|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- You could sense it. The Kelowna Rockets were hosting the last place Edmonton Oil Kings Saturday night and the probability of an upset was looming large. After being beaten by the Red Deer Rebels, a non-playoff team, Wednesday night and then being just good enough Friday in squeezing out a 2-1 win in Kamloops, the general consensus was the Oil Kings, with 34 fewer points, would storm into Prospera Place and would have a legitimate shot of leaving the building with two points. That's exactly what they did. Frankly, right now, the Rockets aren't that good. Many are wondering why. Is it fatigue? Is it taking the opponent lightly? The team has injuries to three key veterans, but the Oil Kings, who had nothing to play for outside of pride, were limping into the final game of a four game road trip with just 10 forwards. 10!! This should have been an easy two points for the home team. That's the problem. The Rockets thought it would be easy and they paid the price in a 3-2 shootout loss.
- For essentially the third straight game, the Rockets played a near picture perfect perimeter game. Perimeter isn't good people. Perimeter is bad. Playing on the outside results in little to no secondary chances on net. It really is lazy hockey to be frank. The forwards don't want to skate hard enough to rebounds because it takes effort. The lazy or easy way is to enter the zone, fire pucks on goal and hope you can beat the goalie. Goals from Cal Foote and Braydyn Chizen were scored that way. I thought Oil Kings goalie Todd Scott, who was particularly good in the shootout, was a rebound guilty machine but the Rockets forwards couldn't get to those secondary chances. The question is why? Puck retrieval must improve. That area in the offensive zone has been weak in the last three games.
- I will say the Oil Kings looked significantly better than when we saw them earlier this season in a 5-2 loss at Prospera Place. They look more structurally sound. Oh sure, a team with 18 wins will make many glaring errors, but they didn't look as fractured in their overall play as they did in November. Give the players and the coaches credit for coming into Kelowna and essentially outworking the Rockets. They could have mailed it in with little to nothing to play for, yet they found a common cause to rally around - PRIDE - and earned two points in a building they had come away empty handed in their last seven visits.
- Cal Foote, Mr. Everything scored his 15th goal of the season. The 19 year-old is edging into some elite company when it comes to scoring goals from the blue-line. Madison Bowey has the team record with 21. Tyson Barrie had 19. Scott Hannan had 17 goals. Mark my words people, Cal Foote should get heavy consideration for team MVP.
- Tomas Soustal had to leave Prospera Place with a huge grin on his face. Soustal scored the tying goal in the second period by finding the back of the net with his 16th. A member of the 2015 WHL championship team, the 20 year-old was named the 1st star and received a nice applause from the hometown crowd, who had little to cheer for in the teams 28th home ice game of the season.
- Say what you want about Trey Fix-Wolansky, but I thought he played a determined game. Often taking bad penalties which can hurt his team, he was clearly noticeable as one of the Oil Kings top players. Fix-Wolasky plays hard, hits and likes to shoot. How d-man Connor McDonald has only 5 goals this season is beyond me? I thought he was terrific. The only ugly part in his game is the stat line that reads -11. But when you give up a league high 250 goals against, the +/- will take a massive kicking.
- Losing back-to-back games at Prospera Place has been rare this season. That said, the team did go four consecutive games without a win back in October. In fact, after losing in a shootout to Everett, the team lost three consecutive games to Victoria, Calgary and Portland.
- Despite the less than favourable results, the team still earned 3 out of a possible 4 points on the weekend and remain one point up on Victoria in the fight for first place in the BC Division with 13 games remaining. The next test is a Tuesday match up against playoff-less Prince George, a team that would like nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of the Rebels and Oil Kings and upset the apple cart.