|Shoot the Breeze Photography|
- Goaltender Jordan Papirny was the best player on the ice for the Brandon Wheat Kings Saturday night in a 3-1 loss to the Kelowna Rockets. Had the 20 year-old been average, the Wheat Kings would have been embarrassed on the scoreboard. Papirny stood tall and kept the score close in the two goal setback. Nick Merkley scored twice, including the Teddy Bear Toss goal, as the home team cruised to their 16th win of the season. The Rockets owned the puck the majority of the night and the score could have been much more lopsided had the Edmonton product had an off night. At the other end of the ice, rookie goaltender Brodan Salmond was having a relatively easy night with a 17 save performance, which included a late third period penalty shot save on Wheat Kings forward Ty Lewis. Outside of a minor blip in a 2-1 loss in overtime Friday to the Spokane Chiefs, the Rockets clearly are resembling the type of team many people envisioned before the puck was dropped on the 2016-2017 season. This team, when all the horses are galloping hard, are not the middle of the pack team despite where they find themselves in the Western Conference standings.
- Merkley's Teddy Bear Toss goal was his first even strength goal of the season. Of the 8 goals he has scored this season, 7 have been on the power play. Merkley has 18 points, with only five of those coming even strength, The 19 year-old was named Saturday's 1st star.
- Everyone knows the biblical story of David vs. Goliath, but how about Belcourt vs. Jameson? The Rockets rookie 16 year-old defenceman was involved in his first WHL fight with Jameson, who is 3 inches taller and 45 pounds heavier. Belcourt surprised many, including Jameson, by sending the 18 year-old to the ice with several tactical right fists to the face. If you don't believe me, check out the highlites on the Kelowna Rockets website.
- Rockets rookie Connor Bruggen-Cate escaped serious injury when he was hit by Brandon's Barron Thompson at the conclusion of the second period. With pushing and shoving along the end boards inside the Wheat Kings zone as the buzzer sounded, Thompson, who is 6'5 and 255 pounds, came flying into the scrum of players and delivered a high hit on Bruggen-Cate. Thompson was ejected from the game but should receive supplemental discipline for his actions. Surprisingly, up until last night, Thompson had just 4 penalty minutes this season.
- Kole Lind had his 6 game goal scoring streak snapped. The second year forward had an assist though to extend his point streak to 7 games.
- Tomas Soustal earned an assist in the win. The 19 year-old now has points in 10 of his last 11 games.
- I liked the fact the coaching staff got Jake Kryski into the mix on the power play. They need too with four players (Merkley, Dube, Thurkauf, Soustal) being lost to world junior camps next week. Kryski will need to be used on the power play with those four absent from the line-up and the 18 year-old needs to get his mojo back. It was nice to see him find the back of the net for the 6th time this season.
- Heading into the Christmas break with just one more home game remaining, the Rockets had another strong crowd with 5,546 taking in the game.