Monday, November 19, 2018

Lucky 13 to end the trip!


Panoramic view of Rockets dressing room in Edmonton
  • 13. Yep, the Kelowna Rockets manufactured only 13 shots on goal Saturday night in a 3-1 road win in Edmonton. Few teams are able to win a game that way, but the road weary Rockets did. Catching the heavily favoured Oil Kings off guard, Nolan Foote struck for two goals and added an assists as the team ended a stretch of 6 games in 9 nights on a high note. I honestly thought it was a pretty gusty effort for a team that sent a message by not dressing two 19 year-old forwards and were coming off a 7-0 loss the previous night in Red Deer. In what can only be described as solid team play, the Rockets did what is needed when they are both fresher physically and mentally. I though the commitment to shot blocking and getting into shooting lanes was tremendous. Timely scoring, with Nolan Foote finding the back of the net :36 seconds apart in the second period didn't hurt. I also thought Roman Basran was money when the Oil Kings pulled its goalie with over two minutes left in the game and the road team holding on to a two goal lead. I am not sure what this win in particular did to the teams psyche, but I'd review the video tapes and say to the players, "This is how we have to play".   
  • My only complaint in Saturday's win is the number of pucks directed towards the Oil King net. As you might expect, 13 is a season low for the Rockets. But that is getting very, very picky when you again take into account playing six games in 9 nights in five different cities. To be honest, I will take 13 quality shots over 30 from the perimeter that never have a hope and a prayer of going in. On this night, quality over quantity reined supreme for a team that hasn't enjoyed much puck luck this season.
  • Nolan Foote's two goals gives him 13 on the season. That is the exact same total he scored a season ago. With 13 goals in 21 games, the about to turn 18 year-old has two more goals than Jamie Benn did at that same age. In 2007-2008, Benn, already drafted as Foote has a late birth-date, scored 33 times as an 18 year-old rookie. Foote has the benefit of playing in his third season in the WHL, but you get the idea of what type of offensive numbers the soft spoken forward is putting up this season. I still have Foote scoring 30+ goals this season and I am sticking to it. At 19, like Benn, Foote has to be pushing the envelope on 50 you would think? That's next year country though. Let's enjoy him for the player he is now!
  • I was glad to see Leif Mattson shine offensively in Saturday's game. With a goal taken away and credited to Foote, the 19 year-old had three assists. It is only a matter of time before he snaps a 14 game goal scoring drought. What really matters is he hit the score-sheet on all three goals. If you are 19, specifically on this team, you need to produce scoring chances or do something that shows you are worthy of being in the line-up. If you can't, why not play younger forwards who can grow and mature and are willing to play the way head coach Adam Foote wants them to play? 
  • I am still a believer that the Rockets have to win the 2-1, 3-1 and 3-2 games.Tight, lower scoring games need to be the norm for this team to have success. Both wins on the road were 3-1 victories. The game in Prince George, which they should have won in regulation time, was a 4-3 overtime loss. If you ask head coach Adam Foote, he would suggest Sunday's 4-2 setback in Portland was also a gettable game. I thought too the team had a good chance of earning two points, which again was a great bounce back game after losing the previous night to the Winterhawks by a score of 3-0.
  • I sure liked the success the penalty killing unit had on the trip. In only one of the six games did they surrender two goals against. Not surprisingly it happened in the 7-0 loss in Red Deer. Facing two of the best power play units in the league (Portland/Edmonton), the team was 6 for 6 against Portland in game one, 4 for 4 in game two against the Winterhawks and 5 for 5 against the Oil Kings.
  • One thing that can be easily overlooked on this road trip is health. The team suffered no significant injures. That is tough to do, but the team came away with a bump and a bruise but no long term injuries. Knock on wood, that is big for any team, but specifically for one that has some depth issues.
  • While I don't play favourites, I have to admit 20 year-old Dalton Gally is really growing on me. Gally has it figured out. Mature beyond belief, his heart felt answers on pre-game interviews shows how intelligent he is, how much he wants to win and how great of a leader he truly is. A castoff of the Medicine Hat Tigers, I can't remember the last player acquired through trade that had these type of leadership qualities? Again, this is coming from a defensive defenceman who is dependable and isn't fooling himself on the way he must play to be effective. I think he has captain written all over him. The last defensive d-man to wear the 'C' on his jersey was Brett Palin. Gavin McLeod too was a nice choice when I first called games for the team in 2000-2001. In speaking to Gally after Friday's 7-0 loss to Red Deer he told me, "He was embarrassed". I just love the fact he cares so much. 
  • Gally was telling me that he routinely writes in a journal and gets his thoughts on paper. Gally first got the idea from mental performance coach Bob Wilkie. Wilkie, a former teammate of Dan Lambert with the Swift Current Broncos, is the president of I Got Mind. Check out the website at igotmind.ca. Gally says using the journal and having dialogue with Wilkie has really improved, not only his mental game, but his physical game. It almost looked odd to see Gally writing in his journal in the lobby of an Edmonton hotel while fellow teammates had their eyes glued, like any typical teenager, to their cellphones. 
  • They say a road trip like this can bring a team together, and despite a lack of  success on the ice, I have to agree. Many laughs were shared along the way. Whether its telling jokes on the bus, having lunch with teammates on an off day, or just chilling out in a hotel room, these are valuable times for a team that has seen vast changes under a new head coach.   
  • A quick tip of the hat, or is it a honk of the horn to bus driver Greg Link? Often forgotten by some, Link's work over the last 10/11 days was rock solid. A steady hand behind the wheel on that treacherous drive from Edmonton to Red Deer on Saturday must be tough on the nerves.We have the easy part of just sitting back and relaxing and seeing semi truck after semi truck sitting idly by in the snowy ditch. Outside of a change-over of drivers at 100 Mile House, with Mel Billings driving the rest of the way to Prince George, Greg Link was behind the wheel for the majority of the 3000+ clicks.   
  • Oh, before I forget, Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette rolled the dice when he decided to get team accommodations at Delta Hotels by Marriott Edmonton Centre Suites. What an outstanding hotel. Home run. Do I dare say the best on the circuit? Much, if not all of the rooms have been renovated and the glass shower was amazing. They treated us like gold. I want to throw an endorsement out there if you want to stay in downtown Edmonton, only a five minute walk from Rogers Place. Stay there and reward yourself!
  • After spending 10 or 11 days on the road, it is great to be back home. It is nice to know 6 of the next 8 games will be played at Prospera Place. Sure, we have road games in Everett this Saturday and a one gamer in Tri City in two weeks, but sleeping in your own bed before a four game road trip before Christmas will be a nice reprieve. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fatigue evident in shutout loss

