Thursday, January 11, 2018

Third period rally in home ice win

Kaedan Korczak all smiles after his 1st WHL goal - Shoot the Breeze photo
  • Dan Lambert’s first game against his old team earlier this season was highly successful. The personable head coach's first visit to Kelowna? Not so much. The Spokane Chiefs skated away with a 6-2 win over the Rockets in Spokane in late November against the team Lambert helped win a WHL title with in 2015. Lambert was back at Prospera Place for the first time Wednesday night where his junior hockey coaching career started as an assistant to Ryan Huska in 2009-2010. Five seasons later he was leading the Rockets to the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Kyle Topping spoiled Lambert’s return with a three point performance (2+1=3) in a 7-4 win before a crowd of 5 thousand three hundred 62.  The Rockets scored three-third period goals from Braydyn Chizen, Topping and Kole Lind in the teams 26th victory of the season. The win kept the Rockets one point up on Vancouver in the fight for first place in the BC Division.
  • Before the game, Cal Foote and Dillon Dube were recognized for winning gold for Canada at the most recent world junior hockey championship. While Foote made his way to the red carpet to shake the hand of general manager Bruce Hamilton before accept his gift of a Hugo Boss suit, it was announced on the PA system that Dube was unable to attend the game after falling ill following the tournament’s championship game. Both Dube and Foote will have the privilege of having their portraits added to the Kelowna Rockets ‘Wall of Fame’ located just outside the teams’ dressing room. That will likely happen this summer.
  • While Dube was unable to play against the Chiefs, Cal Foote made an immediate impact in his first game back. Named the first star,  Foote scored a key goal on the power play with a booming blast in the second period to give his team a 4-3 lead. Foote also was excellent defensively, initiated a perfect hip heck on an unsuspecting Chiefs forward and showed his brute strength by powering Spokane 20 year-old Zach Fischer into the gateway of the Rockets bench after a scrum occurred between a Chiefs player and Cal’s younger brother Nolan. 
  • With Foote back in the line-up, it took significant pressure away from both veteran defenders Gordie Ballhorn and James Hilsendager. Those two logged significant minutes while Foote was playing for Hockey Canada. Both overage d-man did a terrific job while Foote was away and need to be recognized for helping the team go 7 and 3 in 10 games without both Foote and Dube.
  • He finally got it! Rookie 16 year-old Kaedan Korczak scored his first career WHL goal. His seeing-eye wrister from the blue-line found its way past Spokane starting goaltender Donovan Buskey. You knew it was only a matter of time for the highly skilled defender to find the back of the net. Korczak is playing his best hockey of the season and is making significantly strides in his overall game. As for Buskey.....he was massively outplayed by the guy at the other end of the ice.
  • Let’s give James Porter Junior some credit here. The rookie goalie came into the game after 16 year-old fellow-rookie Roman Basran was injured early in the first period after making a sensational split save, denying the Chiefs of the opening goal of the game. Porter came in and didn’t miss a beat. His only error was failing to hop on a puck that he stopped, only to see Chiefs defenceman Jeff Faith, playing as a forward in the first period, beating him to it and jamming it into the net. I thought Porter was quick, engaged and made saves that could have turned the tide in the Chiefs favour with a sub par performance. Four words: an excellent relief appearance.         
  • I often find it interesting how different members of the media see the game. Was Spokane Chiefs forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan not terrific last night? Was he not worthy of a game star? Guess not. The second round pick of the LA Kings looked like one last night. Anderson-Dolan scored a goal, but his skating ability and overall dominance with the puck and his effort to get it into his grasp was outstanding. I don’t know, maybe I don’t get it and what catches my eye as being terrific, consistent play is out in left field.
  • It was a crazy day as the Western Hockey League trading deadline came to an end. It was the most bizarre series of days in my 18 years in the league. Teams were paying unprecedented prices for players (some not even considered elite) in an effort to give them a better chance at this year’s championship. I understand wanting to improve your team, heck, that’s why teams make deals, but making massive trades to obtain a significant numbers of players tells me a few things about that organization. The scouting is average to below average. I get the theory of making a few deals to solidify holes in your line-up, but if you fall that short of having quality talent and need to make massive, wholesale changes that force you to trade away high draft picks, prospects and jeopardize your future in the process, it makes no sense. Sure, your probability of success, while better, is still extremely risky.
  • On the flip side, while a few teams were willing to play ‘risky business’ at the trade deadline, I have to give both the Swift Current Broncos and Moose Jaw Warriors some slack here. A Saskatchewan based team rarely competes for the WHL title – ever. They come close sometimes, but no team since the 1993 Swift Current Broncos has ever won the Ed Chynoweth Cup. That’s 24 years of drought. 24 years! Moose Jaw was the last in the league finals in 2006, but they too lost out to eventual league champion Vancouver Giants. If either Swift Current or Moose Jaw can win a league title, maybe it’s a once in a lifetime thing? Sad but true. Therefore, why not throw out all the stops in an effort to win, even if it is at all costs with the likelihood it will cripple your team for years. Sadly, one of Swift Current and Moose Jaw will have their season come to an end when they possibly meet as early as the second round. 
  • The Rockets open a two game road trip with a stop in Seattle Friday and a first place date with the Vancouver Giants on Saturday. The Rockets will have to be ready for both. Seattle badly outworked them last Friday in a 6-4 loss while the Giants are arguably the hottest team in the Western Conference. Both games will be nothing short of terrific. 

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