Saturday, November 25, 2017

Rookies answer bell in road win

Kaedan Korczak - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets coaching staff challenged the rookies to make an impact prior to Saturday’s 3-2 road win in Vancouver. Those first year players delivered in spades. Where do we start? How about 17 year-old goaltender James Porter who appeared to get increasingly better as the game went along. Named the first star, Porter made 30 saves as he helped his team snap a two game road losing streak.  
  • Marek Skrvne. Last weekend he scored his first career goal at the Langley Events Centre in a 6-1 loss. Fast forward six days later and the first year forward is involved in his first career WHL fight with Giants tough guy Darian Skeoch. Being a betting man, my belief is A) Skrvne has never Googled or B) Skrvne has never been involved in a hockey fight of any kind growing up in the Czech Republic. What I saw from Skrvne was impressive as he stood up for teammate Kyle Topping after he was dumped by Skeoch just inside the Giants blue line. Skrvne, clearly unaware of the 6 foot 4, 216 pounds reputation, grabbed a hold of the much larger player, took off his gloves first and attempted to throw a punch. Skeoch threw no less than four solid lefts back, leaving Skrvne crumpled on the ice. But that’s not the point here. Skrvne answered the bell. The 5 foot 9 forward stepped out of his comfort zone, big time,  because he was challenged to make an impact. He showed up, didn't cower and his teammates loved him for it.  
  • Kaedan Korczak. Since returning from the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek/Fort St. John, the 16 year-old may have come back with a slight loss of confidence. That didn’t appear to be the case Saturday night though. The pride of Yorkton, Saskatchewan played a solid game on defence. Korczak was more proactive in shooting the puck from the blue line than passing it and was involved in his first career WHL fight. Korczak dropped his gloves with fellow 16 year-old Giants defenceman Bowen Byram.  Korczak showed he can handle himself as he made short work of Byram, with both defenders typically doing their best work with the gloves on, not off. Again, that isn’t the point here. The Rockets first round bantam pick from 2016 showed he can 'muscle up' if he needs and his thumbs up to the Rockets bench with a huge grin on his face after the fight was over was a tremendous ending to the spirited tilt. 
  • One pass. Yes, just one pass that caught my eye came from rookie Libor Zabransky. The 17 year-old rookie was sent a pass from his d-partner behind his own goal. Zabransky didn’t panic, took it to the side of his net and ripped a tape-to-tape pass onto the blade of Kyle Topping at centre ice. Topping skates in on an odd man rush and almost scored. What I liked about that one sequence was Zabransky’s poise with the puck. No panic. No sheepishness with it. Composure with the puck and a beautiful outlet pass that was marvelous to witness. It may be a small play for some but a significant progression as Zabransky adjusts to a smaller ice surface with bigger, older players. Again, another rookie making an impact. 
  • The Rockets took too many penalties in the game. The Giants were awarded eight power play chances. Fortunately the teams commitment to getting into shooting lanes, blocking shots and simply harassing puck carriers was nothing short of excellent. The end results had the penalty killing unit going 7 for 8 and scoring a shorthanded goal.  Carsen Twarynski celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday night by scoring his 14th goal of the season just 90 seconds into the hockey game. 
  • The Rockets are now 11-1-1-1 when they open the scoring.  
  • After two sub par efforts in a 6-1 loss to the Giants last Saturday and a 6-2 setback in Spokane Wednesday night, it will be interesting to see what this latest win does for the Rockets heading into Saturday’s home game with the high flying Medicine Hat Tigers. If the rookies can again rise to the occasion by doing anything for the greater good of the team, I can’t see why another win isn’t attainable.  

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