Photo - Rob Wallator
  • The Red Deer Rebels are a good looking team. When fatigued, the Kelowna Rockets are not. Plain and simple, the visiting team that showed up last night at the Enmax Centrium was nowhere close to how they typically play when more gas is in the tank. The end result was a clear indicator of who was fresh and who was road weary. 7-0. It wasn't even close. I don't want to take anything away from the Rebels, who are solid and well coached, but this had blowout written all over it before the puck was even dropped. The Rockets were playing game 5 of a 6 game in 9 night road trip that had the team travel through the night - twice. The 13 hour bus trip from Portland to Prince George had fatigue written all over it, but only a day between games in 'Cougar Country' on Wednesday and Friday's game in Red Deer compounded matters.  An 8 hour excursion from Prince George to Edmonton with little time to recover had the road team at a distinct disadvantage. Bus sleep is not bed sleep. Sorry, it is not. And yes, teenagers are affected as much as adults despite the misconception that players between the ages of 16 and 20 are invincible. Mental fatigue was clearly evident last night when the Rockets surrendered two shorthanded goals. That was a real indicator of how this road trip has taken its toll. The team lost for the 4th straight time and are now 1-3-1-0 on the swing, with the lone win coming in game one, when the team was fresh after a 3-1 victory in Seattle. 
  • The Rockets have been shut out three times this season and twice in the last four games. The team lost 3-0 in Portland on Saturday. 
  • The opening 10 minutes were relatively even, and the hope was the Rockets could grind through the game by getting an odd bounce and keep it close. The Rebels made sure that didn't happen by scoring a shorthanded goal to take a 1-0 lead. The rout was on. The Rebels had more jump. More energy. The passing was crisper. The execution was superior and the home teams best players made a massive impact. All three of the Rebels 20 year-old's scored. In fact, seven different player hit the score-sheet with goals as they rolled to their 8th straight home ice win.
  • Head Coach Adam Foote changed goaltenders, replacing James Porter with Roman Basran, but when their is no gas in the tank, pull as hard as you want on the recoil starter rope, the lawn mower ain't starting.  I don't blame the coach for making the move to get a spark. Why wouldn't he?
  • It's been a rough road trip for the Rockets top players. With only 8 goals in the last 5 games, if Kyle Topping, Leif Mattson and Nolan Foote aren't scoring, the teams lack of depth really shows. Topping has points in only two of the five games on this trip. Mattson has just two assists in the five games while Nolan Foote has one goal. I am not blaming these players, I am just stating the fact that if fresh, those offensive numbers would be considerably better as that trio would be making a far greater impact in the game.  
  • Love the Enmax Centrium. Such a terrific place to call a game. Excellent sight lines. One of the best junior rinks on the circuit. The 52 steps to get to the broadcast booth is painful, but the location to call the games is well worth the hike. 
  • Tip of the hat to the PA announcer in Red Deer. Really like his delivery on the goal scoring summary announcements. Never over the top crazy when the home team scores or sounding like his dog died when announcing the Rockets goals, he kept it right in the middle and sounded like a true pro. Small detail, but terrifically executed. 
  • Rockets are back in Edmonton for tonight's final game of the road trip. The hockey club has traveled an astonishing 2,998 kilometers to this point. The Oil Kings own the best power play unit in the WHL on home ice. The key is to stay out of the box. The task becomes even harder when your legs are sluggish and your body won't move to pucks as quickly as if you were fresh. Staying out of the box will be pivotal for the Rockets to end off the road trip on a positive note. 
  • We are on the air this afternoon at 5 pm from Rogers Place with the Kelowna Rockets This Week. Typically recorded, we will do the show live with special guest Jeff Finley. Finley is a former Kelowna Rockets assistant coach and now has the pleasure of watching his 16 year-old son play in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs. Talk to you at 5 pm Pacific Standard time.   

Friday, November 16, 2018

Rockets vs. Rebels


Game Day Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game five of a six game road trip tonight in Red Deer. This is the lone meeting of the season. Last season the Rockets met the Rebels twice, winning 5-2 (November 11, 2017) before suffering a 3-2 overtime loss in Red Deer (January 27, 2018). Kole Lind would score the tying goal with :33 seconds left in regulation time before the Rebels would win it in overtime. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 overtime loss in Prince George Wednesday night. Kyle Topping, Erik Gardiner and Lane Zablocki scored in the loss. The Rockets are 1-2-0-1 in the opening four games of the road trip, which concludes tomorrow night in Edmonton. The Rockets return home to host the Regina Pats on Wednesday November 21st.   

Broadcasters Notebook: The Rockets have just four players from Alberta. Lane Zablocki is from Wetaskawin. Braydyn Chizen is from St. Albert. Cayde Augustine was born in Airdrie while Kyle Crosbie is from Didsbury…Lassi Thomson is the top scoring rookie defenceman in the WHL with 7+9=16 in 21 games….Mark Liwiski leads WHL rookie with 13 minor penalties…Kyle Topping lead the team with a +7 rating….Leif Mattson leads the team in shots (78) followed by Nolan Foote (73)…Kyle Topping had his 12 game point streak snapped last Saturday in Portland…Nolan Foote had his 6 game goal scoring streak snapped in that same game….The Rockets are in the midst of playing in 11 games in 22 days to conclude the month of November….Kyle Topping turns 19 on November 18th…Nolan Foote turns 18 on November 29thNolan Foote played in both games for Team WHL against the Russian Selects in back-to-back games Monday in Kamloops and Tuesday in Vancouver…Four members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s November “Players to Watch’ List. Forward Nolan Foote is an ‘A’ prospect, meaning a first round candidate. Kaedan Korczak and Lassi Thomson are ‘B’ prospect which means he is projected to be selected in the second or third round. Roman Basran is a ‘C’ prospect, which means he could be taken in the third to the seventh round…Adam Foote was officially named the new head coach of the Kelowna Rockets on October 23, 2018 replacing Jason Smith. Foote earned his first WHL coaching victory that night in the Rockets 3-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos. Foote played 1,154 games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Quebec Nordiques. Foote is also a two time Stanley Cup champion. 

Trade Winds: The Rockets traded 18 year-old Wil Kushniryk to the Tri City Americans on October 22, 2018 for a 5th round bantam pick. The Rockets acquired 20 year-old defenceman Dalton Galley October 10, 2018 from the Medicine Hat Tigers for a 10th round bantam pick. The hockey club acquired 18 year-old forward Michael Farren October 11th from the Saskatoon Blades for a third round WHL bantam pick. The Rockets acquired 20 year-old Lane Zablocki for a conditional 7th round and conditional 4th round bantam draft pick on September 29th.

