Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rockets game notes vs. Americans

Dan Lambert coaches first career WHL playoff game
Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to the 2015 WHL playoffs. The Kelowna Rockets open the first round against the Tri City Americans. These two teams met in the opening round last March with the Rockets winning in five games.
These two teams collided four times this season with the Rockets going 3-1-0-0. The Americans have the bragging rights of being the first team to beat the Rockets with a 5-2 victory on October 18th. It snapped the Rockets 10 game winning streak to start the season. In two games at Prospera Place during the regular season, the Rockets were a 4-0 (October 22nd) and a 7-1 winner (January 14th). In the only other game, in Kennewick, the Rockets earned a 4-1 win. Overall, this is the 6th time these two teams have collided in the playoffs (1996, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015). This is the eighth consecutive appearance in the post season for the Rockets and 19th time in the franchises 20 year history. The Rockets head into the post season riding a two game winning streak after wins against Vancouver last weekend. Since the Christmas break the Rockets are 25-8-2-1.

Rockets 2014-2015 regular season recap: The Rockets finished in first place in the Western Conference with 53 wins and 112 points. The 53 wins and 112 points was the second highest total in franchise history. The team scored 305 goals, the second most in the WHL. The 183 goals allowed were the fewest of any team in the WHL. It was the first time since 2003-2004 that the team led the league with the fewest number of goals. That season they allowed 125 goals against. Nick Merkley led the team in scoring with 20 goals, 70 assists and 90 points. Merkley’s 70 assists were not a franchise record though. Rory McDade had 70 helpers in 2000-2001. Colin Long had 69 in in 2007-2008. Marty Flichel has the franchise record with 79 assists in the 1995-96 season.    

Season Series Sharpshooters: Rourke Chartier had 4+2=6 in four games against the Americans this season. Tyrell Goulbourne also had 4+2=6 in the four meetings. Leon Draisaitl had 2+2=4 in one game against the Am’s. Jackson Whistle was 3-1-0-0 in the four games with a goals against average of 1.50 and a save percentage of .938. The Rockets out-scored the Am’s 17-7. Eric Comrie played in three of the four games, posting a goals against average of 3.33 and a save percentage of .900.  

This and That: Rourke Chartier was named the Kelowna Rockets MVP. The 18 year-old had 48+34=82 in 58 games and led the team in power play goals with 14.…Madison Bowey was named the team’s top defenceman….Devante Stephens was named rookie of the year and most improved….Joe Gatenby was the scholastic player of the year…Madison Bowey and Rourke Chartier were named first team Western Conference all-stars. Nick Merkley and Josh Morrissey were named second team Western Conference all-stars….The Rockets won the most road games of any team in the WHL (27)…Nick Merkley and Cole Linaker were the only two players to play in all 72 regular season games this season….The Rockets owned the best power play in the WHL this season (26.2%) and scored a league high 90 goals with it…Only the Brandon Wheat Kings had more home ice wins (27) than the Rockets (26)…Dan Lambert is the Western Conference nominee for coach of the year. GM Bruce Hamilton is the Western Conference nominee for executive of the year….The Rockets are rated as the fourth best team in the final CHL Top 10 junior rankings….Kole Lind, Jordan Borstmayer and Brayden Chizen have joined the team for the remainder of the season. Lind and Borstmayer played for the Saskatoon Midget Contacts. Borstmayer is a third round pick from 2013 while Lind was the second to last player taken in the fourth round that year. Chizen was a 9th round bantam pick that year…The Rockets were held to just one goal seven times this season. Kamloops (road), 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...Justin Kirkland has missed 15 straight games with a LBI…The Rockets are facing a U.S Division team for the seventh time in the last eight playoff series. The only exception was against the Kamloops Blazers in a second round series back in 2013…Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high 35 playoff games under his belt…The Kelowna Rockets saw a four percent increase in attendance at home games this season. An average of 5 thousand 180 fans took in home games at Prospera Place….Madison Bowey has 30 games of playoff experience…The Rockets played in 14 post season games last season…Damon Severson was the Rockets playoff scoring leader one year ago….The Rockets played in just one overtime playoff game last season. It was game three of the Western Conference final against Portland….Cole Martin has 29 playoff games on his resume…Four Rockets are making their playoff debuts. Lucas Johansen, Tomas Soustal, Devante Stephens and Tate Coughlin could see their first taste of playoff hockey…Defenceman Josh Morrissey turns 20 tomorrow. Happy Birthday Jo-Mo!!

