Thursday, March 5, 2015

Loyal listeners of all ages

I receive a lot of correspondence from listeners on my work e-mail over the course of the hockey season. I thought this latest one was worth sharing on my blog. It is from an 87 year-old woman named Ruth Graham/Creveling. She writes:

"Good morning Regan. It is almost impossible for a senior with two hearing aids to hear and understand someone who talks fast. As a retired teacher, I want to tell you that your enunciation is soooo good that I can hear and understand everything you say. When the game happens to be on TV I turn the sound off and turn you on so I have the best of both worlds. 
Thanks Ruth Graham/Creveling"

I thought it was a sweet e-mail from a loyal listener and was worth sharing.
If you have a question on what we do on our AM 1150 Rockets broadcasts, you can leave a comment on this blog or e-mail me directly at regan.bartel@bellmedia.ca

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Overtime woes continue

Tyson Baillie battling for loose puck - Photo by Chris Mast

  • Don't take this wrong Kohl Bauml, but you shouldn't have been the first star in last night's overtime win against the Kelowna Rockets. Yes, you scored the game winning goal and set up the tying goal in the third period, but without goaltender Carter Hart, the comeback bid wouldn't have been possible. Hart, for those unaware, is a 16 year-old rookie who looked anything but in the one goal win. Hart made breakaway saves on Tate Coughlin, Tyrell Goulbourne and Dillon Dube in the come from behind win. It could have been four breakaways, but Rockets captain Madison Bowey lost the puck on the backhand and didn't get a shot on net. What I'm trying to say is without Hart, there is no overtime. That's right, with Hart there is no Kohl Bauml overtime heroics. This game is finished in regulation time and the Rockets end off the seasonal series running the table against the U.S Division leaders. Instead the Tips earn a much needed two points to move four up on Portland in the fight for first place in the division with eight games left in the regular season. 
  • The tough pill for the Rockets to swallow is they let a 2-0 lead slip away by surrendering three unanswered goals. The Rockets were in total control in the second period by out shooting the home team 13-6, but finding the killer instinct to score that elusive third goal couldn't be found. The best chance, possibly, came on a Dillon Dube power play attempt in the third period when his tip in front of the net from a perfect pass from Leon Draisaitl was kicked aside by Hart. 
  • While Bauml was named the first star and Nikita Sherbak was given third star status with a goal and an assist, Leon Draisaitl was the best player on the ice - outside of Hart. I thought the 19 year-old was terrific. He almost single handily won the game in overtime when he took the puck at the Rockets blue line, and with determination on his face, skated quickly inside the Tips zone and made his way to the slot where he let a backhand shot go that Hart deflected wide of the net. Draisaitl's determination was impressive to watch as he used his size and power to create several quality scoring chances. The 19 year-old, who is worth his weight in gold and is getting better every game, has scored in six consecutive games and now has points in nine straight.  If you took just this one game into account in comparing Draisaitl and Sherbak, the Edmonton Oilers first rounder won this hands down with his solid effort over 60 minutes. Sherbak essentially showed up in the third period.    
  • I'm not sure how the Tips view their performance, but they looked almost disinterested in the first 40 minutes outside of a six minute push in the first period. When the Rockets scored a power play goal in the second period to make it 2-0, the Tips had little in the way of push back. They were playing a sleepy game before finally showing some life in the third period. What was more concerning was the Rockets inability to retain the lead despite the pressure applied by the Tips. Once Everett acquired momentum, the Rockets couldn't get it back. The game fell off the rails quickly with Jackson Whistle having to make quality stops in overtime before Bauml would eventually score with 29 seconds left in the extra session. Why or how the 20 year-old, who is the leading scorer on the Tips, was left unguarded from that scoring area is beyond me. Whistle had no chance on the game winner. 
  • The Rockets are now 1 and 4 in overtime. The only win in OT was Cole Linaker playing the role of hero in a 5-4 victory in Everett October 3rd in the teams first road win of the season. The Tips have now gone into overtime a league high 17 times. 
  • Without Rourke Chartier, Justin Kirkland and Josh Morrissey, just to name three, the Rockets did earn a point and sit two points up on idle Brandon for first place overall. The Wheat Kings do have a game in hand though.  
  • The Rockets, with Rourke Chartier in the line up, are back in action Friday in Vancouver before hosting the Spokane Chiefs Saturday night at Prospera Place. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rockets game notes vs. Tips

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open the final month of the regular season with a road game against the Everett Silvertips. This is the final trip south of the border for the team this season (playoffs excluded).This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the top two teams in the Western Conference. The Rockets are 3-0-0-0 in the first three games, having out-scored the Tips 19-10. The Rockets have won by scores of 5-4 OTW, 5-3 and 9-3. The 5-4 overtime win came in Everett back on October 3rd. This is the start of back-to-back games on the road. The Rockets are in Vancouver Friday night before hosting Spokane on Saturday. The Rockets are coming off a 2-1 loss Saturday night to the visiting Calgary Hitmen. Leon Draisaitl opened the scoring before he was ejected from the game on a controversial five minute major and game misconduct penalty for goaltender interference. The Hitmen won the game with just over four minutes left in the third period. Despite the loss, the Rockets earned the Western Conference regular season banner with Everett’s loss to the Prince George Cougars. The Rockets are 20-6-0-1 since the Christmas break. Brandon is conversely 22-3-2-1. Overall, the Rockets have points in 15 of their last 18 games (14-3-0-1). 

100 Points – Again! The Kelowna Rockets earned their 100th point of the season last Friday in a 4-0 win in Vancouver. It is the third consecutive season the team has earned 100 or more points. A franchise record 118 points was set last season. The team has hit the 100 point plateau five times now. They also accomplished the feat in 2013-2014 (118 pts), 2012-2013 (108 pts), 2004-2005 (104 pts) and in 2002-2003 (109 pts).     

A Banner season: The Kelowna Rockets are BC Division regular season champions. It is the 7th time the Rockets have won title since its inception in 2001-2002. The Rockets have claimed three consecutive BC Division banners (2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015) and have also won the title in 2010-2011, 2004-2005, 2003-2004 and 2002-2003. While the Rockets have won it 7 times, the Vancouver Giants have earned it five times.    

This and That: Madison Bowey and Tyson Baillie each played in their 250th career WHL games Saturday night….Leon Draisailt was the team’s top scoring in February. Draisaitl had 7+13=20. Only Brandon’s Tim McGauley (24 pts) and Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand (21 pts) had more points in February than Draisaitl did. Tyson Baillie had 5+8=13 in February while Gage Quinney (2+9=11) and Nick Merkley (1+10=11) were next on that list. The biggest surprise in February was Riley Stadel (2+8=10), who had as many points as  Madison Bowey did (2+8=10)…During the Rockets eight game home ice winning streak, which was snapped Saturday night by Calgary, the team was 11 for 33 on power play…Of the Rockets four losses on the road this season, three of them have come in the second of back to back games….six of the eleven losses this season have been suffered in the second of back to back games…..Rourke Chartier is 4 goals shy of 50 this season. The last Rockets player to score 50 goals was Justin Keller during the 2005-2006 season. Keller scored 51 times that year….Jackson Whistle missed ten games after undergoing appendix surgery on February 6th. The Rockets were 8-2-0-0 in those games…Michael Herringer had started four consecutive games up until Whistle’s return Saturday night…The Rockets have been held to just one goal six times this season. Seattle (road), Edmonton (road), Calgary (twice – once on road and once at home), Regina (home) and Prince Albert (home) have turned the trick against the highest scoring team in the Western Conference...The Kelowna Rockets have scored the second most goals on the road (135) in the WHL this season…The Rockets have lost only four times in regulation time on the road this season. Those four losses came in Victoria, Seattle, Tri City and Calgary...The Rockets have points in 11 of their last 13 road games (10-2-0-1)….The Rockets are 54-10-2-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons.