Season Highs/Lows:
Most goals scored: 8 @ Victoria October 19/18 (8-2 W)
Most goals allowed: 9 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L)
Most shots on net: 45 @ Seattle October 6th, 2018 (4-1 L).
Fewest shots on net: 21 vs. Vancouver October 3rd, 2018 (5-0 L)
Most shots allowed: 50 @ Portland November 10, 2018 (3-0 L)
Fewest shots allowed: 20 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)
Last time shut out at home: October 3rd, 2018 vs. Vancouver (5-0 L)  
Last time shut out on road: November 10, 2018 @ Portland (3-0 L)
Most power play goals allowed: 4 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L). T-Birds were 4/5 on power play.
Most power play goals scored: 4 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)

Roster Stats:
Player total: 24
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1998) – 3   Gally, Zablocki, Chizen
19’s (1999) - 5   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell
18’s (2000) – 9  Farren, Thomson, Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, Pow, Steffler,
17’s (2001) - 6   Korczak, Crosbie, Basran, Liwiski, Wilton, Augustine
16’s (2002) - 1   Ernst

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Road rash


  • Thankfully, the Kelowna Rockets don't have many 13 hours bus trips to deal with over the course of the Western Hockey League regular season. They have just one. That said, one can only appreciate what the Prince George Cougars go through every time they leave the warm confines of the CN Centre. What stares them in the face is a return trip home. The Rockets completed its longest continuous bus ride through the night following a 4-2 loss in Portland Sunday. The team bused all the way up to the furthest northerly outpost in the WHL. Thirteen hours later, with no snow to deal with, the team arrived early Monday morning in the city of 74 thousand. With two night's to recover, the team will do its best to snap a two game losing streak when they face the Cougars Wednesday night. While it is only 20 games into the season, points are valuable for a Rockets team that continues to evolve under new head coach Adam Foote. Foote wants his team to play a certain way. The 47 year-old knows for the team to have significant success they need to play to their strengths, and not a single day goes by where teaching isn't an integral  part as Foote's puts his stamp on this team. 
  • Coming off a 4-2 loss to Portland Sunday, it is hard not to see positives in the teams 12th loss of the season. Despite being scored upon first, which has been a common theme this season, the visitors showed remarkable resilience by getting numerous scoring chances including a clear cut breakaway from Liam Kindree (denied) and Leif Mattson with a partial breakaway later in the game (denied). Mark Liwiski and Kyle Crosbie scored against a Winterhawks team that has shown they are one of the quickest in the Western Conference. 
  • The Rockets penalty killing unit had a real good weekend against the best power play in the WHL. The PK went 10 for 10 against a Winterhawks five man unit that can move the puck around with authority. The passing is often mesmerizing, specifically when Cody Glass and Joachim Blichfeld are on the ice. It is fun, yet scary to watch. I often find Portland's power play so skilled, they overpass and complicate things. Just shoot it!  
  • Again, Sunday's loss was a far better effort from the night previous where the Rockets surrendered 50 shots on net and hardly touched the puck. I am sure the Winterhawks also took the Rockets significantly lighter after beating them the night before 3-0. Again, Sunday's loss should be a building block heading into the remainder of this trip. 
  • The teams record after 20 games this season is 8-12-0-0. After 20 games last season it was 11-6-2-1.
  • How can gas prices be 125.9 cents a litre up here in Prince George, yet significantly higher in Kelowna?
  • It is hard to imagine it is November 13th in Prince George with little to no snow. When we arrived, only snow was evident on the grassy areas and on the outlying hills and trees. The streets are completely void of snow. It is spectacular with temperatures above the freezing mark for the remainder of the week. I expect significantly colder temps when we return for two games in January (Jan 11th and 12th).   

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cinderella start ends in Portland

Keith Dwiggins Photo
  • You had to know the Cinderella start for new head coach Adam Foote would eventually end. The glass slipper would eventually fall off his Foote. Sorry, I had to go there. After leading the Kelowna Rockets to four straight wins after taking over from Jason Smith, things went sideways last night in a 3-0 loss to the Portland Winterhawks. The Winterhawks, winners of four straight games, showed why they again are one of the top teams in the Western Conference this season. While lacking scoring depth, head coach Mike Johnston is able to ride skilled players like Joachim Blichfeld and Cody Glass when a goal is needed. Those two have tremendous chemistry and appear to be able to turn the switch on and off when it comes to generating scoring chances. Both play a ton. Blichfeld and Glass each had 1+2=3 in the shutout win before a big crowd of over 77 hundred at the Moda Center. The two teams do it all over again today, this time at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the rematch. It only seems fitting to play in the old barn with this being November 11th - Remembrance Day! 
  • While Blicheld and Glass were establishing offensive dominance, the Rockets top point producers were relatively quiet. It may have been a case of not having the puck much and being forced to play defense the majority of the night. The Winterhawks had the puck a lot and the Rockets were often seen skating in an attempt to get it back. Kyle Topping had his 12 game point streak snapped while Nolan Foote saw his 6 game goal scoring streak come to an end. With Topping and Foote essentially nullified in the attacking zone, Winterhawks goalie Shane Farkas made just 26 saves in likely his easy shutout of his career. 
  • The Rockets were not shut out last season on the road. The team hadn't been shut out on opposition ice since a 6-0 loss in Kamloops on February 8, 2017. 
  • Down 2-0 in the second period, the Rockets had a chance to get back in the game when the Winterhawks took two penalties to give the visitors a 5 on 3 power play. Instead of scoring though, Kyle Topping took a tripping penalty on the ensuing face-off only four seconds later and the chance of making it a one goal game was quickly erased.
  • Who was the best Rockets forward? I thought Erik Gardiner was the most engaged and had a good shot block on a Portland power play.
  • For the first time this season we saw a team given two penalties in the same game for embellishment. Joachim Blichfeld was lite on his skates in the second period and Cody Glass went down easily in the third period. Someone has clearly complained to the WHL head office about the Winterhawks players trying to fool the referee's by slipping on banana peels on the ice. It also comes with the territory when you own the best power play unit in the league and have been granted the most chances (99) with the extra man. 
  • It was nice to chat with Don Hay before the game. One of my favourite coaches to interview, I've always been a fan of the 64 year-old, who has turned back time by staying in great physical shape. Always engaging, it seems odd to see him as an assistant coach at the WHL, but I am glad he is able to do something he enjoys. I will admit it is odd seeing him behind the Winterhawks bench and not making the primary decisions, but instead providing a helping to head coach Mike Johnston. Hay didn't hide the fact that this season is a trial period to see if he likes the job. One thing is clear, Hay is with an awfully good organization in one of the best cities on the circuit.   
  • Love the Moda Center. Absolutely love it. It is really a big game venue. It has the feeling of pro written all over it. And it should considering it is the home of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. The Winterhawks should feel blessed to play a game in that wonderful building, that always has unmatched energy with 77 hundred fans enjoying the game experience and letting go of their inhibitions. On some night's, the score-clock, which is as big as a house, is often the star. If you have a zit on your nose, the clarity of that video screen at the Moda Center would show it. 
  • I count 18 scouts that the Portland Winterhawks employee. 18! That isn't normal. The Winterhawks must have the biggest stable of eyes looking for talent on the 22 team circuit. Whoever is the European scout, you may take a bow sir!          
  • We will talk to you on the radio this afternoon at 4:30 pm with the pre-game show. It is an early start this afternoon. The last 72 hours have been start times of 7:35 in Seattle (Friday), 6:05 pm in Portland (Saturday) and now 5:05 pm (Sunday). 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Rockets open roady in Seattle


