Thursday, January 4, 2018

Escaping with two points

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Hockey is a game of inches. Just ask Tri City Americans forward Issac Johnson. Or can I suggest you speak to Kelowna Rockets goaltender James Porter Junior? With the Rockets holding a 5-4 lead late in the third period, the Americans pulled their goaltender and were pressing for the equalizing goal. With a mad scramble in front of Porter and time ticking down, the puck squeezed out to the left side of the net where Johnson had a chance to bury the puck into a wide open portion of the goal to send the game into overtime. Instead, Johnson's shot hit the post and stayed out as the Rockets escaped with a one goal win. This was one of those games where the home team was extremely fortunate to earn two points. In fact, if you look back to the opening game between these two team's on October 17th,  Americans goaltender Beck Warm stole two points away from the Rockets in a 2-1 victory. So let's call it a little tit for tat in the seasonal series that ends with all four being decided by a single goal.
  • I never like the quote, "It allows others to step up" when describing how a team must adjust when a significant forward or defenceman is absent from the line-up. That said, there is some truth to it. Example? With the loss of Liam Kindree to injury, Connor Bruggen-Cate was elevated to a line with leading scorer Kole Lind and third leading point producer Kyle Topping. Bruggen-Cate, who is best served in a checking role on the third line, opened the scoring and closed the scoring for his first-two goal game of his career. It was nice to see the soft spoken forward find success offensively, but he must realize that he is most effective when he wins puck battles and make shows his value by being one of the teams best penalty killers.
  • While Beck Warm was the story in the season opener between the two teams, Americans head coach Mike Williamson didn't like what saw from his starting goaltender. Williamson pulled Warm after allowing two goals in the opening 15 minutes of the game. While I don't agree that Warm was the problem, I do agree that the change in goal did work. Twenty year-old Patrick Dea came in and played well and the Americans appeared to increase their level of play in the second and third period. 
  • Carsen Twarynski scored twice in last night's win. Now with 26 goals on the season. it was nice to see the 20 year-old respond with two goals from areas of the ice he should dominate. The second goal came from standing his ground in front of the Americans net and pocking in a rebound. I am a little surprised he doesn't score more goals from that area to be frank. Twarynski has great size and his release it elite. With 34 games left in the season, the third round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers should be knocking on the door on 40 goals this season.
  • Twarynski leads the team in power play goals with 9. In the previous three seasons combined, the Calgary resident had 4 power play goals. 
  • The one player who has really stood out for me since the Christmas break has been 16 year-old Kaedan Korczak. While entering his first season in the WHL with much fanfare, I thought the first round bantam pick just didn't look as poised with the puck as I expected when the season started in September. I thought he was very tentative after coming back from the Under 17's, but something clicked just prior to the prairie road trip and the 16 year-old is now showing why he was highly touted coming into the WHL bantam draft. Korczak is jumping up into the play, shooting the puck from the point and playing well defensively. Points don't matter to me when I look at his evolution as a player. Point will come. Colour Analyst Kent Simpson compared Korczak to former Edmonton Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk. I like that thought, Pysyk, an eventual first round NHL pick of the Buffalo Sabres, had just 5 goals and 20 points in his rookie season in the WHL.  Pysyk would eventually become one of the best defenceman in the WHL and would play for Canada at the Under 18 and Under 20's where he would win a gold and a bronze medal. 
  • The Rockets have won 6 straight games, matching a season high 6 game winning streak that ended with a loss in Brandon on December 9th. The longest winning streaks this season is shared by Brandon and Portland with 10 consecutive victories. 
  • The Rockets have won 13 straight games on home ice. The team record, while the team has been based in Kelowna, is 23 consecutive games back in 2012-2013. 
  • Nolan Foote scored his 11th goal of the season in Wednesday's win. It was his first goal in 7 games for a player who had 19 goals a season ago at the tender age of 16. 
  • The Rockets close out a three game home stand Friday against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. It marks the first time these two teams have faced one another since last seasons Western Conference final. 

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