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 48-11-3-1 this season, good for 100 points. After 63 games last season the team was 50-9-0-4, which was good for 104 points. The team has scored 276 goals this season. At the same time last year after 63 games, 273 goals were scored and 163 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 156 goals against.  

Hot to Trot: Leon Draisaitl has an eight game point streak (7+10=17). Driasaitl had a career high 12 game point streak last season as a member of the PA Raiders…Tyson Baillie had his 10 game point streak end Saturday night. Baillie had five goals and twelve assists (5+12=17). Defenceman Josh Morrissey had an eleven game point streak snapped last Wednesday. Morrissey had (6+6=12) over that period.…Leon Draisaitl has twenty points (7+13=19) in his last eleven games…Draisaitl has goals in five straight games…Draisaitl’s goal Saturday was his 200th career point.       

Another 40 win season: The Kelowna Rockets have won 40 games for the 11th time in franchise history.  Here is the breakdown of 40 win seasons:
2014-2015: 48 wins and counting
2013-2014: 57 wins       2008-2009: 47 wins   1994-1995: 43 wins (Tacoma)
2012-2013: 52 wins       2005-2006: 46 wins   1992-1993: 45 wins (Tacoma)
2010-2011: 43 wins       2003-2004: 47 wins
2004-2005: 45 wins       2002-2003: 51 wins


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Controversial call ends Rockets winning streak

  • It isn't often you see a five minute major penalty called for goaltender interference. It happened last night, though, to Kelowna Rockets forward Leon Draisaitl and it played a significant role in a 2-1 home ice loss to the Calgary Hitmen. Without the services of Josh Morrissey, Rourke Chartier, Tomas Soustal and Justin Kirkland, the home team's most dynamic offensive player was kicked out of the game after cutting to the net with the puck and crashing into Hitmen netminder Brendan Burke. Without question it was a penalty. Was contact made by Driasaitl in a malicious manner? Not a chance. Referee Curtis Howe didn't see it that way. Maybe Howe doesn't know who Driasaitl is? I say that with tongue firmly in cheek, but the 19 year-old is all skill. In his 150 games in the WHL, the German has never been ejected from a game. His fight card is empty. If anything, people come to watch him score in a variety of ways. Cutting to the net and chipping the puck by the goaltender is one of them. With Driasaitl booted from the game and with a short bench with so many injuries, the game changed in a big way when the overzealous call was made. While the Hitmen wouldn't score on the ensuing extended power play, the loss of the Rockets best player in a one goal game would come back to bite them.
  • The Rockets had a terrific start in this game by coming out physical. No less than ten hits were recorded in the opening 20 minutes as the home team set the tone. Leon Driasaitl would open the scoring when he parked his big body in front of the Hitmen net. A shot from Madison Bowey from the blue line appeared to be going wide, but Driasaitl tipped it with his stick and somehow the puck changed direction and squeezed past Burke to the near post. It was the Edmonton Oilers first rounders 200th career point. Nick Merkley also had a golden opportunity in the first period in the high slot to make the score 2-0, but the sophomore forward couldn't finish on the tremendous Draisaitl pass.
  • Josh Morrissey, who missed Friday's game in Vancouver with a lower body injury, returned to the line up against the Hitmen but was hurt in the second period when he got tangled up along the end boards and fell awkwardly to the ice with Hitmen forward Carsen Twarynski. The 19 year-old left the game and never returned. To compound matters, Driasaitl was ejected and then rookie defenceman Devante Stephens was hurt late in third period when the score was still tied at one goal apiece. You were wondering if the Rockets, with a short bench, could push the game into overtime and in a worst case scenario squeeze out a point. Unfortunately, the Hitmen would score the winner with the Rockets running around in their own zone and looking gassed with just over four minutes left in the game.
  • This was a great game. The Hitmen are high end and are talented throughout the lineup. Without question they are in the elite category. They are highly skilled and play a smart game. On this night they didn't play overly physical, but that may have been more to do with playing their fourth game in five nights. I like their team, top to bottom, and they will be scary to face in the playoffs. If anyone is going to snap the Rockets eight game home ice winning streak, it is best to fall victim to a WHL heavy hitter. 
  • This game was played before a sellout crowd of six thousand 254. I thought they were treated to another great game regardless of the outcome.
  • Despite the loss, the Prince George Cougars did the Rockets a favour by beating the Everett Silvertips. What that did was allow the Rockets to officially claim the Western Conference regular season title. With 100 points, the Rockets are 19 points ahead of the Tips with the U.S Division leaders having only nine games left, or 18 available points. It is the second straight season the team has earned top spot in the Western Conference.                 
  • The Rockets end the month of February with a record of 9-3-0-0. They were 6-1-0-0 on home ice in a month that saw them play 12 games in 22 nights.    
  • Up next is a date with the Everett Silvertips, in Everett, Tuesday night. Both teams will most likely limp into the game without a full line up. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Herringer proving he can play

  • It will go down as the best 1,000 dollars the Kelowna Rockets spent this season. The Rockets claimed the playing rights of then 18 year-old goaltender Michael Herringer off waivers from the Saskatoon Blades in late September. The Blades, who sit dead last in the WHL standings, didn't think Herringer was good enough to play in the league. There goes that theory. The Comox, BC resident has proved without a shadow of a doubt he can at this elite level with each start. Last night in Vancouver, Herringer was especially sharp early in the game when his team wasn't in a 4-0 win. It was Herringer's second shutout of his young junior career. The now 19 year-old; he turned 19 last month, has received four consecutive starts with Jackson Whistle sidelined after undergoing appendix surgery. 
  • For a second straight game, a slow start for the Rockets. The Giants, who are playing for their playoff lives, had sustained pressure and Herringer was at his best with several solid stops. It wasn't until Vancouver forward Jackson Houck took a double minor for butt ending that the Rockets opening the scoring on a nice-one time blast from Leon Driasaitl. Escaping with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, the Rockets appeared to get better while the Giants simply couldn't match or exceed the urgency they showed early in the game.
  • Gage Quinney had a career game with a three point effort. His pass to Driasaitl at the right face-off circle while stationed at the left face-off dot was impressive. The 19 year-old has been the biggest surprise in all of the trading the team completed with the PA Raiders. I honestly knew nothing about him. If you said he played on Mars, I would have believed you. Quinney is showing great chemistry playing on a line with Dillon Dube and Tyson Baillie.
  • The Rockets earned their 100th point of the season, marking the third straight season they have hit that mark. With ten games left to go, 20 points are still up for grabs. The franchise record is 118 points set last season.    
  • There sure is a lot of hype around Vancouver Giants rookie Tyler Benson. Without question Benson is a solid 16 year-old player, but isn't Rockets forward Dillon Dube equally as good? You could argue that Dube has a better supporting cast, but the team's first round pick is clearly elite. 
  • The Rockets played this game without Rourke Chartier, Josh Morrissey, Tomas Soustal and Justin Kirkland. That meant affiliated player Alex Uryga was called up eat up some minutes. 
  • The good news on the injury front is Jackson Whistle backed up Herringer last night. What that means is the 19 year-old is pretty much ready to return to the line up as early as tonight against the visiting Calgary Hitmen.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rockets/G-Men preview

Tonight’s Preview: With only 11 games left in the regular season, the Kelowna Rockets will face the Vancouver Giants three times. The Rockets make their first visit to Pacific Coliseum since November 2nd when Rourke Chartier scored twice and added an assist in a 5-3 win. Following tonight’s game the Rockets make return visits on March 6th and March 20th. The G-Men are in Kelowna on March 21st. In the eight game seasonal series the Rockets are 4-0-0-0, having out-scored the Giants 21-10. The Rockets are coming off a 4-2 win Wednesday night over the visiting Victoria Royals. The Rockets erased a two goal deficit by scoring four unanswered goals in the team’s 47th win of the season. Chance Braid led the way with a goal and an assist and a fight. This game against the Giants is the fifth straight against a BC Division rival. The Rockets host Calgary tomorrow night. The Rockets are 19-5-0-1 since the Christmas break. Brandon is conversely 21-3-2-0. Overall, the Rockets have points in 14 of their last 16 games (13-2-0-1). 
 
