Monday, October 9, 2017

Small goalie makes big impact

James Porter Junior - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets weren't very good Saturday night in a 4-3 overtime win against the Prince George Cougars. Thankfully, their rookie goaltender was terrific. Seventeen year-old James Porter Junior, making his first official WHL start, stopped all 25 shots he faced in the second period in earning his first career victory. Porter, who earned the backup duties to starter Brodan Salmond this season, was flawless through 40 minutes, enabling his team to build up a 2-0 lead. While the Cougars were able to score three unanswered goals in the third period before the Rockets again rallied, had it not been for Porter's heroics early in the game, a comeback bid for the visiting team would have been a pipe dream. The Idaho born Porter was positionally strong, challenged shooters and didn't look rattled in the least bit. Named the games third star, Porter was only outdone by Dillon Dube, who scored the game winner in overtime and added three assists. 
  • While the Rockets deserved what they got Friday night in a come-from-behind 7-6 overtime win, the same didn't hold true a night later. But as they say, at the end of the season they don't ask you how you won the games, but simply how many did you win. The goaltender stole this one. I didn't think I would have said that 6 games into the season that a Rockets goalie stole a game considering their were many, and remain, many question marks with that valuable position.
  • Saturday's win did not come easy. The team was down 20 year-old defenceman James Hilsendager, who was serving a one game suspension for a 5 minute major penalty assessed Friday night. With Hilsendager out, the Rockets blue-line consisted of a very young group with an average age of 17.5 years. Rookie 17 year-old d-man Kelvin Hair made his WHL debut while 17 year-old's Konrad Belcourt, Libor Zabransky and 16 year-old Kaedan Korczak had increased ice time. While surrendering a season high 45 shots against, that group was able to weather the storm. 
  • It was another terrific start for the Rockets. Kole Lind opened the scoring with his team leading 7th goal. The Rockets have opened the scoring in all six games they've played this season. Lind's goal came on the power play, his first with the man advantage. Lind had only two goals after six games last season. As mentioned, seven goals after just 6 games is way ahead of last years pace. 
  • Dillon Dube has back-to-back four point games under his belt. Dube had three such four point games last season. Named the first star in Saturday's win, the 19 year-old really showed off his speed on the weekend. Honestly, I haven't seen him be that explosive on his skates until now. Dube also has goals in three straight games.
  • Big props to rookie Ted Brennan for getting into a second period scrap with Cougars newcomer Chance Adrian. While bloodied and bruised, Brennan stood in there in what may be his first fight in hockey without a full facial shield.  
  • Carsen Twarynski is doing what he needs to do. The 20 year-old has 6 points in three games and is doing a great job of being physical without taking penalties.  
  • It sure was nice to see rookie d-man Konrad Belcourt score his first career WHL goal. The fact that he found the back of the net with a blast from the point with time ticking down and the Rockets desperate for the equalizing goal, made it even that much more special. Belcourt's marker came with 1:33 left on the clock and tied the score at 3.
  • The most interesting penalty call this weekend was one that was overturned after Kole Lind appeared to clip Cougars d-man Shane Collins with his stick. Lind was originally accessed a four minute minor for high sticking. Video replay showed that Collins was hit by the puck, not the stick of Lind, but referee's don't have the benefit of looking at video to determine a call. With Lind waiting in the penalty box, the two referee's conferred with the linesman who made the correct call that indeed the puck clipped Collins in the face.   
  • The Rockets won back-to-back games on the weekend in overtime. When was the last time that happened? It was during the 2013-2014 season, when on the road, the Rockets beat Brandon 6-5 (OT) and then went into Regina a night later and won 5-4 (OT). 
  • It was my first chance to see Cougars d-man Dennis Cholowski in back-to-back games. I really liked what I saw from the first round NHL draft pick. Cholowski is the real deal on a team that is a little lite on skill. If the 19 year-old had better players around him, he could have a phenomenal season. As is, Cholowski will put up more than average offensive totals this season. I really like the player.
  • Often extremely disappointed with Cougars forward Nikita Popugaev last season, the big Russian stood out. While earning three assists in two games on the weekend, what I really liked was his ability to get shots off quickly in high traffic areas. Leading the Cougars in shots on goal this season with 33, I can see why he was once considered a top prospect in his draft year. A commitment to defense is still a struggle though, with a -10 rating. Until that changes, even players with his frame won't get the trust from coaches at the pro level. 
  • The Rockets are now 4-1-0-1 after 6 games this season. The Rockets were 2 and 4 after 6 games a season ago. 
  • Chocolate bars and Twizzlers in the Prince George press box. Not bad!! Spokane Chiefs broadcaster Mike Boyle must have felt like he died and gone to heaven on the opening day of the season when the Chiefs paid a visit to CN Centre.


gk said...

Keep up the great work Regan, I really like your views on all the games.

Regan Bartel said...

Appreciate you stopping by my little spot in cyberspace.