Game Day Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open a six game road trip tonight in Seattle against the T-Birds. This is the third meetings of the season between the two teams. The Rockets suffered a 4-1 loss at ShoWare Center back on October 6th. The Rockets trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes and fired 45 shots on net but only Kyle Topping was able to score. On October 10th, the T-Birds earned a 9-6 win. Leif Mattson had 2+2=4 in the setback. Following tonight’s game, the two teams close out the seasonal series in Kelowna January 30th. The Rockets enter the game riding a season high three game winning streak. All three wins have been decided by a single goal including a 4-3 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings Saturday at Prospera Place. Kyle Topping scored the game winner. This is game one of six straight on the road. The team is in Portland for back-to-back games tomorrow and Sunday before traveling to Prince George for a game Wednesday and then two games in Alberta, with stops in Red Deer and Edmonton. 

Broadcasters Notebook: Kyle Topping is riding an 11 game point streak. Topping has 6+10=16 over that period….Forward Nolan Foote played for Team WHL in the 2018 CIBC Canada/Russia series earlier this week in Kamloops and Vancouver….Nolan Foote has 8 goals in his last 7 games…The Rockets have 931 wins as a franchise since relocating from Tacoma to Kelowna for the 1995-96 season …Five members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to watch’ list. Forward Nolan Foote is an ‘A’ prospect, meaning a first round candidate. Kaedan Korczak is a ‘B’ prospect which means he is projected to be selected in the second or third round. Roman Basran, Kyle Topping and Lassi Thomson are ‘C’ prospect, which means they could be taken in the third to the seventh round…. The Rockets have failed to open the scoring in 12 of the 17 games this season….The Rockets have trailed going onto the third period in 10 of the games 17 games….Connor Bruggen-Cate has points in 5 of his last 9 games (2+5=7)…Kaedan Korczak has points in 6 of his last 8 games (2+6=8)…Liam Kindree has points in 5 of his last 6 games (2+9=11)….Adam Foote was officially named the new head coach of the Kelowna Rockets on October 23, 2018 replacing Jason Smith. Foote earned his first WHL coaching victory that night in the Rockets 3-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos. Foote played 1,154 games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Quebec Nordiques. Foote is also a two time Stanley Cup champion. 

Trade Winds: The Rockets traded 18 year-old Wil Kushniryk to the Tri City Americans on October 22, 2018 for a 5th round bantam pick. Kushniryk was pointless in four games this season. The Rockets acquired 20 year-old defenceman Dalton Galley October 10, 2018 from the Medicine Hat Tigers for a 10th round bantam pick. The hockey club acquired 18 year-old forward Michael Farren October 11th from the Saskatoon Blades for a third round WHL bantam pick. The Rockets also made a trade with the Victoria Royals Saturday September 29th. The team acquired 20 year-old Lane Zablocki for a conditional 7th round and conditional 4th round bantam draft pick.

Season Highs/Lows:
Most goals scored: 8 @ Victoria October 19/18 (8-2 W)
Most goals allowed: 9 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L)
Most shots on net: 45 @ Seattle October 6th, 2018 (4-1 L).
Fewest shots on net: 21 vs. Vancouver October 3rd, 2018 (5-0 L)
Most shots allowed: 39 @ Prince George September 29th, 2018 (5-2 W)
Fewest shots allowed: 20 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)
Last time shut out: October 3rd, 2018 vs. Vancouver (5-0 L)  
Most power play goals allowed: 4 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L). T-Birds were 4/5 on power play.
Most power play goals scored: 4 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)
Roster Stats:
Player total: 24
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1998) – 3   Gally, Zablocki, Chizen
19’s (1999) - 5   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell
18’s (2000) - 9   Farren, Thomson, Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, Pow, Steffler,
17’s (2001) - 6   Korczak, Crosbie, Basran, Liwiski, Wilton, Augustine
16’s (2002) - 1   Ernst

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Keeping head above water 1/4 into season


