Sunday, December 10, 2017

Eastern swings starts with mixed results

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets are 1 and 1 after two games on an Eastern Division road trip. It all started Friday night with a 7-5 win in Regina before suffering a 7-4 loss Saturday night in Brandon. Both games were up tempo, with several solid performances from players that must elevate their play with the loss of Dillon Dube, Cal Foote and Kole Lind next week to Hockey Canada's training camp. Here is my take on both games.
  • Winning the opening game Friday night against Regina wasn't a must, but it sure was a solid way to begin a road trip where fatigue will play a factor. The real concern for the Rockets in the opening game against the Pats was getting over the road fatigue after a 14 hour bus ride. While the team split the trip into two-7 hour segments, it still adds up to having bus legs when the puck dropped at the Brandt Centre. The Pats opened the scoring with the Teddy Bear Toss goal just four minutes into the game and it looked like a long night for the visitors. But give the team credit for bouncing back. With rookie goaltender James Porter Junior struggling and Pats veteran Tyler Brown no better at the other end, it was a clear advantage for the shooters who entertained the crowd with 7 - first period goals.  
  • The Rockets coaching staff deserve credit for pulling Porter when they did. While it is never ideal to yank your starter so early in the game, the 17 year-old was replaced by 16 year-old Roman Basran after giving up 4 goals on 14 shots. It paid off, as the Rockets scored the next four goals and took over the game. While head coach Jason Smith pulled Porter, Pats head coach John Paddock, surprisingly, did not remove Tyler Brown until it was too late. After surrendering 6 goals on 25 shots, the 20 year-old was relieved by backup Max Paddock.
  • Leif Mattson was named the first star in Friday's win. The second year forward showed great hand-eye coordination on his second goal by deflecting a Libor Zabransky shot past Brown. What made the goal so impressive was Zabransky's shot at chest level was going significantly wide of the net before Mattson pulled it back to deflect it home. Mattson almost had the hat-trick, but his wrist shot in the third period hit the cross bar. 
  • Nolan Foote also had a solid game with two goals and a fight. Foote displayed his quick release and showed why he scored 19 goals in his 16 year-old season. Foote was on the wrong end of a late third period tilt with Pats forward Scott Mahovlich, but the fact that he stood in there and attempted to do something he isn't accustomed to doing received rave reviews from his team-mates.  
  • Carsen Twarynski scored his 20th goal of the season in the win. It matches his career high of 20 goals with the Calgary Hitmen two seasons ago. 
  • Kole Lind had his 8 game point streak snapped as the 19 year-old failed to hit the score-sheet despite a large contingent of family and friends cheering him on.
  • The Rockets were not granted a power play until .9 seconds left in the game. Not one power play until that point? With 1:03 left in regulation time, Pats forward Tanner Sidaway engaged in a fight with 20 year-old Gordie Ballhorn. Sidaway was clearly the aggressor, yet the two officials didn't hand out an instigator as Ballhorn skated away from the fight without even taking off his gloves. Ballhorn received a cross checking call before the fight started, so the Pats were granted a power play even though the home team clearly wanted to take physical liberties with the game out of reach.
  • The crowd in Regina Friday night was outstanding. Yes, it was Teddy Bear Toss night at Brandt Centre, but the 65 hundred fans packed the building and the atmosphere inside of it was excellent.    
  • After earning a solid road win against the Pats Friday night, the team took a 6 game winning streak into Saturday's road game against the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Wheat Kings were riding a 7 game winning streak. Again, the Rockets surrendered the opening goal just ;31 seconds into the game and the visitors had to gut it out to get back in the game. Who would get the ball rolling offensively? I sure didn't think 17 year-old rookie Ted Brennan would be that guy, but the soft spoken forward slide the puck past Wheat Kings goaltender Logan Thompson for his first career WHL goal. Just like that the score was tied at 1. 
  • Despite early struggles from Rockets starting goaltender James Porter, who was pulled again after surrendering 4 goals on 11 shots this time, the visitors were in a good position by building up a 3-2 lead halfway through the game. I thought the turning point came when Wheat Kings leading scorer Ty Lewis was unchecked in the neutral zone, skated in on a breakaway and scored to make it 3-3. That goal was one of three the home team would score in a span of about five minutes and it put the Rockets in a huge hole. While scoring a late power play goal to make it 5-4, the Wheat Kings sealed it with two, late third period goals and it was game over. 
  • The Rockets fired 40 shots at the Wheat Kings net and gave up only 15 shots over two periods to a team that features three dynamic forwards that can make you look silly. The big three of Tanner Kaspick, Stelio Matteos and Ty Lewis combined for four goals and 11 points in Brandon's 22nd win of the season. 
  • Second year forward Nolan Foote again found the back of the net with a beautiful power play goal in the first period to tie the score at two. Foote now has goals in four straight games, which is a far cry from the three goals he scored during a quiet stretch of 15 games earlier this season. Nolan Foote is heating up at just the right time. I thought older brother Cal was also excellent with three assists while also trying to do his best to defend a Wheat Kings team that has a lot of weapons offensively.  
  • Dillon Dube scored his 18th goal of the season Saturday night which extended his point streak to 7 games.
  • With two games under their belt, the Rockets have two days off to regroup for two tough tests mid-week against the Moose Jaw Warriors (Tuesday) and the Swift Current Broncos (Wednesday). While the Rockets lose Dillon Dube, Cal Foote and Kole Lind to Hockey Canada, the Warriors lose forward Brett Howden while the Broncos will play without 35 goal scorer Tyler Steenbergen.


Brian Hicks said...

I was wondering if you had any comments regarding Rockets dean, Konrad Belcourt. Is he in coach Smiths doghouse or is it a game of numbers? Interested because he is a nephew of mine. I live in NB but follow that Rockets. Enjoy Regans Rant.

Brian Hicks

Regan Bartel said...

I would assume that younger players have passed him on the depth chart.