Saturday, November 4, 2017

Penalty killing unit, take a bow

Jonathon Howe Photo
  • The Kelowna Rockets penalty killing unit has not been very good this season. It looked anything but mediocre Friday night though, in a 4-2 win over the Victoria Royals. The four man unit was the main reason why the Rockets earned their first regulation win on the road since the opening weekend of the season. The final result also handed the Royals their first regulation loss on home ice this season. The turning point was the penalty killing unit coming up large when Rockets 20 year-old Carsen Twarynski was accessed a questionable boarding penalty. What only compounded the problem is Twarynski was given a five minute major and game misconduct for it. The call came in a 2-2 tie with about 10 minutes left in the third period. It could have been a game changer. In fact it was, but it worked in the road teams favour. The Rockets killed off a 5-on-3 for close to a minute and then came up large for the remaining four minutes with Twarynski helplessly sitting in the dressing room upon his ejection from the game. The Rockets penalty killing unit went 6 for 7 in the game, which included being down two men three times in the game. Three! At the end of the day, the penalty killing unit won this game hands down. 
  • I didn't like the call on Twarynski in the least bit. I didn't think it was even a penalty. Seriously I didn't. Twarynski came in hard on the fore-check and hit Royals forward Ryan Peckford, who appeared to lose his balance and stumble slightly which lowered his body position as Twarynski made contact. I want to be reasonable here, so Peckford was hit in a slightly vulnerable position, so I will give the referee a bit of the benefit of the doubt. What I didn't like was the referee's significant hesitation to make the call. My belief is he didn't think it was bad either until the Royals player exhibited signs that he was hurt. The delay between the hit and the referee putting his arm up had to have been close to three seconds. To compound the situation, Twarynski was given a 5 minute major penalty for boarding. The only part of the sequence I liked was Rockets head coach Jason Smith giving the referee an earful when he came over to explain why he came to his conclusion that the hit was illegal. 
  • Dillon Dube had two goals and an assist in the win. Dube's opening goal came after his pass to Kyle Topping at the side of the net appeared to hit a Royals defender before going in. The 19 year-old's third period goal came on an empty netter while trying to fend off defenceman Ralph Jarratt. On this night, Dube, a second round pick of the Calgary Flames, was better than fellow Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, and you can't say that too often. 
  • Leif Mattson scored the game winner with 3:10 left in the third period when he literally stopped a weak point shot from teammate Gordie Ballhorn (sorry Gordie on the word weak) at the side of the net. Accepting the puck on his backhand, Mattson moved it quickly to his forehand and snapped it high over Victoria goaltender Griffin Outhouse's blocker side. It was Mattson's fourth goal in seven games. Again, is any shot on net a bad shot? That goal is a clear indicator that a shot, no matter what type of velocity it may exhibit, can create a good scoring chance. 
  • Penalty trouble, which plagued this team last season, reared its ugly head, specifically in the first period. The team took five minor penalties into the opening 20 minutes. The team settled down in the second period, when they were the superior team, but again found themselves having to come up large in the PK in the third. 
  • In my opinion it was the Rockets biggest win of the season. Yes, only 16 games have been played but this was a gutsy win over a very good team. After giving up 14 shots in the opening period, the Rockets gave up only 14 shots over the final 40 minutes. It was really a game where the team, despite surrendering the opening goal just 24 seconds into the opening period, appeared to get better as it went along.
  • Matthew Phillips had his 17 game point streak snapped. It marked the first time this season the dynamic forward failed to hit the score sheet.  
  • It was nice to touch base during the morning skate with Ron Sutter. Sutter is a development coach with the Calgary Flames and is a salt of the earth type of guy. Sadly, up until yesterday, I had seen him around many arenas, but never engaged him in conversation nor an interview. I thought he was terrific explaining his role with the Flames and how he is able to communicate with prospects on how they can improve their game. 
  • In talking to Ron Sutter, I had to ask him, of all the Sutter brothers to play in the NHL, which one is the best? His answer? Brent Sutter.  
  • The team announced before the game that second year forward Erik Gardiner is out indefinitely after being hit in the helmet with a puck last week against the Tri City Americans. While symptom free after the incident, he developed symptoms several days later while being monitored by medical staff. Gardner continues to be monitored by team physicians and no time line has been set for his return. 
  • These two teams meet again tonight here in Victoria. I understand it's 80's night which is right in my wheelhouse. I just may pull out my rugby pants, beer shirt and high tops. If it's cold in the arena tonight my over sized sweatshirt will come in handy. 
  • On the 'Kelowna Rockets This Week' on AM 1150 this evening at 6 o'clock, we spent time with assistant coach Kris Mallette looking back at his playing career. We will discuss his experience at the NHL draft (Mallette was a third rounder of Philadelphia), his lack for fear to fight and his future aspirations as a coach in the WHL.   

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