  • Here we are at the one quarter poll of the season. The Kelowna Rockets have played 17 games. The team is 7-10-0-0 in the opening 6 weeks of the season. So much has happened. The worst start in franchise history. The team winning the bid to host the 2020 Memorial Cup. The trading for Dalton Gally and Lane Zablocki. The dismissal of Jason Smith as head coach and the hiring of Adam Foote. The 2018-2019 season has been more than just a little interesting for its struggles on the ice and the news the hockey club has made off it. Never a dull day in these parts, management, coaches and players are wishing that winning hockey games was the focal point. Maybe we have arrived at that point? With 1/4 of the season behind us, let's look at what has happened on the ice for a team that sits 4 points out of second place in the BC Division.
  • At the 1/4 point of the season, Kyle Topping is leading the team with 23 points. That should come as no surprise considering he was the top returning forward after earning a career high 65 points last season. Concerns over his play came early in the season though, when he wasn't scoring and generated little in the way of chances for his line-mates. With 1 goal in the opening 7 games, with a team void of secondary scoring, it was imperative that the 19 year-old be among the leaders on the score-sheet. Early on, like his teammates, Topping wasn't. Maybe his mind wasn't clear yet after being overlooked in the NHL draft and then failing to receive a long look at the rookie camp of the San Jose Sharks? Whatever it was, Topping is proving he can be dangerous, having been held off the scoreboard only three times this season. Getting into a rare fight October 13th against the Tri City Americans was another sign that his heart is in it to prove the naysayers wrong that Kole Lind was a significant reason why he was able to hit career highs in goals, assists and points last season. After 17 games a year ago, Topping had 7 goals and 11 assists=18 points. Interesting isn't it? The Salt Spring Island product has the exact same number of goals and 5 more points without Lind at his side.
  • Why did the Rockets have only one win in it's opening 9 games? The power play was horrid and the team couldn't score even strength. Topping was struggling. Nolan Foote wasn't very good (3 goals in the opening 9 games) and only Leif Mattson was carrying the mail consistently. Mattson had 8 goals in the teams opening 9 games. It was Leif Mattson or bust at that point. I remember commenting to assistant coach Travis Crickard, in Prince George in early October, that the power play was dead last with an efficiency rate of 6%. He told me that he didn't even want to look at that number four games into the season. It was irrelevant to him knowing it was a process to work out the kinks. Man, was he right. Now it's most dangerous weapon, the Rockets own the 4th best power play unit in the league by electing to use four forwards on the five man unit. It is executing at an alarming rate and is winning games, not losing them. It has been so good, it is bound to slowdown at some point. Right now it's as good as you can get.   
  • The goaltending in the opening 17 games has just been adequate. It really wasn't until recently that the goalies, or in this case goalie, has stolen games with timely saves. The reason? My belief is they essentially went with a two man system to start the season and neither Roman Basran nor James Porter were able to get into a groove. It all changed when Basran started getting the bulk of the games. The performance in the crease now looks significantly better. The 17 year-old has started in twice as many games as Porter but the numbers still need to improve. Neither his goals against average (3.36) or save percentage (.887) will put fear into opposition shooters. That said, like many of the teams draft eligible players, all of them are trending upward which bodes well for an exciting second half of the season?
  • Who has been the biggest surprise in the opening 17 games? The answer is rookie import Lassi Thomson. While highly touted coming from Finland, you just don't know what type of player you will get as they make the transition to North American hockey. More times than not, in what I've witnessed, it's best to keep your expectations very low for players who were born overseas. Few have walked into the Rockets dressing room and have made a significant impact. Of the players the organization has selected in the CHL Import Draft, only Tomas Oravec, Tomas Slovak and Alex Edler can be considered top line players. Oravec had 21+44=65 in 2000-2001 while Slovak had 18 goals and 71 points in 2002-2003. Edler had 13+40=53 in the 2004-2005 campaign. Sure, Leon Draisaitl, Mikael Backlund and Jan Fadrny have been excellent, but two of them were acquired through trade while Backlund joined the team after the Christmas break in 2009. Thomson has been arguably one of the teams top five players at the 1/4 mark. Thomson is third in rookie scoring in the WHL and tops in rookie defenceman scoring. The 18 yer-old is tied for the league lead in goals, among defenceman, with 7. You might as well  engraved his name on the Rockets Rookie of the Year trophy right now to be frank.       
  • The best trade? The team has made three. The one I like the most is the acquisition of 20 year-old Dalton Gally. Obtained from Medicine Hat for a 10th round pick, I think the big man has been noticeable more times than not. With 4 assists in 8 games with his new team, Gally has allowed the coaches to separate Kaedan Korczak and Lassi Thomson as d-partners. For a team with limited depth on the blue-line, it was tough to have your top two defenders on the ice at the same time. The team is better served with Thomson and Gally playing together as a unit. While I also like the addition of Lane Zablocki as an upgrade of the three 20 year-old's, I am still sticking with Gally as the best pickup by GM Bruce Hamilton.    
  • The team is still taking way to many penalties. The Rockets have been shorthanded 80 times this season, or the 5th most of anyone in the WHL. Shockingly Portland is first. The second most penalized team in the league needs to do a better job of staying out of the box, mainly because their penalty killing unit isn't very good. Having surrendered 23 goals against, only bottom feeders Regina and Swift Current have allowed more when a man down. Forward Mark Liwiski leads all rookies with 39 penalty minutes. I like Liwitski's reckless approach with and without the puck, but sometimes less is more.    
  • Thanks to a three game winning streak, the Rockets (7-10-0-0) are pretty much where I thought they'd be at this point in the season. I thought anything over .500 would be a bonus for a team that is clearly in transition. If they were slightly above .500, let's say 9 and 8 for argument sake, the team would be tied with Victoria for second place in the BC Division. The Royals tremendous start was aided by a heavy home schedule and a large portion of their games against teams in the BC Division, which outside of Vancouver, are all in rebuild mode. 
  • Let's remember that the Rockets, up until a few games ago, were often times playing one overage player short. That was a factor in the extremely slow start where fellow 20 year-old Ryan Bowen was held pointless before he and the organization parted ways and Braydyn Chizen, who has only 10 career goals in 190 career games, isn't going to manufacture much in the way of offense from the blue line. Now that Chizen, Gally and Zablocki can be injected into the lineup on a consistent basis, the odds of winning clearly increases.   
  • With Erik Gardiner finding his game, the Rockets open a six game road trip Friday in Seattle. Facing 11 games in 22 days to close out November, this will be a tough test for a team, which is better prepared for this portion of the schedule than when the puck dropped for the start of the regular season on September 21st in Kamloops.  

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Biggest win of the season? Yep!

Cindy Rogers Photography
  • We only have seven to choose from, but last night's 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Brandon Wheat Kings is clearly the biggest victory of the season for the Kelowna Rockets. Surrendering two power play goals against just 9 minutes into the opening face-off could have turned into a nightmare for the home team, but the belief system with this group gradually continues to grow. It was clearly evident last night something is happening in that room. Instead of relenting and waving the white flag, the Rockets stormed back with two goals, one with 12 seconds left in the first period and a power play goal less than three minutes into the second period and it was - game on! A slow start was followed by an impressive finish as Kyle Topping's power play with 1:10 left on the clock powered the Rockets to their third straight win and fifth in six games. This game was a confidence builder as they head out on the road where adversity will stare them squarely in the face with 6 straight games on opposition ice. 
  • I was wondering if the Wheat Kings were prime for the picking heading into Saturday's game. Brandon was concluding a seven game road trip, a swing which has brought them much success which speaks volumes of how good of a hockey club they are icing this season. While possibly road weary, the Wheat Kings frankly didn't show any signs of lethargy. The Rockets, on the other hand, were at a disadvantage heading into the game with the inability to play at a competitive level for a week with no games on the schedule. Sounds good on paper right? Often times it isn't a blessing but a curse. It showed in an extremely slow start for the home team, who just looked slow and disengaged in the opening 20 minutes. Thankfully, Erik Gardiner's late first period goal seemed to wake up the Rockets from there slumber. 
  • Nolan Foote scored two power play goals in the clubs 7th win of the season. The about to turn 18 year-old now has 10 goals this season, which is only three off the 13 goals last season and 9 shy of his career high set in his 16 year-old season. Foote now has goals in 5 straight games and has collected 7 goals over that stretch. The offensive explosion comes at a great time where the soft spoken forward will suit up for Team WHL against the Russians Monday and Tuesday in Kamloops and Vancouver.
  • Kyle Topping's game winner came on the power play when Brandon's Connor Gutenberg was assessed a 5 minute major and game misconduct with 4:03 left on the clock after running over Rockets forward Leif Mattson with a blindsided hit in the neutral zone. Was it five minutes worthy is debatable, but clearly it was a penalty. In a 3-3 game, why even force the officials to make a call like that by aggressively trying to separate Mattson from the puck? That's my theory. You have to be smart in that situation, knowing full well that the home teams power play had already scored two of three goals against you. There is a time to be aggressive and a time to layoff. That is a teachable moment for both teams. Sometimes you have to use your head more than your heart.  
  • I thought Roman Basran was terrific in goal for the Rockets. Again, seeing no love in the three star awards at games end, the 17 year-old showed quick reflexes with several timely saves that look easy but clearly are above average stops. While out-shooting the Wheat Kings 29-24, I would suggest the quality of saves Basran had to make where significantly greater than his counterpart Jiri Patera at the other end of the ice. 
  • Kyle Topping extended his point streak to 11 games with a goal and an assist. Do you remember when everyone was talking about his numbers being inflated last season after playing the majority of the time with Kole Lind? Did Topping catch wind of what was being said? I think the 19 year-old is showing many that while playing with Lind allowed him to collect a career high 65 points a season ago, he can create offense no matter who is flanked to his right or left side.          
  • I thought Leif Mattson had a solid game. While he hasn't scored in 8 games, the 19 year-old had good energy and played to his strengths. Assisting on the game winning goal, I thought he was noticeable out there in the age group (19 year-old's) I am paying attention to the most. 
  • The Rockets have scored 8 goals in their last two games. Of those eight, six have come on the power play. The team now owns the fourth best power unit in the WHL. Earlier this season it was 22nd or dead last. Hmm.
  • Newly acquired Michael Farren has been given every opportunity to show his value with time on the teams top power play unit. The 18 year-old has yet to generate a point in eight games as a member of the Rockets after his acquisition from the Saskatoon Blades. Farren needs to be fixture on the score-sheet, specifically on this upcoming road trip for the team to have success.  Rookie Kyle Crosbie is also seeing time on the power play, but he too has no points to show for it.   
  • Speaking of road trips, the Rockets head out on a massive 10 day swing this week as they travel down to Seattle for a date with the T-Birds before playing back-to-back games with the Portland Winterhawks Saturday and Sunday. Let's remember that the Kamloops Blazers, as early as last weekend, had the exact same schedule and won all three games. Impressive. Difficult but doable. The road trip is followed by a long bus ride from Portland to Prince George for a one-off game against the Cougars on a mid-week Wednesday before traveling to Red Deer and Edmonton to close things out. For those counting, that is 6 games in 9 night's. At the end of the trip the Rockets will either declare they are 'road warriors' or they will received the burning sensation of 'road rash'.  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Rockets/Wheat Kings preview


