Saturday, May 8, 2021

Lite night leads to road loss

Allen Douglas Photo 

If the Kelowna Rockets were compared to an alcoholic beverage after last night's effort - a lite beer comes to mind. Mild in flavour. Few calories. Head Coach Kris Mallette had a hard time swallowing what he witnessed in a 6-2 loss to the Vancouver Giants. Often considered as a heavy team, the Rockets threw grit and physicality out the window in the lopsided loss. The Giants were able to free-wheel and use speed to execute several pretty passing plays. Giving 20 year-old Tristan Nielsen that amount of space and time allowed the overager to fire home two goals and collect two assists. The loss extended the Rockets winless streak to three games (0-2-1-0) heading into Sunday's encounter - again in Kamloops - but this time against the Prince George Cougars.

  • The good news? The rookie line of Dylan Wightman, Scott Cousins and Steel Quiring was the teams best line. All three were engaged and were rewarded by getting first line power play time in the third period. While that sounds good on paper, it often isn't a great sign when those guys are the best you've got. It tells you that the older players aren't competing at the level they need too with the season quickly coming to an end - with much to play for.
  • Wightman was 7 for 10 in the face-off circle and for my money, may be the most improved player since the team returned to action. To be honest, Wightman didn't show me much when he played a handful of games a season ago. You were looking for small windows of, 'wow this guy can play'. It didn't materialize. This season is a different story. He has been noticeable and even got into a second period scrap. Do you not think scouts write a note beside #24 in their binder by what they saw? Guaranteed. It is worth watching this player, who has come miles since we saw him in 10 games as a call-up last season. 
  • It's often said in hockey, 'your best players have to be your best players'. Or, 'there best players were better then our best players'. That saying would also describe what went on last night. Tristen Nielsen had a 4 point game while veteran Justin Sourdif has 3 points. Two older forwards combined for 7 points. Rookie Steel Quiring opens the scoring with a great effort in front of the Giants net and Kaedan Korczak pots a power play goal late in the game to make the score 6-2. On this night, lots of passengers with the older players, who wanted to play a perimeter game against an elite goalie like Trent Miner.
  • How off were the older players? Dillon Hamaliuk is the teams leading shooter. The 20 year-old didn't register a shot on goal and was a minus 2. Tristen Nielsen, undrafted, led all skaters with 7 shots on net. David Kope, another overager, also didn't fire a puck on net. It's not a good look with scouts in the standings watching. 
  • The Rockets wanted a better start and had it gift wrapped for them less than 2 minutes into the game. Instead, Nielsen scores a shorthanded goal and it's 1-0 Giants. The Rockets had back-to-back power plays just 11 minutes into the game, but again gave up a shorty and didn't do much to manufacture offense when Marko Stacha went to the penalty box for slashing.
  • With the Rockets failing to score on two-first period power plays, the G-Men were afforded a 5 on 3 advantage in the second when the score was 2-1. What happens? They score once to make it 3-1 and then fire home another goal 43 seconds later and it's 4-1. Essentially game over. If it wasn't a done deal by then, it was after Justin Sourdif scored a shorthanded goal courtesy of a favourable bounce off of Kaedan Korczak.
  • Roman Basran surrendered 5 goals on 21 shots. The Giants had several good looks on net, but this was a game where you hoped the goalie would steal a game for you. If the team is flat, or isn't at its best, that one player in that crucial position can really bail out his teammates. It wasn't to be. 
  • Without doing higher mathematics, the Rockets need some help if they indeed want to claim the BC Division title in this abbreviated season. They need the Kamloops Blazers to lose no less than two of their remaining three games, which includes a head-to-head meeting Monday at Prospera Place. Ideally, the Rockets must be flawless in their final three games too. It all starts tomorrow with the final road game of the season against a Cougars team that beat them 2-1 just a few days ago. 

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