Closing in on 100: The Kelowna Rockets enter the weekend with 98 points. The Rockets are trying to earn 100 or more points for a third consecutive season. A franchise record 118 points was set last season. The team has hit the 100 point plateau four times. They accomplished the feat in 2013-2014 (118 pts), 2012-2013 (108 pts), 2004-2005 (104 pts) and in 2002-2003 (109 pts).     

A Banner season: The Kelowna Rockets are BC Division regular season champions. It is the 7th time the Rockets have won title since its inception in 2001-2002. The Rockets have claimed three consecutive BC Division banners (2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015) and have also won the title in 2010-2011, 2004-2005, 2003-2004 and 2002-2003. While the Rockets have won it 7 times, the Vancouver Giants have earned it five times.    

This and That: Chance Braid earned the Gordie Howe Hattrick Wednesday night against Victoria. It is the second time Braid has turned the trick. As a member of the Prince George Cougars, Braid earned the badge of honour after scoring once and adding an assist and getting into a fight with Keegan Kanzig when the P.G Cougars beat the Royals November 28th…..Leon Draisaitl is playing in his 150th career game tonight….During the Rockets eight game home ice winning streak the team is 11 for 33 on power play…Of the Rockets four losses on the road this season, three of them have come in the second of back to back games….Five of the ten losses this season have been suffered in the second of back to back games…..Rourke Chartier is 4 goals shy of 50 this season. The last Rockets player to score 50 goals was Justin Keller during the 2005-2006 season. Keller scored 51 times that year….During this eight game home ice winning streak, the Rockets have out-scored the opposition 52-20…Jackson Whistle has missed nine games after having appendix surgery on February 6th. The Rockets are 7-2-0-0 in those games with Jake Morrissey winning four of the seven games…Riley Stadel has 2+15=17 in his last 17 games and has a goal and seven assists in his last six games playing as a forward…Justin Kirkland has points in nine of his last eleven games…The Rockets have been held to just one goal five times this season. Seattle (road), Edmonton (road), Calgary (road) Regina (home) and Prince Albert (home) have turned the trick against the highest scoring team in the Western Conference...The Kelowna Rockets have scored the second most goals on the road (131) in the WHL this season…The Rockets have lost only four times in regulation time on the road this season. Those four losses came in Victoria, Seattle, Tri City and Calgary...The Rockets have points in 10 of their last 12 road games (9-2-0-1)….The Rockets are 53-10-2-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons….A win tonight and a loss by Everett will give the Rockets the Western Conference regular season championship.  

200 Point Club: Nineteen year-old Tyson Baillie recorded his 200th career point against the Moose Jaw Warriors back on February 14th. Baillie now has 206 points in his four year career. Ready to join Baillie in the ‘200 Point Club’ is Leon Draisaitl, who has 198 career points heading into tonight’s game against the Giants. Josh Morrissey has 196 career points.

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 47-10-3-1 this season, good for 98 points. After 61 games last season the team was 48-9-0-4, which was good for 100 points. The team has scored 271 goals this season. At the same time last year after 61 games, 260 goals were scored and 155 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 154 goals against.  


Hot to Trot: Leon Draisaitl has a six game point streak (5+10=15)…Tyson Baillie has a nine game point streak with five goals and 11 assists (5+11=16). Defenceman Josh Morrissey had an eleven game point streak snapped Wednesday night. Morrissey had (6+6=12) over that period.…Leon Draisaitl has eighteen points (5+13=18) in his last nine games.     

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Braid terrific. Goulbourne equally good in home ice win

Chance Braid - Shoot the Breeze Photo

  • Chance Braid was excellent. Tyrell Goulbourne was darn good too. The two overage players made a massive impact in the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 win Wednesday night at Prospera Place. Braid, who should have been named the games first star, fought and dominated a tilt with Victoria Royals designated tough guy Taylor Crunk and then went out and scored a power play in the come-from-behind win. Braid also hit a goal post in the third period and was a key in the game winning goal from Leon Draisailt in the third period. On the game winner, Braid took Royals defenceman Travis Brown off the puck behind the Victoria net by sending him to the ice. Teammate Nick Merkley retrieved it, skated behind the net before locating Draisaitl in front to make the score 3-2. At the end of the game, Braid received the second star in the building but was one of the main reason why the Rockets were able to rally back with four unanswered goals.
  • I mentioned Goulbourne's strong play because he was a constant throughout the entire game when it came to initiating body contact. It was Goulbourne's great board battle work in the second period that resulted in Madison Bowey eventually making it a one goal game. Goulbourne's exploits in the second period was the best shift of the game. I thought the overage forward was extremely quiet in back-to-back games in Victoria on the weekend but played a significant factor in the teams 47th win of the season.
  • Michael Herringer didn't get much love in the three star selection at games end, but the rookie netminder was solid, specifically early in the game when his team was down and out flat. Herringer was the only reason his team trailed 2-0 after the opening period. I thought the three stars in the game should have been; Braid #1, Herringer #2 and Goulbourne #3. Neither of the three will care but the game was clearly won in the second period thanks to Braid and Goulbourne's exploits and the steady play of Herringer.
  • The last time the Rockets were down 2-0 after the first period of play was against Seattle back on January 16th. In that game the Rockets would lose 5-2 on home ice.
  • Tyson Baillie would extend his point streak to nine games with a shorthanded goal to make the score 4-2. Baillie received a pass from Rodney Southam at centre ice and skated in on a breakaway, beating Royals goaltender Justin Paulic with a nice deke to the forehand. It was the teams 14th shorthanded goal of the season. The penalty killing unit was outstanding going 7 for 7.     
  • I thought Devante Stephens had a great back on defense. The rookie wasn't without his share of errors, but made solid plays to break up odd man rushes and his skating speed is such a factor out there. Is he not the most improved player from the start of the season? This guy has come miles from day one when not many expected him to even make the team. 
  • The Rockets played this one without Rourke Chartier, Justin Kirkland, Tomas Soustal and Jackson Whistle. Those are four significant regulars out of the line up. 
  • The Rockets are now 5-1-1-0 in the eight game seasonal series against the Royals. It all comes to a close March 11th when the two teams face-off again at Prospera Place.
  • The win kept the Rockets two points up on Brandon for first place in the WHL standings with 11 games left in the regular season.  
  • The Rockets are riding an 8 game winning streak on home ice after Wednesday's win. The longest winning streak of the season at Prospera Place was nine games between September 20th and November 8th.  
  • Royals head coach Dave Lowry coached his 300th game. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rockets and Royals...who else?

Photo by Kevin Light
Tonight’s Preview: Here we go again!! For the third time in the last six days the Kelowna Rockets face the Victoria Royals. These two teams met Friday and Saturday night in Victoria with the Rockets winning 3-2 before falling 5-2 a night later. Overall, the Rockets are 4-1-1-0 in the first six games between these two teams. The final meeting is March 11th. Here is a look at the seasonal series scores:
Games in Victoria:      Games in Kelowna:
3-2 win                          5-1 win 
4-3 overtime loss          7-3 win
5-3 win                          Tonight? 
5-2 loss                         March 11th?
The Rockets are 18-5-0-1 since the Christmas break. Brandon is conversely 20-3-2-0. Nine of the team’s 12 games in February are against BC Division rivals. Overall, the Rockets have points in thirteen of their last fifteen games (12-2-0-1). 

A Banner season: The Kelowna Rockets claimed the BC Division regular season title Friday night with a 3-2 win in Victoria. It is the 7th time the Rockets have won the division since its inception for the start of the 2001-2002 season. The Rockets have claimed three consecutive BC Division banners (2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015) and have also won the title in 2010-2011, 2004-2005, 2003-2004 and 2002-2003. While the Rockets have won it 7 times, the Vancouver Giants have earned it five times while Kamloops has claimed it twice.    

