Saturday, February 10, 2018

Puck luck? Zero!

Jonathon Howe Photo
  • Can you lose 6-1 and not play that badly? Sounds crazy right? My belief is that is exactly what happened Friday night in a loss to the Victoria Royals. Missed chances in the offensive zone and several trips to the penalty box where the Kelowna Rockets undoing. No less than two posts were hit by the visitors when the game was close, before the Royals scored two-second period goals to turn a 2-1 game into a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes. Tyler Soy had 1+3=4, but it was three 'blue paint' goals that stood out for me as the deciding factor in the five goal loss. On three separate occasions, the Royals were able to sneak pucks past starter Brodan Salmond from essentially two feet. Matthew Phillips failed on his first attempt when he received a nice backdoor pass but couldn't tuck the puck in when the far post got into his way and the game remained scoreless. It was a sign of things to come.
  • The Royals feast on the backdoor feeds at the side of the net or create scoring chances from the lip of the crease. Dante Hannoun opened the scoring on the power play that way on a backdoor feed. Andrei Grishakov made it 3-1, again with a tap-in on a nice setup from Tanner Kaspick. Matthew Phillips made it 4-1 with a feed at the lip of the crease. Those three goals were almost identical. The Rockets need to do a better job of defending. In fact, of the 6 goals surrendered last night, all of them came from within 8 feet or closer of the net. Some would suggest that is how all goals are scored. Maybe at the NHL level, but not in major junior.
  • Again the Rockets had their chances, specifically when the game was in reach in the second period. During a goal mouth scramble, leading goal scorer Carsen Twarynski battled in front of the Royals net, had goaltender Griffin Outhouse down, but fired the puck into the back of the 19 year-olds left skate. The puck then ricocheted off that skate and teetered on the goal line before being swept away. It was one of those night's where the road team had absolutely no puck luck.
  • The Rockets also had a 4 minute power play in the second period when Royals forward Braydon Buziak was given a double minor for slew footing Rockets defenceman Braydyn Chizen. In a 1-0 game, the Rockets could have equaled the score but couldn't find the back of the net. I thought the unit generated scoring chances, so it wasn't like it was a complete waste, but again, it didn't produce while the Royals did with three extra man goals.
  • Holding your cool is anything but easy when things aren't going your way. At games end the Rockets took 8 trips to the penalty box, allowing the Royals to score its league leading 66th, 67th and 68th power play goals of the season.
  • Let's give props to Jack Cowell. The second year forward was absolutely crushed on two separate occasions last night and didn't miss a shift. Cowell was hammered by d-man Cade Jensen in the first period and then took another run at him in the second period which was called a penalty for interference. I'm not a fan of Jensen's defensive work (hello -49 over his career) but you have to love his ability to physically punish an opponent. I find it a lost art among today's blue-liner.   
  • It was nice to see Erik Gardiner in the line up after a 39 game absence. The 18 year-old kept his shifts extremely short in the first period and lengthened them as the game went along. For a player missing in game action since October 28th, I thought he played very well.
  • It was also nice to see James Porter Junior back in the line-up. Missing 11 games with an upper body injury, Porter came into the game in the third period in a relief appearance of Brodan Salmond. I am assuming the goaltending change had more to do with getting Porter some actual playing time with the likelihood of him starting in Saturday's rematch. Porter surrendered two-third period goals after Salmond allowed 4 goals on 25 shots. Salmond has been pulled five times this season.
  • Conclusion? Missed opportunities were the Rockets downfall. I thought they played with good pace through 40 minutes before the Royals took the game over late in the second period and throughout the third. By then the game was lost, or in the Royals case, won. Don't let the score fool you. In the seasonal series, the Rockets and Royals have each earned three wins against one another. They are more evenly matched than last night's scoreboard indicated.  
  • Join me tonight at 6 pm on AM 1150 for another edition of The Kelowna Rockets This Week. We speak with Rick Ball, the first radio voice of the team when they relocated from Tacoma to Kelowna for the start of the 1995-1996 season. Ball is now the TV play-by-play man for the NHL's Calgary Flames. You can blame him for leaving and allowing me to take his spot for the last 18 seasons.

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