|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- 2-1 hockey games are boring right? Wrong! In arguably the most emotionally charged game of the season, the Kelowna Rockets were able to earn a one goal win last night over the Kamloops Blazers. The two points didn't come easy. Hard fought, rewarding victories that galvanize a team never are a walk in the park. The home team had to answer the bell or cower to a Blazers team that wanted to up the ante - physically. That should have come as no surprise after playing a significantly gentler game the night prior in a 3-2 overtime win in Kamloops. What came as a surprise was the Rockets ability to answer the bell. Instead of folding like a cheap tent, the home team appeared to play with more bite and gave back as much as they received in their 17th win of the season. With a capacity crowd (6,007) watching things unfold between the two BC Division rivals, it proved that even a game in late December can bring the type of energy, emotion and intensity that makes the game so fun to watch. Sadly, pure, raw emotion is often lost in a gentler game where skating and skill are the focal point and animosity towards one another is an afterthought. That wasn't the case on this night.
- The turning point? In my humble opinion it was a fight that Rockets defenceman Dalton Gally had with Blazer overager Jeff Faith. It happened after Faith delivered a hard hit on Nolan Foote. Foote was targeted twice with big hits before Gally elected to drop the gloves with Faith, sending a message that the home team wouldn't be pushed around. It seemed after that tilt, the Rockets played with more emotion. While not losing their heads and running around in an effort to get retribution, Adam Foote's team played with more passion and heart then what we've witnessed from this group this season.
- Typically, goals were hard to come by for both teams. Dylan Ferguson and Roman Basran had much to do with that as both goalies were named game stars. Of the three goals I liked the most, it was likely the goal mouth scramble when Nolan Foote was able to knock the puck in from the lip of the crease. It was as ugly of a goal as Foote will score, but it was the type of greasy goal that only seemed fitting in a game where heart and determination, not skill, would be the deciding factor between a win and a loss. It was Foote's 19th of the season, tying a career high for goals that was set in his rookie campaign. The goal tied the game at 1.
- The prettiest goal of the night came from leading scorer Kyle Topping. The 19 year-old received a picture perfect pass from the right point by teammate Lassi Thomson. Thomson, locating Topping at the left face-off circle, fired a perfect shot, short-side blocker-side, to give the home team their first lead of the game. From there, the Rockets weren't about to surrender another heartbreaking late third period goal and ended up earning a point at Prospera Place for the 9th time in 10 games.
- While not receiving a star in the building, I thought Dalton Gally deserved one. If for only one night the big defenceman should have been recognized, this indeed was the game. The fight was one thing. The well spoken blueliner also had two assists and had a solid hit on Blazers forward Brodi Stuart in the third period. I was pleased to see he received some love after the game as he was made available to the media for his terrific effort.
- It may be a small detail, but I really thought the Rockets celebration after the two goals were scored had a different tone/feel to them. Everyone seemed to be a little more jacked up. Were the goals more rewarding? Were they playing harder for each other? Maybe the crowd had something to do with it? I can't pin point it, but clearly it looked like they were enjoying the fruits of their labour unlike what we've witnessed in the opening 36 games of the season.
- The Rockets have been involved in 10-one goal games this season on home ice. Of those 10, the Rockets have a record of 6-3-1-0.
- The win moves the Rockets back into sole possession of second place in the BC Division, two points up on the third place Victoria Royals. The Royals suffered a 4-2 loss in Medicine Hat. On a Central Division road trip, the Royals still have 5 games in hand, so the Rockets will have to watch things unfold this week before playing their next game on Friday against the visiting Prince George Cougars.