Counting it down: The Rockets have 12 games left in the regular season. Of those 12, seven will be played on home ice. Those games include two vs. Victoria and singles against Calgary, Spokane, Kamloops, Seattle and Vancouver. Road games include three stops in Vancouver and singles against Kamloops and Everett. 

200 Point Club: Nineteen year-old Tyson Baillie recorded his 200th career point against the Moose Jaw Warriors back on February 14th. Baillie now has 205 points in his four year career. Ready to join Baillie in the ‘200 Point Club’ is Leon Draisaitl, who has 197 career points heading into tonight’s game against the Royals. Josh Morrissey has 196 career points.

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 46-10-3-1 this season, good for 96 points. After 60 games last season the team was 48-8-0-4, which was good for 100 points. The team has scored 267 goals this season. At the same time last year after 60 games, 259 goals were scored and 153 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 151 goals against.  

Hot to Trot: Leon Draisaitl has a five game point streak (4+10=14)…Tyson Baillie has an eight game point streak with four goals and 11 assists (4+11=15). Defenceman Josh Morrissey has an eleven game point streak with (6+6=12)…Leon Draisaitl has seventeen points (4+13=17) in his last eight games.     

Another 40 win season: The Kelowna Rockets have won 40 games for the 11th time in franchise history.  Here is the breakdown of 40 win seasons:
2014-2015: 46 wins and counting
2013-2014: 57 wins       2008-2009: 47 wins   1994-1995: 43 wins (Tacoma)
2012-2013: 52 wins       2005-2006: 46 wins   1992-1993: 45 wins (Tacoma)
2010-2011: 43 wins       2003-2004: 47 wins
2004-2005: 45 wins       2002-2003: 51 wins

This and That: During the Rockets seven game home ice winning streak the team is 10 for 30 on power play…Of the Rockets four losses on the road this season, three of them have come in the second of back to back games….Five of the ten losses this season have been suffered in the second of back to back games….Josh Morrissey is enjoying an 11 game point streak. The longest point streak by a Rockets defenceman is 21 set by Tyson Barrie. Barrie had a 21 game point streak in the 2009-2010 season….Madison Bowey has just one goal in his last ten games….Rourke Chartier is 4 goals shy of 50 this season. The last Rockets player to score 50 goals was Justin Keller during the 2005-2006 season. Keller scored 51 times that year….During this seven game home ice winning streak, the Rockets have out-scored the opposition 48-18…Jackson Whistle has missed eight games after having appendix surgery on February 6th. The Rockets are 6-2-0-0 in those games with Jake Morrissey winning four of the six games…Riley Stadel has 2+14=16 in his last 16 games and has a goal and six assists in his last five games playing as a forward…Justin Kirkland has points in nine of his last eleven games…The Rockets have been held to just one goal five times this season. Seattle (road), Edmonton (road), Calgary (road) Regina (home) and Prince Albert (home) have turned the trick against the highest scoring team in the Western Conference...The Kelowna Rockets have scored the second goals on the road (131) in the WHL this season…The Rockets have lost only four times in regulation time on the road this season. Those four losses came in Victoria, Seattle, Tri City and Calgary...The Rockets have points in 10 of their last 12 road games (9-2-0-1)….The Rockets are 53-10-2-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons….Leon Draisaitl has more points (34) in 20 regular season games than Mikael Backlund had when he came to the team in the 2008-2009 season after the World Junior Hockey Championships. Backlund had 30 points in 28 regular season games.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes


  • You've heard of the Headless Horseman, but have you heard of the Headless Braid? A comical photo from last Friday's 3-2 win in Victoria where Kelowna Rockets forward Chance Braid is involved in a scrum with Royals forward Regan Nagy. The photo was taken by Victoria photographer Kevin Light. Trust me, Braid's head is in that jersey somewhere.
  • Chance Braid has two fighting majors as a member of the Kelowna Rockets. Both tilts have been against the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Rockets play the T-Birds one more time on March 18th.  
  • I always ask questions. It's my job, but honestly, I am generally interested in people. I love to hear their story. Being inquisitive led me into an interesting conversation with Rockets assistant coach Kris Mallette Thursday night at the supper table at a Moxies restaurant in Victoria. Kris and I got talking about his father Dan. As I learned, Mallette's dad is a photographer with the Royal Canadian Air Force. How cool is that? Dan Mallette has been stationed all over the world during his time with the Canadian Air Force including Comox BC where Kris was born. If I have my facts straight, Dan Mallette is now living in Barrie, Ontario. 
  • Riley Stadel is enjoying playing as a forward. With an injury to Justin Kirkland, Stadel has been playing alongside Leon Driasaitl. "One of my main roles is to play good defense. On offense, I just try to get pucks in deep and making sure I have a good fore-check. Playing with Leon is quite surreal. The guy was in the NHL and he seems to find you out there when you don't even know it's coming. I always have to be ready with Leon. You never know when he is going to pass it. It could be with four guys around him or it could be with no pressure around him. He is quite a special player and its been an honour to play with him," Stadel added. I asked Stadel what his reaction would be if the coaches told him he would play forward full time for the remainder of the season? "I would be happy. If Bruce Hamilton thinks it is best for the team than I am all for the team."    
  • It appears scoring on the road is becoming more difficult for Rourke Chartier. The 18 year-old has 46 goals this season, but since December 1st, of the 17 goals he has scored, only two of them have come on opposition ice.      
  • Josh Morrissey's improved play is catching my eye. The skilled d-man has points in 11 straight games and is one game shy of his career best 12 game point streak set last season with the PA Raiders. "Ya, the last nine games I have been finding my game. Coming into a new team, it is a lot of changes and new systems I think now I have settled in". Morrissey credits his recently improved play to new sticks he ordered. "I had a little trouble missing the net for a little while and almost trying to make the perfect shot. Now my shot seems to be kind of where I want it again and hopefully I can keep hitting the net and hitting the mesh also", Morrissey added.  For the record, I really like Morrissey as a person. For as high profile of an athlete as he is, I see no cockiness or arrogance in him whatsoever. Maybe he could use some of that? It amazes me that the first round NHL draft pick is so mild mannered. Morrissey's maturity level blows me away. 
  • It was nice to see Winnipeg Jets scout Mike Keane out for coffee Saturday afternoon with Josh Morrissey. I think it is extra special when a scout like that can literally sit down with a drafted prospect and build a relationship with a player rather than just meeting him before or after the game at the arena. 
  • Playing pro hockey for the first time is never easy whether a player is attempting to cut his teeth in the NHL or the American Hockey League. Just ask Ryan Olsen. Last season, the then 19 year-old scored over 30 goals on a Rockets team that won 57 times. Now with the AHL's St. John's Icecaps, Olsen has just two goals in 46 games this season. The Jets signed the 6th round pick to a contract last season.
  • Jordon Cooke's season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies came to an end this past weekend. The U of S lost two games to one in the quarterfinals against Mount Royal with one loss coming in overtime. Cooke didn't play in any of the three games though. Ex-Medicine Hat Tigers netminder Ryan Holfeld saw action in every game.        
  • It was nice to see injured forward Tanner Wishnowski with the team on the weekend in Victoria. Out with an upper body injury, it would be really intriguing to see what Wishnowski would bring to the team if he indeed was healthy. Last season at the Telus Cup with the Okanagan Rockets, Wishnowski was named top forward and top scorer. When you've missed the entire season with an upper body injury though, it would be awfully tough to make an impact if he did dress for a game in the playoffs. Let's hope for his sake the injury bug won't bite him again when he is healthy enough to play.  
  •  Best pre-game meal at the rink has to go to those that feed the media and scouts at Victoria's Save On Foods Memorial Arena. Chili Friday night and in-house pizza on Saturday was terrific. The fact that so many team's have gone away from offering hot food before the game makes you really appreciate it more when you do have the option. 
  • I had a nice chat with Kamloops Blazers leading scorer Cole Ully last week. I asked him about his team's 17 game losing streak against the Rockets, which reached 18 games after an 11-4 loss. "It is tough but some of the games have been close. I think you try not to think about it. You try to tell yourself that if you play the right way you have a chance to win. That is the mindset you need to take when you play a powerhouse team like this (Kelowna)". Ully and the Blazers meet the Rockets one more time this season.      
  • It looks like Jackson Whistle is ready to return to the line up as early as this week. That is good news for a 19 year-old goaltender who has the second best average in the WHL. "It is nice to be back, especially with the guys. I had been away from the guys the last week. It is a different feeling. Jake (Morrissey) and Michael (Herringer) did a great job while I was gone." The Rockets and their fans are hoping the time away for Whistle will be a blessing in disguise and he was able to recharge the batteries for what many hope will be a long playoff run. "I know when you play every day you pick up bad habits. If you get away from it for about a week and a half, I have had a chance to watch (video) a lot of my games and notice some things that I was starting to do after playing a lot of games." Whistle says being a starter in the WHL is more mentally taxing than physically. Whistle says the physical part of playing comes easier after working out hard during the summer so his body can handle the extensive workload.     
  • How good has Leon Draisaitl been since he joined the Kelowna Rockets? The 19 year-old had 17 points in his first 11 games as he adapted to his new teammates and new line-mates. In his last 8 games, the Edmonton Oilers first round pick has the same number of points (17).
  • In the last 13 games the GMC Line of Tyrell Goulbourne, Nick Merkley and Rourke Chartier have combined for just 7 goals. Chartier has 6 goals while Merkley has one. Goulbourne has gone 13 games without finding the back of the net.   
  • Leon Draisaitl will play in his 150th career WHL game Friday night in Vancouver.   

