Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lacklustre effort in road loss

Photo courtesy of David Zammit
  • The Kelowna Rockets had no excuses. They really didn't. Sure, they were playing without their top three players Wednesday night in Swift Current. Yes, it was the team's fourth game in six nights, but the Broncos were without two of their top scorers too and were playing their 5th game in 6 nights. The Broncos were ripe for the pick'n as a prairie farmer once told me. While the Broncos picked up their 24th win of the season in a 5-1 win, the Rockets went from winning 6 in a row to quickly losing three straight. In a game where skill wasn't the deciding factor, compete was, the Broncos scored the first five goals and cruised to the win. The most deceiving stat of the night was the shot clock, where the Rockets sent 38 pucks towards Broncos 20 year-old goaltender Logan Flodell. Named the third star, Flodell made a handful of good stops in the four goal win. Thankfully for the visitors, Liam Kindree spoiled Flodell's shutout bid with less than four minutes remaining in the game.
  • The Broncos coaching staff were worried before the game that fatigue may bite them in the rear end. Swift Current was in Edmonton Sunday night while the Rockets enjoying a day off in Regina. On Tuesday, like the Rockets, the Broncos were back in action playing at home against the Prince Albert Raiders. They had to have been tired, both mentally and physically. Unfortunately, the Rockets were unable to take advantage of a wearisome hockey club.  
  • At the start of this trip, I was looking for someone to really step up while Dube, Lind and Cal Foote were attending Hockey Canada's training camp in St. Catherines, Ontario. To this point, I haven't really seen anyone emerge. The good news is two games remain for someone to really show their value to the coaching staff in an effort to find themselves playing in crucial roles when the games become even harder after Christmas.
  • Are the Rockets really that dependent on Dube, Lind and Cal Foote for success? I sure hope that is not the case. After two games without them, I am starting to wonder. Again, all three are wonderful players. They are three of the best 19 year-old players in Canada, so the loss of the trio is immense. That can't be debated,  but don't tell me the supporting cast can't compete hard for loose pucks and be tenacious on the fore-check without them. It has been the staple of the meat and potato players the Rockets have iced over the years. Effort and compete is always there. Go back as far as Tyler Mosienko and Tyler Spurgeon to as recent as two seasons ago with Rourke Chartier and last seasons spark-plug Nick Merkley. Who is the next 'worker bee' on this team? Who is the energy guy? Who is the pain in the a$$ to play against and won't be outworked no matter what the scoreboard reads?   
  • It's an old cliche, but it is really true. It is not the team with the best players that win, but its the players with the best team that wins.
  • Glenn Gawdin, the best player on the ice for either team, was the offensive spark plug with two goals and two assists to lead the Broncos attack. That should come as no surprise. As a drafted NHL player and a 20 year-old, should he not be the best player on the ice and be looked upon when his team is playing short staffed? That is probably why he signed a contract with the Calgary Flames last month. It is easy to show up when your best players are playing beside you, but are you able to generate offense or make terrific plays in an attempt to help your team earn a victory? Gawdin went out of his way to hit Rockets d-man Braydyn Chizen in the third period as a way of getting some aggression out after Chizen's hard hit on Kaden Elder in the first period. 
  • A positive? I thought Rockets rookie defenceman Libor Zabransky was terrific. I would go as far as to suggest it was his best game in the WHL. 
  • Forward Leif Mattson left the game in the third period favouring his shoulder after receiving a solid hit at centre ice. 
  • While it may look juvenile to some, the Broncos typically start the period with several players on the bench hitting the boards with their sticks before the opening face-off. In my opinion, it shows that they are engaged and ready to play. I have seen no other team in the WHL do that, unless I am missing something? Typically, the only time a team slaps sticks on the boards is when a teammate skates back to the bench after exiting the penalty box after a fight.
  • With the Rockets trailing 5-0, Broncos head coach Manny Viveiros pulled back the reins and limited the play of 20 year-old's Glenn Gawdin and Matteo Gennaro. Viveiros went with his younger players to close out the game, so it was interesting for me to watch how the Rockets younger players matched up against the Broncos lesser lights. I ended up calling out Max Patterson's name (2 goals this season), Ethan Regnier (1 goals this season) and MacKenzie Wight (0 goals), several times in the final 20 minutes. I assume they receive little ice time when Aleksi Heponiemi and Tyler Steenbergen are in the line up. 
  • It was nice being back in the old stomping grounds. Even my high school football coach (yes, I attempted to play football in grade 10) stopped by the broadcast booth to say a quick hello. It was cool to touch base with new faces too, including the Broncos public address announcer who told me he listened to me call Swift Current Broncos games when he was a kid. I thought I was a kid too back in 1995 when I had the privilege of taking over from Eldon Moberg. Even alumnus Travis Moen took in Wednesday's game to see his old team play. I also had a good chat with Ryan Switzer before the game, who does a terrific job with anything regarding digital media (video) with the team.  
  • High five to Louie D's catering for the delicious post game meal. This dude nailed it - again. The chicken was wicked. I played hockey with Louie in the good old days and the rugged rearguard could scoot. 
  • Up next is a date with the Prince Albert Raiders. The Rockets have two cracks of getting it right before sipping on Eggnog. 

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