Game Day Preview: The Kelowna Rockets close out a three game home stand tonight against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. This is the one and only meeting of the season between the two teams. They met once last season, in Brandon, with the Wheat Kings earning a 7-4 win (Dec 9/17). The Rockets had a 3-1 second period lead before the home team fought back, scoring five of the final six goals in the wide open affair. The Wheat Kings last visited Prospera Place on December 3, 2016. Nick Merkley scored twice in the victory. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 overtime win last Saturday against the Prince George Cougars. Nolan Foote scored the game winner. A six game road trip awaits them November 9th with dates in Seattle, Portland (doubleheader), Prince George, Red Deer and Edmonton. 

Foote in the door: Adam Foote was officially named the new head coach of the Kelowna Rockets on October 23, 2018 replacing Jason Smith. Foote earned his first WHL coaching victory that night in the Rockets 3-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos. Foote played 1,154 games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Quebec Nordiques. Foote is also a two time Stanley Cup champion. 

Broadcasters Notebook: Kyle Topping is riding a 10 game point streak. Topping has 5+10=15 over that period….Forward Nolan Foote has been named to Team WHL, who will host two games when the Russian Selects face the WHL in the 2018 CIBC Canada/Russia series. Games will be played in Kamloops Monday and in Vancouver Tuesday….Nolan Foote has 7 goals in 7 games……The Rockets have 930 wins as a franchise since relocating from Tacoma to Kelowna for the 1995-96 season ….Five members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to watch’ list. Forward Nolan Foote is an ‘A’ prospect, meaning a first round candidate. Kaedan Korczak is a ‘B’ prospect which means he is projected to be selected in the second or third round. Roman Basran, Kyle Topping and Lassi Thomson are ‘C’ prospect, which means they could be taken in the third to the seventh round…. The Rockets have failed to open the scoring in 11 of the 16 games this season….The Rockets have trailed going onto the third period in 10 of the games 16 games….Connor Bruggen-Cate has points in 5 of his last 8 games (2+5=7)…Kaedan Korczak has points in 6 of his last 7 games (2+6=8)…Liam Kindree has points in four of his last five games (2+7=9).

Trade Winds: The Rockets traded 18 year-old Wil Kushniryk to the Tri City Americans on October 22, 2018 for a 5th round bantam pick. Kushniryk was pointless in four games this season. The Rockets acquired 20 year-old defenceman Dalton Galley October 10, 2018 from the Medicine Hat Tigers for a 10th round bantam pick. The hockey club acquired 18 year-old forward Michael Farrin October 11th from the Saskatoon Blades for a third round WHL bantam pick. The Rockets also made a trade with the Victoria Royals Saturday September 29th. The team acquired 20 year-old Lane Zablocki for a conditional 7th round and conditional 4th round bantam draft pick.

Season Highs/Lows:
Most goals scored: 8 @ Victoria October 19/18 (8-2 W)
Most goals allowed: 9 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L)
Most shots on net: 45 @ Seattle October 6th, 2018 (4-1 L).
Fewest shots on net: 21 vs. Vancouver October 3rd, 2018 (5-0 L)
Most shots allowed: 39 @ Prince George September 29th, 2018 (5-2 W)
Fewest shots allowed: 20 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)
Last time shut out: October 3rd, 2018 vs. Vancouver (5-0 L)  
Most power play goals allowed: 4 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L). T-Birds were 4/5 on power play.
Most power play goals scored: 4 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)

Roster Stats:
Player total: 24
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1998) – 4   Gally, Zablocki, Chizen
19’s (1999) - 5   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell
18’s (2000) - 10 Farrin, Thomson, Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, Pow, Steffler,
17’s (2001) - 6   Korczak, Crosbie, Basran, Liwiski, Wilton, Augustine
16’s (2002) - 1   Ernst
Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Monday, October 29, 2018