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Royals find key in beating Rockets in regulation time

Kevin Light photo
  •  The Victoria Royals had to change the way they played against the Kelowna Rockets. Saturday night, in a 5-2 win, they finally found that winning formula. With hard work, a staple of the Royals and unusual discipline against a team that they consistently take physical liberties against, the Royals played a smart game in beating the Rockets in regulation for the first time in six attempts. When you go 1-4-0-0 in the first five encounters (one win in the first five games was in overtime) against the WHL leaders, why stick to the same game plan? It's like driving through an intersection on a red light expecting not to get hit. Change your driving habits, wait for a green light and the chances of a collision are reducing significantly. It will be interesting to see how the final two games between these two teams play out, but the Royals will need to play intelligent, opportunistic hockey, like they did last night in order to earn four more points against their BC Division rivals. While points mean little for the second place Royals, playing with pride will be. The two teams hook up for a third consecutive meeting Wednesday at Prospera Place. 
  • Despite what the final score looks like at the final buzzer, these two teams were tied at one after 40 minutes. The Royals opened the scoring on an ugly goal after Rockets goaltending Michael Herringer saw a puck slide past his left skate and the goal post. But surrendering that goal wasn't the back breaker. It was the Rockets inability to get secondary chances at the other end of the ice. In the offensive zone it was 'one and done' for the Rockets throughout the game. Tyson Baillie set up Dillon Dube on a pretty two way passing play, but outside of that chance, the visitors were 'pretty' ineffective in only their 10th loss of the season. 
  • My gut feeling was the longer the game remained tied, the greater chance the Royals had at pulling off the upset. Also the longer the Royals were playing at par with the Rockets, the more their confidence grew. Two goals in a span of 1:25 in the third period essentially put the game away. 
  • What type of a night was it for the Rockets? When the line of Rourke Chartier, Tyrell Goulbourne and Nick Merkley are a combined -10, you won't win hockey games. I thought it was an extremely tough two games for Chartier, who didn't find the back of the net despite several excellent scoring chances but found himself numerous times pasted along the boards with a good body check. 
  • While Logan Fisher earned four assists in the 5-2 win, I still think Tyler Soy is the Royals most affective forward. Soy is slight, but his compete level is high as is his hockey IQ. Soy makes smart plays and is a nice set up man for shooter Greg Chase. But unlike Chase, Soy was a constant on back to back nights and that's what makes him an impressive player to watch. Don't show up once and a while and make a dramatic impact. Make a mark every time your on the ice. 
  • It was a great weekend for hockey in Victoria. Solid crowds took in both games including 68 hundred and change at Saturday's tilt. While attendance is down about a thousand from when the Royals first made their mark on the Victoria landscape four years ago, the sports fan has the luxury of watching major junior hockey's best in one of the upper class arena's in the Western Conference. 
  • The Rockets loss was costly. Brandon was a winner in Saskatoon so the two teams are separated by just two points in the WHL standings. That is the exact same differential heading into the weekend.  


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Draisaitl's game winner (Audio)

video

BC Division champions!

Leon Draisaitl - Shoot the Breeze Photography

  • Another banner is going high above the rafters at Prospera Place. For a third straight season the Kelowna Rockets are BC Division regular season champions. Leon Draisaitl capped off a great night with the game winning goal with 43 seconds left in regulation time leading the Rockets to a 3-2 come-from-behind win. The 19 year-old was fed a pass from behind the net from line-mate Riley Stadel and fired a shot high over the glove hand side of Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath. Draisaitl was the best player on the ice, collecting assists on power play goals from Josh Morrissey and Cole Linaker.  
  • It was interesting to see Draisaitl get the game winner after the penalty he took for delay of game in the first period resulted in the Royals opening up the scoring on an Austin Carroll goal less than two minutes into the game. Safe to say Draisaitl made up for his mistake with his late game heroics.
  • The Rockets fired 13 shots at the Royals net in the first period, but struggled in the second with only five shots towards Vollrath. One of the reasons behind the lack of shots was the amount of penalties the team took resulting in the Royals enjoying several golden opportunities to ice the game. Victoria could manage only one goal though, a power play maker from Greg Chase to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. Goals by Morrissey and the winner from Draisaitl issued the Royals only their second loss of the season when leading after 40 minutes. Victoria is now 22 and 2 when leading after two periods.
  • Too be honest, the Rockets looked flat over the course of the game. Honestly, Victoria didn't look much better. This game was viewed by a national TV audience and the second period was extremely painful to watch. Passes were off the mark and icing was common place. Neither team brought their 'A' game to the table in this one. Maybe it translated better on television, but frankly this was anything but a classic.   
  • I thought it was another solid start from Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer. The 19 year-old had no chance on the two goals he surrendered. Herringer's best save came on a pin point chance in the second period when he made a nice blocker stop on Royals forward Jack Walker on a grade 'A' scoring chance.           
  • Josh Morrissey's goal extended his point streak to 10 games. Morrissey now has 5+6=11 over that stretch. The 19 year-old had a 12 game point streak with the PA Raiders last season.
  • Tyson Baille extended his point streak to seven games with an assist. Baillie had a seven game point streak in mid December.  
  • The Rockets have now won 24 times on the road this season and can still break a WHL record of 29 road wins which is currently shared by the Rockets and the Portland Winterhawks.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rockets/Royals game notes

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play back-to-back games on the Island this weekend against the Victoria Royals. These two teams met last Friday in Kelowna with the Rockets earning a 7-3 win. This is the fifth of eight meetings between the two teams this season. Yep, that’s right! These two BC Division rivals will face each other three more times after this evening. The Rockets visit the Royals again tomorrow night before the final two games are played at Prospera Place on February 25th and March 11th. The Rockets are 3-0-1-0 in the first four games after a 4-3 overtime loss and a 5-3 win (Both in Victoria in November) and a 5-1 win (November 5th) and a 7-3 victory as mentioned last Friday. The Rockets are 17-4-0-1 since the Christmas break. Nine of the team’s 12 games in February are against BC Division rivals. Overall, the Rockets have points in twelve of their last thirteen games (11-1-0-1). 

