. It provides for more headaches for the opposition to check two lines heavily instead of just one. Dube and Lind have been in on 23 of the teams 28 goals this season (82%). 
  • While you don't like any players actions which result in suspension, it is hard to come down hard on Rockets defenceman James Hilsendager. Hilsendager receiving a 5 minute major for charging in Friday's 7-6 overtime win in Prince George.  I want Hilsendager to remain aggressive. You do not want that to evaporate from his game. It is that aggression, which is the highest of any defender wearing Kelowna Rockets colours, that allows him to standout among the rest of the group. Does he have to be careful how he throws caution to the wind when making body contact? Perhaps, but how many forwards across the WHL put themselves in a vulnerable position on the ice by looking back for a potential pass with no forethought that they could get crushed after receiving it? 
  • The more time I spend with Greg Pocock, the more I appreciate the man that helped save the Cougars from leaving Prince George. Pocock is the man that makes the Cougars tick. Sure, he has other partners with him involved in the Edgepro Entertainment Group, but without Pocock at the helm, this franchise doesn't run like a well oiled machine. He is a smart business man and a massive success story. Pocock runs many successful businesses and wants this venture of owning a hockey team to also succeed. Since purchasing the franchise in April of 2014, ownership has been aggressive is changing the entire culture surrounding the team. I see it in action. It is quite the transformation. The team was run on a shoe-string budget for years. In layman's terms, Pocock has overhauled an engine of a clunker that for years was barely roadworthy. 
  • I little birdy told me that forward Wil Kushniryk is kicking it in the classroom. It is great to see a rookie having success academically and making a smooth transition to a new high school. 
  • He was one of the best players during the pre-season, but due to an early season injury, Leif  Mattson has missed the last five games after being hurt opening night. Mattson is on the verge of having a breakout season with the hope that this small hurdle won't slow him down. Are the Rockets better with him in the lineup? No question, but that will have to wait a couple of more  weeks.
  • As the wildfires range in California, I had to find out if Kelowna Rockets goalie coach Adam Brown had any family in danger. Brown was born in Yorba Linda, where the fires swept through forcing people from their homes. Thankfully, no one in Brown's immediate family is impacted. Adam's dad is Newell Brown, an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks. California had one of its wettest winters in years, leading to sprouting vegetation on hillsides that had been ravaged by five years of drought. But that brush dried out during the summer, leaving behind fuel for fall wildfires.
  • I always feel bad for the European born players that board the bus with no real idea of where we are headed. Last weekend, Libor Zabransky and Marek Skrvne knew we were traveling to Prince George, but for two players born in the Czech Republic, the question must be asked, "Where the heck is Prince George?" It's like throwing me in a vehicle and telling me we are going from Liberec to Zlin for a hockey game. Where? What? How?   
  • Did you know that the Kelowna Rockets have had three American born goaltenders dress for them over the last 23 seasons? Mark Guggenberger was from Minnesota. Adam Brown was from California and now James Porter Junior is from the state of Idaho. Porter was the youngest of that group to win his first WHL game.   
  • It was a tough weekend for former Kelowna Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer. The 21 year-old made his U Sports debut with the University of Regina Cougars and suffered back-to-back 8-2 and 6-0 losses to Jordon Cooke at the U of S Huskies. While Herringer started both games for the Cougars, Cooke split the duties with former Seattle Thunderbird/Kamloops Blazers goaltender Taran Kozun.  
  • The rubber meets the road this weekend as the Kelowna Rockets play three games in three night's with match-ups against Calgary (at home) and then Saturday and Sunday in Portland. The Saturday game isn't ideal, as the team must bus through the night to order to play one of the best teams in the Western Conference the following evening. And just to stick it the Rockets even that much more, Saturday's game starts at 6 pm. Sunday's rematch is at 5 pm! That's a lot of hockey in a short period of time. It will be interesting to see how the team responds with this early season challenge. Want any sympathy from the Winterhawks? Boo-hoo. They just came off a stretch of playing 4 games in 5 night's. 
  • Josh Gorges has been a healthy scratch in the Buffalo Sabres first three games. Speaking to him before he left for training camp, the 33 year-old knew this season he would be hard pressed with the Sabres leaning towards younger players.

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