Winning while signing Wong

Trevor Wong featured on video screen before debut 
  • The Kelowna Rockets were winners on the ice and off it Saturday night. The team signed highly touted 15 year-old prospect Trevor Wong and then went out and earned a 4-3 overtime victory against the Prince George Cougars. The Wong signing is significant for many reasons, which I will get too momentarily, but the win itself was huge as it marked the first time this season the team was able to record back-to-back victories at Prospera Place. With four wins in their last five games, the team is trending upward in a BC Division that has seen both Kamloops and Prince George stumble out of the gates. While the Rockets overall play has improved, so has that of the Blazers and Cougars. The good news is the Rockets are in the mix despite a horrendous start that saw them at the bottom of the WHL standings at one point. Trust me, they are a long way from keeping their head above water on a consistent basis, but at least now they are treading water and limiting the number if times it dips under the surface. In the opening two weeks of the season, the team was drowning and no one in the WHL was willing to throw them a life preserver. And do you blame them? The answer is no! 
  • The Trevor Wong signing came as a bit of a surprise to me, only for the fact that I spoke to both father Ed and Trevor at training camp and both were in tune on the benefits of the WHL and what NCAA hockey had to offer. At the time they seemed both undecided on which way to go. I credit them for listening to both sides of the argument and making an informed decision from there. They were not tricked or persuaded in choosing the Kelowna Rockets over Denver University. I would bet the Denver Pioneers were aggressive in pursuing Wong, and heck they got a verbal commitment out of him before the Rockets even selected him in 2018. When picking Wong in the WHL bantam draft, 18th overall, it may have sent a clear signal to the 15 year-old and his family that the organization was willing to stick their neck out for the highly touted forward, who many teams simply wouldn't touch when he made it clear the NCAA was his likely first landing spot. The gamble, which was mighty risky, did pay off.
  • The Wong's attended training camp in late August and got a general sense then that they loved the city, the team and the winning environment that few in the WHL can equal. While I am told winning the Memorial Cup bid in 2020 was not a tipping point on whether Wong committed or not, it surely didn't hurt. I have no inside information on this, but I am assuming Adam Foote's hiring as head coach was just a cherry on top for the Wong's to consider the WHL, who routinely lose recruitment wars with the NCAA. Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton told me current player Liam Kindree also had a hand in telling Trevor Wong the positives of  playing junior hockey in Kelowna. In my opinion, if a player and his family is on the fence, does it not only make sense to speak to a player directly to see how his experience has been with the organization? I am not a recruiter, but if I had a hand in it, I would put a video together of the current NHL players that have come through the organization and feature them giving testimonials on what they experienced at the WHL level. Heck, it doesn't need to be just NHL players. Many have come through the locker room and have gone on to other things outside of pro hockey and have glowing reviews of their Rockets experience. 
  • I don't think many realize the significance of Wong's signing. After dealing away first round WHL bantam picks for Leon Draisaitl and Reid Gardiner, it has crippled the Rockets to a certain degree to build a contender with high end, young talent. Face it, first round bantam picks are the building blocks for success. Selecting in the second round with your first pick in the draft puts you at a distinct disadvantage. That is why Ethan Bowen, the  teams first pick in the second round in 2017 is another vital player to obtain in an effort to increase the skill level among the franchises younger talent. It is players like Trevor Wong and Ethan Bowen that give the team a chance at long playoff runs beyond 2020. Wong and Bowen make the team a contender in 2021, 2022 and 2023.       
  • Wong made his debut Saturday night wearing jersey #14. Eligible to play in a maximum five games this season as an underage player, we could see him again when the team makes its Alberta road trip before the Christmas break. Shane McColgan did just that as a 15 year-old in Red Deer in December of 2008. A night later in Edmonton he scored his first career WHL goal. We will be watching Wong closely this season as he and his Greater Vancouver Canadians compete for a BC Major Midget Hockey League crown.  
  • On the ice, Nolan Foote returned to the line-up after a two game absence and scored the game winner in overtime. Foote's snap shot without hesitation,when it hits its desired target, is one of the best in his draft class. The about to turn 18 year-old is now tied for the team lead with 8 goals and has found the back of the net in four straight games. It was a slow start for Foote, who had only two goals in opening eight games. 
  • While fighting the puck at times, I thought goaltender Roman Barsan was significant in the one goal win. When the Cougars dominated play in the third period by owning the puck for significant stretches, Basran had to be sharp to keep the visitors off the board with 14 saves in the final period.
  • Kyle Topping continues to impress. Another player off to slow start, the 19 year-old now has points in 10 games. The early struggles to the season as a team also impacted Topping, who had only one goal in the opening 7 games. 
  • The power play has really come alive over the last few weeks. It bailed out the team again Saturday with three of the four goals coming courtesy of the extra man. The Cougars were guilty of taking several undisciplined penalties and the Rockets made the most of their chances. The best goal of the night came when defenceman Lassi Thomson, even strength, went coast-to-coast and scored what is right now the best goal by any Rockets player this season. That will undoubtedly make the WHL Plays of the Week.   
  • Five of Thomson's 7 goals this season have come on home ice. Never one in hesitating to rush with the puck, the 18 year-old's confidence level continues to soar. If he keeps it up, so will his draft status. 
  • With an extremely quiet schedule after playing its opening 15 games in 26 night's, the team has ample time to practice under new head coach Adam Foote. Frankly, the timing couldn't be better with the Brandon Wheat Kings providing the opposition Saturday night before the team heads out on a 6 game road trip. That 6 game roady will be a tell tale sign if this team is indeed better than their record shows (6-10-0-0) or will it answer the question if they will struggle all season long to even get close to playing .500 hockey?
  • Two more notes. Tip of the hat to the parents and the kids who came out Saturday night for the Halloween candy scramble. Wow. The number of kids on the ice in the second intermission was eye popping.
  • Congrats to Rourke Chartier in scoring his first career NHL goal Sunday night. The San Jose Shark forward scored that first goal in only his 8th career game. If your wondering, Chartier tied Duncan Keith for the second quickest NHL goal to start a career among Kelowna Rockets alumni. Keith also scored his first career NHL goal against Minnesota in his 8th career game in 2005. The record is held by Jamie Benn, who scored his first NHL goal in only his 4th career game (vs. Vancouver) in 2009. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Rockets/Cougars clash

Shoot the Breeze Photography

Game Day Preview: A quiet weekend for the Kelowna Rockets with only one game against the visiting Prince George Cougars. This is the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. The Rockets are 1-2-0-0, having lost 4-2 and 3-2 before earning a 5-2 victory back on September 29th. After tonight’s game, these two teams meet again November 14th in Prince George for just one game before the team then heads off on an Alberta road trip with stops in Red Deer and Edmonton. The Rockets, winners of four of their last five, are coming off a 3-2 win over the Swift Current Broncos Tuesday night. Jack Cowell scored the game winning goal midway through the second period. This is game two of a three game home stand, which has the team hosting Brandon next Saturday. A six game road trip awaits them November 9th with dates in Seattle, Portland (doubleheader), Prince George, Red Deer and Edmonton. 

Foote in the door: Adam Foote was officially named the new head coach of the Kelowna Rockets on October 23, 2018 replacing Jason Smith. Foote earned his first WHL coaching victory that night in the Rockets 3-2 win. Foote played 1,154 games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Quebec Nordiques. Foote is also a two time Stanley Cup champion. 