200 Point Club: Nineteen year-old Tyson Baillie recorded his 200th career point Saturday against the Moose Jaw Warriors. Baillie’s four points now gives him 202 in his four year career. Ready to join Baillie in the ‘200 Point Club’ is Josh Morrissey, who has 194 career points. Leon Draisaitl has 193 career points heading into tonight’s game against the Royals.   

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 45-9-3-1 this season, good for 94 points. After 58 games last season the team was 46-8-0-4, which was good for 96 points. The team has scored 262 goals this season. At the same time last year after 58 games, 250 goals were scored and 150 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 145 goals against.  

Hot to Trot: Rourke Chartier has goals in five of his last eight games. Gage Quinney has points in six of his last eight games. The 19 year-old had four goals and five assists (4+5=9) over that period. Tyson Baillie has a six game point streak with four goals and nine assists (4+9=13). Defenceman Josh Morrissey has a nine game point streak with (5+5=10)…Leon Draisaitl has thirteen points (2+11=13) in his last six games. In the 18 games Draisaitl has played, the 19 year-old has been held off the score-sheet four times.    

Another 40 win season: The Kelowna Rockets have won 40 games for the 11th time in franchise history.  Here is the breakdown of 40 win seasons:
2014-2015: 45 wins and counting
2013-2014: 57 wins      2004-2005: 45 wins     
2012-2013: 52 wins      2003-2004: 47 wins
2010-2011: 43 wins      2002-2003: 51 wins
2008-2009: 47 wins      1994-1995: 43 wins (Tacoma)
2005-2006: 46 wins      1992-1993: 45 wins (Tacoma)

This and That: Rourke Chartier is 4 goals shy of 50 this season. The last Rockets player to score 50 goals was Justin Keller during the 2005-2006 season. Keller scored 51 times that year….During this seven game home ice winning streak, the Rockets have out-scored the opposition 48-18…Jackson Whistle has missed six games after having appendix surgery on February 6th. The Rockets are 5-1-0-0 in those games with Jake Morrissey winning four of the five games. Whistle is skating and could return as early as this Wednesday…Rourke Chartier has points in 12 of his last 14 games…Riley Stadel has 2+13=15 in his last 14 games and has a goal and five assists in his last three games playing as a forward…Stadel has a career high 37 points this season…Madison Bowey has 1+6=7 in his last six  games….Justin Kirkland has points in nine of his last eleven games…The Rockets have been held to just one goal five times this season. Seattle (road), Edmonton (road), Calgary (road) Regina (home) and Prince Albert (home) have turned the trick against the highest scoring team in the Western Conference...The Kelowna Rockets have scored the second goals on the road (126) in the WHL this season…The Rockets have lost only three times in regulation time on the road this season. Those three losses came in Seattle, Tri City and Calgary...The Rockets have points in 9 of their last 10 road games (8-1-0-1)….The Rockets are 52-10-2-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons….The Tri City Herald ‘Best of the West’ poll was released this week. Bruce Hamilton was named the top executive. Madison Bowey was voted as having hardest shot. Tyrell Goulbourne was named the toughest player. Nick Merkley was named the best pro prospect. Rourke Chartier was named the most improved player. The winners were voted upon by coaches, players and media from across the Western Conference…Leon Draisaitl is the WHL POW. The 19 year-old had 2+7=9 in four games last week…The CHL announced that Kelowna will host a Subway Super Series game on November 9/15. Kelowna last hosted a game in 2009.

Three Star Balloting:
*Other first star winners are: Leon Draisaitl (five), Tyrell Goulbourne (twice) and Cole Martin, Dillon Dube, Tomas Soustal and Justin Kirkland once each.
Player:                          1st Star    2nd Star   3rd Star   Total 
Rourke Chartier:              6              7              2            15
Jackson Whistle:             7              4              2            13
Nick Merkley:                   5              2              6            13
Tyson Baillie:                   4              6              3            13

Madison Bowey:              2              3              3             8

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bad night for goalies and a great night for shooters

  • Team Canada goaltending consultant Fred Brathwaite wouldn’t have liked what he saw in the Kelowna Rockets 11-4 win last night over the visiting Kamloops Blazers. The ex-NHL’er, who played in Edmonton, Calgary and St. Louis wouldn’t have been pleased with what he witnessed from Blazers goaltenders Connor Ingram, Cole Kehler nor from Rockets starter Jake Morrissey. The shooters had the upper hand and the goaltenders clearly struggled in the 15 goal onslaught. Ingram was pulled after the first period after giving up four goals on 12 shots. Kehler came in and didn’t fare much better in allowing 7 goals 17 shots. At the other end of the ice, Morrissey was slightly better, but he too was victimized by a squeaker through his pads in the first period when the two teams exchanged goals 1:37 apart. While goaltending can’t be blamed for all 15 goals, I can’t honestly recall a real good save by any of the three where the victim ended up being the shooter. At the end of the night, 17 different players found the score-sheet on the Rockets side including Tomas Soustal, who ended the game with two goals and two assists and was named the first star.
  • Tomas Soustal had the pleasure of playing on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Riley Stadel. With Justin Kirkland injured and Rodney Southam serving game two of a two game suspension, Soustal was promoted from fourth line status and had the best evening of his young career. The 18 year-old’s best play of the night came on a three way passing exhibition with Draisaitl in setting up Stadel for a second period goal to make the score 3-1. That play may be worthy of the WHL plays of the week as the three were able to pass the puck with authority inside the Blazers zone.
  • Rourke Chartier found the back of the net twice giving him back the league lead in goals with 46, one better than Medicine Hat’s Cole Sanford. Now four shy of 50, Chartier is attempting to become the first player since Justin Keller in 2005-2006 to score 50 times wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. Keller scored 51 goals and collected 88 points that season.      
  • Josh Morrissey found the back of the net twice for his first two goal game with his new team. Morrissey now has 15 points (5+10=15) and it simply getting better with each outing. The Winnipeg Jets first rounder opened and closed the scoring.
  • The 11 goals the Rockets scored all came even strength. That means several Blazers had their +/-‘s take a kicking. Nick Chyzowski ended the night a -5. At the other end of the spectrum, Rockets d-man Cole Martin was a +4 and is now a +49 this season. Joe Gatenby was also a +4 in the game and is now +26.                

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rockets game notes vs. Blazers

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets wrap up a three game home stand tonight against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. This is the eighth of ten meetings this season. The Rockets are 7-0-0-0 in the seasonal series, having out-scored the Blazers 34-17. The Rockets are 28-11-3-0 against their BC Division rivals in the last five seasons. Oddly, the Rockets are better in Kamloops than on home ice over that period with 15 wins in their last 20 appearances at Interior Savings Centre. Tyson Baillie leads the Rockets in the seasonal series with 6+8=14 while Nick Merkley has 2+10=12. Rourke Chartier also has six goals in the seven games. Here is a look at the seasonal series scores:       

September 20: 6-1 W      January 2: 6-4 W         February 7: 5-2 W   March 14: ?
October 15:     6-4 W       January 9: 2-1 OTW    Tonight?
December 27: 4-2 W       February 6: 5-3 W        March 13th: ?

The Rockets are coming off a 6-0 shutout win over the Moose Jaw Warriors Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Baillie each scored twice and added two assists in the win. Jake Morrissey earned his first career shutout with a 28 save performance. Following tonight’s game the Rockets are in Victoria for back-to-back games this weekend. The Rockets are 16-4-0-1 since the Christmas break. Nine of the team’s 12 games in February are against BC Division rivals. Overall, the Rockets have points in eleven of their last twelve games (10-1-0-1). 

200 Point Club: Nineteen year-old Tyson Baillie recorded his 200th career point Saturday against the Moose Jaw Warriors. Baillie’s four points now gives him 202 in his four year career. Ready to join Baillie in the ‘200 Point Club’ is Josh Morrissey, who has 192 career points. Leon Draisaitl has 190 career points heading into tonight’s game against the Blazers.  

