Monday, March 12, 2018

Back on track

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • When you've gone five games without a win, style points don't matter, nor the level of your competition in an effort to get back in the win column. The Kelowna Rockets earned back-to-back victories over the Kamloops Blazers Friday and Saturday night, sweeping their nearest opponent with 8 consecutive wins (8-0-0-0-) while earning all 16 points up for grabs during the season. I thought Friday night's ability to protect the lead was crucial for the Rockets, who have surrendered a third period lead on several occasions during the late season winless slide. While surrendering 38 shots against Friday night in the 4-2 win at Sandman Centre, the shot clock wasn't a true indicator of how little threat the Blazers were in the offensive zone. When called upon, starting goaltender Brodan Salmond was solid in getting his team back in the win column.
  • Saturday's rematch had much the same feel to it. I thought the only change was the battle level of the Blazers after being eliminated from playoff contention the night before. The road team had little in the way of life and you could clearly see it through the lack of jump and jam that previous pest Jermaine Loewen put up in the rematch. Do you blame him? I can't imagine how tough it would be to preform hard when you know your team will be one of only 6 missing the playoffs this season. The Rockets used two goals from Leif Mattson in the teams 40th victory of the season. 
  • I swear all of Leif Mattson's 23 goals have been scored by keeping the puck on the ice. Honestly, it's a lost art. Today, every player shoots for corners in an attempt to score. Mattson just makes sure it's on goal. 
  • Speaking of 40th win, the Rockets accomplished the feat for a 6th consecutive season. An impressive streak without question. The last WHL team to accomplish that feat was the Portland Winterhawks between 2009 and 2015. The team can win a maximum of 43 games this season and can earn 93 points if they win their remaining three games. The team earned 95 points last season after earning over 100 in each of the last four season. 
  • Kole Lind has 91 points, which is 9 shy of 100. A Rockets player hasn't reached 100 points since Colin Long back in 2007-2008. Tyson Baillie had 95 points in 2015-2016. Myles Bell came close with 93 points in 2012-2013.
  • It will come down to the final week of the regular season to decide who will raise the BC Division banner. The Rockets hold a three point lead on the Victoria Royals with three games left. A win Wednesday night would give the Rockets their 7th BC Division crown. Last season the Rockets missed out by 1 point.
  • The Rockets sit in 5th place in the overall WHL standings with 87 points. Last season the team finished 6th overall with 93 points. 
  • The Rockets need 22 goals in their last three games (7.3 per game) to equal the 283 they scored last season. That won't happen. The team has already allowed 42 more goals than last year.
  • It is really hard to ignore the 23 goal improvement Carsen Twarynski has put up this season. With a team leading 43 goals, the 20 year-old has exceeded what I thought he could accomplish in the offensive zone. I expected him to score in the neighbourhood of 25 goals, but I only came to that conclusion considering he had a pass first mentality. This season, and specifically of late, he let's the puck go off his stick every chance he gets. That isn't selfishness at all. It's smart with that quick release. How did Reid Gardiner score so many times last season? A quick release and using every chance he could to get it off. The nice part of Twarynski's game is he hasn't totally abandoned his physical play either. Never avoiding giving a hit or taking one, that is what makes him so much to handle at this level. Only 8 players in the WHL have more goals than Twarynski this season.  
  • The Rockets have received more than adequate goaltender in their last four games. Brodan Salmond and James Porter have been more than sufficient in holding up their end of the bargain. Porter has had a terrific year when you look at a virtual unknown coming into training camp. When Salmond went down with a knee injury, Porter had no choice but to sink or swim and chose to doggy paddle at times to keep his head above water. Heck, the raw rookie has been named a star 12 times this season! 
  • I was really impressed with Ted Brennan this past weekend. A physical force, the 17 year-old rookie often butted heads with Blazers forward/defenceman Tylor Ludwar, Brennan never backed down and used his 6'1, 202 frame to his advantage. The only thing that concerns me is the one goal he has scored this season. While receiving limited ice time, a forward with 60+ games usually scores a handful of goals. I hope the dam eventually breaks.   
  • The Rockets close out the season with two of three games on home ice. After Wednesday's tilt with the Prince George Cougars, the team faces the Vancouver Giants in a home and home series with games in Langley on Friday and at Prospera Place Saturday night. If all goes according to plan, the team will face Tri City in round one of the WHL playoffs and then the real fun begins! 

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