Broadcasters Notebook: Kyle Topping is riding a 9 game point streak. Topping has 4+10=14 over that period….Forward Nolan Foote has been named to Team WHL, who will host two games when the Russian Selects face the WHL in the 2018 CIBC Canada/Russia series. Games will be played in Kamloops November 5th and in Vancouver November 6th ….Nolan Foote has 6 goals in 6 games….Rookie Dillon Wilton has goals in three of his last six games……The Rockets have 929 wins as a franchise since relocating from Tacoma to Kelowna for the 1995-96 season ….Five members of the Kelowna Rockets have been named to NHL Central Scouting’s “Players to watch’ list. Forward Nolan Foote is an ‘A’ prospect, meaning a first round candidate. Kaedan Korczak is a ‘B’ prospect which means he is projected to be selected in the second or third round. Roman Basran, Kyle Topping and Lassi Thomson are ‘C’ prospect, which means they could be taken in the third to the seventh round…. The Rockets have failed to open the scoring in 10 of the 15 games this season….The Rockets have trailed going onto the third period in 10 of the  games 15 games….Connor Bruggen-Cate has points in 5 of his last 7 games (2+5=7)…Kaedan Korczak has points in 5 of his last 6 games (2+5=7).

Trade Winds: The Rockets traded 18 year-old Wil Kushniryk to the Tri City Americans on October 22, 2018 for a 5th round bantam pick. Kushniryk was pointless in four games this season. The Rockets acquired 20 year-old defenceman Dalton Galley October 10, 2018 from the Medicine Hat Tigers for a 10th round bantam pick. The hockey club acquired 18 year-old forward Michael Farrin October 11th from the Saskatoon Blades for a third round WHL bantam pick. The Rockets also made a trade with the Victoria Royals Saturday September 29th. The team acquired 20 year-old Lane Zablocki for a conditional 7th round and conditional 4th round bantam draft pick.

Season Highs/Lows:
Most goals scored: 8 @ Victoria October 19/18 (8-2 W)
Most goals allowed: 9 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L)
Most shots on net: 45 @ Seattle October 6th, 2018 (4-1 L).
Fewest shots on net: 21 vs. Vancouver October 3rd, 2018 (5-0 L)
Most shots allowed: 39 @ Prince George September 29th, 2018 (5-2 W)
Fewest shots allowed: 20 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)
Last time shut out: October 3rd, 2018 vs. Vancouver (5-0 L)  
Most power play goals allowed: 4 vs. Seattle October 10th, 2018 (9-6 L). T-Birds were 4/5 on power play.
Most power play goals scored: 4 @ Victoria October 19, 2018 (8-2 W)

Roster Stats:
Player total: 24
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1998) – 4   Gally, Zablocki, Chizen
19’s (1999) - 5   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell
18’s (2000) - 10 Farrin, Thomson, Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, Pow, Steffler,
17’s (2001) - 6   Korczak, Crosbie, Basran, Liwiski, Wilton, Augustine
16’s (2002) - 1   Ernst

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Foote takes first step as head coach

Adam Foote - Shoot the Breeze

  • Adam Foote doesn't want it to be about him. That said, it was all about him Tuesday night when he stood behind the bench as the new head coach of the Kelowna Rockets. The 47 year-old was the focal point as he earned his first WHL victory as a coach with a 3-2 win over the visiting Swift Current Broncos. It was a soft launch for the likable Foote, who's team won for the first time on home ice this season against a Broncos squad that closed out an 8 game road trip with their 12th loss. Foote knows there are tougher days ahead. Foote took over from Jason Smith Tuesday morning and is not fooling himself into thinking he can change the teams fortunes around in a heartbeat. Foote appears to be a hands on coach though, despite having any such experience at the major junior level.  Verbally strong, Foote isn't scared to instruct in order to make his team better. "I love learning myself. I am reaching out to others for help at this level. It won't be easy. I am keeping an open mind. These players have to be comfortable with coming into my coaching room and talking. I don't want my players to feel shame for the mistakes they make. We will go to the chalkboard and figure it out. If we can develop properly, I believe some wins will come with it".  
  •  The Rockets victory Tuesday night came courtesy of a quick start off the stick of 20 year-old Lane Zablocki. Scoring his first as a Rocket less than 5 minutes into the game set the table for the teams only home ice win in 7 attempts. Of the five wins this season, its been the result of the Rockets finding the back of the net first. Zablocki now has 1+2=3 in two games since coming back from injury.
  • Goaltender Joel Hofer held the Broncos in the game early, making 20 of 21 saves in the opening period. Had the St. Louis Blues draft pick been off, his team would have been in a heap of trouble. That said, after a sluggish opening 20 minutes, my take is the Broncos were equal or slightly better than the home team. With just one win this season, the visitors could have buried their head in the sand and started the bus early for a long ride back to the prairies. Instead, Dean Brockman's crew was a handful in the clash of two teams that are sitting in the depths of the WHL standings. Swift Current will take its lumps this season. They will improve but they will lose a boat load of games. Fans there must remember that the WHL championship last season was sooooooooo worth it. 
  • Two of the Rockets three goals last night were the result of rebound chances. Sounds simple doesn't it? Crash the net for secondary chances and you will likely be rewarded. Sadly, it rarely happens. Jack Cowell's game winning goal came exactly that way. An innocent shot from Kaedan Korczak from just inside the blue line is kicked out by Hofer.  Cowell drills home the rebound through the legs of the startled goaltender and its 3-2. 
  • I thought James Porter Junior had a strong game. Starting for the first time in 8 games, Porter was sharp with several solid stops including robbing Broncos leading scorer Alec Zawatsky in the second period and making a nice glove hand save on Matthew Culling on a power play in the late stages of the third. Rebound control seems to still plague Porter resulting in glorious secondary chances for the oppositions shooters. It is a work in progress. 
  • The penalty killing unit came up big in the late stages of the game. Holding a 3-2 lead, Jack Cowell was fingered to the penalty box after receiving a double minor for high sticking. With the Broncos pressing, Porter was solid and the PK unit paid the price in keeping the Broncos off the board. The penalty killing unit has not allowed a power play goal against in four games!
  • Controversy in this one. The Broncos had a goal disallowed in the second period when Andrew Fyten's wraparound chance glanced off Rockets d-man Lassi Thomson and into the net. The goal was waved off after it was determined goaltender James Porter Junior was interfered with by Broncos forward Max Patterson. While no penalty was called on Patterson, the goal was disallowed as the goalie was 'unable to reset'. I am honestly not sure what that means? Video replay showed it was a clean goal, at least in my eyes. 
  • The game featured what looked like a tired Rockets team both physically and mentally. It was the end of four games in five nights and the past 48 hours had the head coach relieved of his duties and a new coach brought in to guide the team. At the major junior level, specifically, that is a lot to digest only a month into the season.
  • Nolan Foote was among the scratches for the Rockets. Foote was hurt Saturday in Victoria after receiving a high stick. The about to turn 18 year-old is listed as day-to-day on the WHL injury report and will likely suit up when the team hosts Prince George on Saturday.