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 44-9-3-1 this season, good for 92 points. After 57 games last season the team was 45-8-0-4, which was good for 94 points. The team has scored 251 goals this season. At the same time last year after 57 games, 246 goals were scored and 148 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 141 goals against.  

Hot to Trot: Rourke Chartier has goals in four of his last seven games. Gage Quinney has points in five of his last seven games. The 19 year-old had four goals and four assists (4+4=8) over that period. Tyson Baillie has a five game point streak with four goals and eight assists (4+8=12). Defenceman Josh Morrissey has an eight game point streak with (3+5=8)…Leon Draisaitl has ten points (2+8=10) in his last five games. In the 17 games Draisaitl has played, the 19 year-old has been held off the score-sheet four times.    

Another 40 win season: The Kelowna Rockets earned their 40th win of the season Saturday in Kamloops. It marked the 11th time in franchise history that this has happened. Here is the breakdown of 40 win seasons:
2014-2015: 44 wins and counting
2013-2014: 57 wins      2004-2005: 45 wins     
2012-2013: 52 wins      2003-2004: 47 wins
2010-2011: 43 wins      2002-2003: 51 wins
2008-2009: 47 wins      1994-1995: 43 wins (Tacoma)
2005-2006: 46 wins      1992-1993: 45 wins (Tacoma)

This and That: Crazy stat of the week. Forward Gage Quinney has taken one penalty this season. The 19 year-old hasn’t taken a minor penalty in 45 consecutive games…During this six game home ice winning streak, the Rockets have out-scored the opposition 37-14…Jackson Whistle has missed five games after having appendix surgery on February 6th. The Rockets are 4-1-0-0 in those games with Jake Morrissey winning three of the four games…Rourke Chartier has points in 11 of his last 13 games…Riley Stadel has 1+12=13 in his last 13 games and has four assists in his last two games playing as a forward…Stadel has 35 career points, the exact same career high the 18 year-old registered last season….Madison Bowey has 1+6=7 in his last five games….Justin Kirkland has points in nine of his last eleven games…The Rockets have been held to just one goal five times this season. Seattle (road), Edmonton (road), Calgary (road) Regina (home) and Prince Albert (home) have turned the trick against the highest scoring team in the Western Conference...The Kelowna Rockets have scored the second goals on the road (126) in the WHL this season…The Rockets have lost only three times in regulation time on the road this season. Those three losses came in Seattle, Tri City and Calgary...The Rockets have points in 9 of their last 10 road games (8-1-0-1)….The Rockets are 52-10-2-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons….The Tri City Herald ‘Best of the West’ poll was released this week. Bruce Hamilton was named the top executive. Madison Bowey was voted as having hardest shot. Tyrell Goulbourne was named the toughest player. Nick Merkley was named the best pro prospect. Rourke Chartier was named the most improved player. The winners were voted upon by coaches, players and media from across the Western Conference…Matt Needham has 1+5=6 in seven games to lead all Blazers in the seasonal series against the Rockets. Cole Ully is next with four goals and five points in the seven games…Leon Draisaitl is the WHL POW. The 19 year-old had 2+7=9 in four games last week…The CHL announced that Kelowna will host a Subway Super Series game on November 9/15. Kelowna last hosted a game in 2009.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes


  • Nick Merkley led the entire WHL in points for no less than five months of the regular season. Now, the 17 year-old is fourth in overall scoring as Medicine Hat Tigers Trevor Cox/Cole Sanford and Brandon's Tim McGauley have all passed him. "Obviously you always want to be at the top, but if the team is winning that is the biggest thing. I'm a guy that is very competitive and I just want to win", Merkley said. The second year forward has 77 points in 57 games.    
  • McGauley was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades by Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon in the Brayden Schenn deal in 2011. How did that trade work out for both teams? Yikes. 
  • I have no problems with the winners announced this week in the latest Tri City Herald 'Best of the West' poll. I totally agree that Spokane Chiefs bench boss Don Nachbaur is the conference's best coach. How can the Chiefs have close to 30 wins with that roster? Sorry Don, but you are a miracle worker. I also agree Americans 19 year-old Eric Comrie is the best goaltender and the most valuable to his team. Few will dispute that. What's amazing is Comrie's back-up, Evan Sarthou, is next in line. Sarthou has four shutouts in his last six starts. How do the Americans produce top quality goaltenders year after year?  It is an amazing track record. 
  • Even after all of these years, Kamloops Blazers head coach Don Hay still has a hard time digesting losses. I asked him about it last week where the veteran coach still admits losing is a tough pill to swallow."I just hate it when I have to get up the day after a loss. When you wake up after a win, you feel so much better. There is more jump in your step. I think the coaches feel that a lot more than the players. I always tell my players, you have to want to hate losing more than the coaches", Hay added. Something tells me that will never happen. Hay is as competitive as they come and that is why he is regarded as still one of the best.     
  • While Leon Draisaitl has been wowing us with his 27 points in 17 games, the thing that is really impressive is his skills at the face-off circle. "That's where it all starts. Every shift or most shifts. I take great pride and it has been something I have been working on for the last couple of years and I've improved quite a bit in that area of my game", Draisaitl added.
  • Secondary assists can be misleading. It is suggested that the first assist on a goal (primary), not the secondary assist, is the true measure of how a goal was created. That may be true, but how many secondary assists does Draisaitl have this season where he was the driving force behind a scoring chance being created?   
  • The best player I saw last week was Royals forward Greg Chase. I thought he was very good. Chase shoots the puck a ton and generally has it on his stick a lot. I thought he was just slightly better than Warriors forward Brayden Point, who was also very good in his lone appearance in Kelowna this season.  Point too, is always around the puck and plays with determination.       
  • The rivalry between the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals continues to heat up after late game fisticuffs last week between the two teams. Royals head coach Dave Lowry and Rockets coaches Dan Lambert and Kris Mallette were seen jawing at each other after Rodney Southam fought Austin Carroll after an attempted cheap hit on Rockets rookie defenceman Lucas Johansen.  This is what Lowry said about the spirited games they've played in Kelowna this season. "We love playing against Kelowna because its a playoff game every night. The game is fast, its physical and there is lots of emotion and sometimes it gets close to crossing the line", Lowry admitted to me before Friday's 7-3 loss. "I don't have a problem with my team playing with emotion. The team takes on the characteristics of their coach, and I am an emotional coach". You have to hand it to Lowry. He is brutally honest, and for that, I have much respect. 
  • The Kelowna Rockets are 6 wins shy of 50. What does that mean? If they can achieve that mark they will become only the second team in WHL history to record 50 wins in three consecutive years. The only other team to accomplish the feat is the Kamloops Blazers, who won 50 games in 1989, 1990 and 1991. 
  • Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Tim Hunter was an interesting subject to interview when the Eastern Conference team made a rare stop in Kelowna Saturday night. Hunter was guarded in my first meeting with him, but I asked him about his relationship with current Kelowna Rockets athletic therapist Scott Hoyer. The two most recently worked together at Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton where a bond between the two was formed. "I think Scott thought I was this hard nose NHL player when we first met. He sure saw a different side of me when we worked together at OHA and I was washing and folding my own laundry", Hunter said with a chuckle.  
  • The Kelowna Rockets have scored 74 power goals so far this season, six more than all of last season. The team high for power play goals in a season is 117, set by the 2002-2003 team. That season Jesse Schultz scored 22 times with the extra man.Only two players have a chance to dress in all 72 games this season. Nick Merkley and Cole Linaker have played in all 57 games this season. Last season, Linaker played in 70 of 72 games.           
  • I received lots of positive feedback on an interview I did last week with the Director of Transportation for the Kelowna Rockets, Roger Von Dach. Up until four years ago, Von Dach was the Rockets full time bus driver and was there on day one when the team re-located from Tacoma to Kelowna in 1995. Van Dach is my best quote of the week when I asked him if he has ever hit anything with the bus over his 20+ years behind the wheel. "A couple of years ago I hit a deer coming home from Prince George near Williams Lake. I guess all I can say is shit happens".  I was considering editing that comment out when I brought the interview to air Tuesday night in Seattle but it came off of Von Dach's lips so naturally, it was radio gold! 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Back to back beauties

Shoot the Breeze Photography - Jake Morrissey

  • Tyson Baillie, welcome to the club! The 19 year-old forward reached the 200 point plateau with two goals and two assists last night leading the Kelowna Rockets to a 6-0 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors. Baillie now has 92 goals and 202 career point after his first star performance. Baillie became the highest scoring third round bantam pick in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. That's right, 52 players were taken before him in the 2010 draft before director of player personnel Lorne Frey called his name at number 53. Baillie now has 34 goals this season. The last time he scored that many was when he was playing bantam for the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers when he found the back of the net 46 times in 2009-2010.
  • Rookie Jake Morrissey earned his first career shutout with a solid 28 save performance. Morrissey didn't have an easy night. The 17 year-old had to be sharp, specifically when Warriors forward Brayden Point was on the ice. Morrissey was also aided by a puck that rang off the goal post, but the hockey gods look favorably on a player who is giving it his all. It has been a memorable season for Morrissey. Despite only ten appearances, the Calgary resident has a shutout, a regulation win, a shootout win, a shootout loss and a fight.     
  • Leon Draisaitl had a four point effort with two goals and two assists. The 19 year-old assisted on Baillie's second goal of the game and opened the scoring. Draisaitl, who is worth his weight in gold, has eight points in his last five games.  
  • A solid weekend for the Rockets, who allowed just three goals in two games against and scored 13 goals at the other end of the ice.
  • Nick Merkley has the exactly same number of points (77) as Rockets leading point producer Myles Bell had all of last season. Merkley still has 15 games to play.     
  • The Warriors play an uptempo game and their forwards play with good pace. While they often put all their eggs in one basket by playing their top forwards together, they just give up too much at the other end of the ice. It makes you wonder if they tapered off their exuberance in the offensive zone and concentrated more on defense, would the outcome not be better? Last night was a bad example of how dynamic they are up front, but it looks like they can score with the best of them. They just can't defend very well.      
  • How good has Riley Stadel  been as a forward? Wow. I think they need to keep him up there. He works his tail off and isn't timid. He gets on the fore-check and battles. I think he has good offensive instincts and is able to use them to a greater degree as a forward. He can play with more confidence knowing full well that he has back up if things go wrong. As a defenceman, one ill advised pass can end up in the back of his own net.  Stadel can play a more free-wheeling game as a forward and it plays more to his strengths. That's my two cents. 
  • Up next is a date with Kamloops on Wednesday to conclude a three game home stand. Then it is off to Victoria for back-to-back games on the Island.    

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Same old song and dance in Rockets/Royals rivalry

Shoot the Breeze Photography - Michael Herringer 

  • Austin Carroll and the Victoria Royals were up to their old tricks Friday night at Prospera Place. Staring another loss in the face with the Kelowna Rockets, the top scorer for the Royals elected to take his frustration out on rookie defenceman Lucas Johansen. With time winding down, Carroll took a run at Johansen who narrowly escaped a forearm to the head from the 6 foot 3 forward. Seeing this act before, Rockets forward Rodney Southam took matters into his own hands by dropping his gloves with the Calgary Flames draft pick in an effort to send a message that the attempted check was cheap and frankly dirty. It was eerily reminiscent of a similar altercation back on November 19th, in Victoria, in a Rockets 5-3 road win. In that game with the buzzer about to sound, Royals forward Brandon Magee used his stick to jam it into Cole Linaker's private parts on a face-off inside the Kelowna zone. An altercation would ensue with two fight's breaking out including the aforementioned Carroll dropping the gloves against Southam. Magee, on that fateful night, was given a five game suspension for his spear on Linaker. Last night's incident had Rockets head coach Dan Lambert and assistant Kris Mallette exchanging words with Victoria head coach Dave Lowry. It was just another chapter in a heated battle between two BC Division teams that will meet for a pair of games next weekend in Victoria.        
  • I do applaud Rodney Southam for two things. Number one was the way he stepped up for a teammate after Carroll's attempted high hit missed the mark. Southam didn't hesitate to exchange blows with the much larger Carroll. I also liked the fact that Southam didn't jump Carroll and sucker punch him. Instead Southam grabbed the 30 goal scorer and met him face-to-face rather than taking the cowardly way out. Southam will likely get suspended, but his actions were well worth it.
  • There were so many good things to like in the 7-3 win. Two things stood out. The 'Kiss Principle' was applied and the attention to detail defensively was impressive. Keep It Simple Stupid was how the majority of the Rockets goals were scored. They didn't over complicate things by getting overly pass happy in an effort to score jaw dropping goals. Going hard to the net and getting tip-in goals were the order of the day. Just ask Cole Linaker, who scored twice, including one that went off the shaft of his stick on the power play. Simplicity allowed the team to extend its home ice winning streak to five games.
  • While Linaker had his first-two goal game of his career, the same could also be said for defensive defenceman Cole Martin. Martin had two goals to go along with a +4 rating in the game. Now a +44 on the season, Martin was named the third star. 
  • Leon Draisaitl was named the first star with three assists. The 19 year-old saw little ice time after assisting on the team's 6th goal to make the score 6-2. After that goal, the Edmonton Oilers first round pick hardly saw the ice. My gut feeling is the coaching staff kept him on the bench for the remainder of the game for the fear of injury. With the game out of reach, would the Royals take liberties on the Rockets top players? 
  • A scary moment in the second period when leading goal scorer Rourke Chartier was hit by a hard slap shot from the blue line by teammate Madison Bowey. Chartier, standing in front of the Royals net, took the shot in the right leg and immediately fell to the ice in pain. The 19 year-old literally crawled off the ice with the use of his left leg. It looked awful. Miraculously, the San Jose Sharks draft pick emerged unscathed moments later and played the remainder of the game. I can't image how big the welt was on his leg once he took off his gear.
  • Michael Herringer earned back-to-back starts for the first time this season and recorded the win with a 22 save effort. The 19 year-old was particularly good in the first and second periods making nice saves against Royals forward Greg Chase. Herringer also had help from the goal post - not once but twice. 
  • I thought the most dangerous Royals forward was Greg Chase. That is an excellent pick up from the Calgary Hitmen. Chase created good scoring chances and didn't disappoint in my first look at him this season. I thought along with Tyler Soy, those two had the best games among the Royals forwards.
  • The biggest surprise for me was the play of Royals defenceman Chaz Reddekopp. I thought he played a simple, physical game back on the Victoria blue line. Reddekopp was disciplined and smart. I don't know if he plays that way all the time, but it made me say, Keegan Kanzig who?  
  • Again another solid game from Rockets d-man Josh Morrissey. While Madison Bowey earned three assists, I thought Morrissey was rock solid on the blue line. While picking up a lone assist, his smart play by not forcing pucks to teammates that were covered stood out. I think Morrissey is getting better with each game he wears Rockets colours. The 19 year-old makes it look so simple. 
  • Another good game for Devante Stephens. Paired with captain Madison Bowey, Stephens again made intelligent plays with the puck and his skating and battle level earns him high marks from the scouts that watch him. Now if he could only find a proper stick which would allow him to shoot the puck with authority.        
  • The Rockets played this game without Tyson Baillie and Jackson Whistle. While Baillie could return as early as tonight against visiting Moose Jaw, Whistle could still be a week or two away. My thinking is the time away for Whistle may be a blessing in disguise. How well rested will he be when he is healthy enough to return for the final few weeks of the season? Let's face it, the 19 year-old will be logging all of the ice time in the crease when the playoffs start.