Hot to Trot: Nick Merkley has points in six of his last eight games. The 17 year-old has 3+6=9 over that stretch….Madison Bowey has points in nine of his last twelve games. Bowey has 3+8=11 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl has thirty-six points (12+24=36) in his last twenty games…Cole Martin is a +143 in his four year career.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lambert honoured

It isn't often that a first year head coach wins over 50 games. It isn't often that a first year head coach is a nominee for the Western Hockey League coach of the year.
Kelowna Rockets bench boss Dan Lambert has been recognized as the best coach in the Western Conference after leading his team to a 53 win season. As the Western Conference nominee, Lambert, who took over from Ryan Huska last summer, will go up against the Eastern Conference nominee, Regina Pats head skipper John Paddock. Oddly, Paddock is also a first year coach in the WHL.
Last season, Ryan Huska was the Western Conference nominee for coach of the year and was beaten out by Eastern Conference nominee, Kootenay Ice's Ryan McGill.
Lambert is the fourth Rockets coach to be nominated for the league award. Ryan Huska, Marc Habscheid and Marcel Comeau were also honoured. Habscheid was named the WHL Coach of the Year and CHL Coach of the Year in 2002-2003, while Comeau took home the league award in the 1992-93.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Am I allowed to pick favourites? I guess I have!

Broadcasters are not supposed to have favourites on the team they cover. And if they do, they aren't supposed to let anyone know. Mum's the word. It is believed as a media member you will evaluate their performance in the sporting ring in a more favourable manner without taking a critical eye at the mistakes they make. For me, I only hold those so called 'favourite players' to a higher standard. I don't give them the easy way out because of the players and individuals they have become in what is usually four or five short years of major junior hockey. The neat thing for me is getting to know these players as people first and as hockey players second. As fans, it's often the other way around. That is the fun part about being allowed access to the players that only a home broadcaster can. Who are my two favourite Kelowna Rockets players that are on the back nine of their hockey careers in the WHL? Read on and I will explain who they are and why they are considering special to me. 

Cole Martin:
 When I met 'Marty' in the fall of 2011, the only thing that intrigued me about this smallish 17 year-old defenceman was the Texas twang in his voice and the fact that he was raised in the Lone Star State. This guy won't be able to play major junior will he? He will be homesick in a week, I told myself. My first interview with Martin led me to believe he was a focused athlete who knew what he wanted to accomplish. He informed me that he left home at an early age to pursue his hockey career, so young in fact; that many kids his age now are only concerned about how many hours they can spend in a day playing Xbox. 'Marty's' maturity blew me away. 

The now 21 year-old admitted to me this fall that he was contemplating returning for his overage season. That's typical Cole Martin. In every interview I've ever conducted with him, no stiffness, and no fake answers. Every comment is heartfelt and honest. He is personable, focused - not cocky - but confident in his abilities. Instead of putting in a half heart effort heading into his 20 year-old season, Martin returned to Kelowna as a physical specimen. He worked out diligently to put on muscle to make his smallish frame more durable.

On the ice, 'Marty' has turned into a terrific player. I was cheering for him last season when he became the WHL plus/minus leader. Never one to say much unless I put a microphone in front of his face, Martin has always put the team before himself. Not every junior player, even the good ones, is built that way.

Martin will go down as one of my favourite 20 year-olds all-time. Our interactions over the years have been excellent and I will be sad to see him go. I guess that's what happens when you see a player mature over four years and grow into one of the best defenders in the WHL.  

Tyrell Goulbourne: I have seen this player come into the organization as a 16 year-old and I've had the privilege of interacting with him for five seasons. 'Goulby' grows on you. What I remember in my first interaction with him was this kid from Edmonton wanting to play with the Rockets as an affiliated player, but couldn't, after he was suspended by his midget league for something he did in a playoff game. In the fall of 2010, this shy rookie with tattoos on his arm could sing. Sing? More about that later. 'Goulby' wouldn't say much to me in his first year with the Rockets. I think he was scared because of the mic I had in my hand. He was always reluctant to do interviews because he believed he wasn't very good at public speaking. I thought otherwise, and with a little help, I wanted him to get more confident with his interactions with the media. He was an engaging personality. I just wanted to get it out of him.  After four years, with his effort not mine, that goal has been accomplished. He looks relaxed on television, specifically, and his answers for the media are pro. 

As hard as this may seem to believe, Goulbourne wasn't an overly tough player when he came to the Rockets. That part of his game evolved. So did his skating. 
I knew Goulbourne had a great personality when I first heard him bellow out on the bus the song, The Star Spangled Banner. Every once in a while he would break into other songs without prompting. The guy could sing and sing well. With more confidence around his teammates, he too became more vocal and our interactions increased. In his 19 and now 20 year-old season, he often would mimic me calling play-by-play on the bus with a scoooooooores at the end to the laughter of his teammates. This was almost common place after every win. His impression of me was pretty accurate. I would pretend not to hear it from my seat at the front of the bus, but it was clearly audible. Inside, I found it funny and flattering. 

Tyrell Goulbourne isn't all about joking around though. We would often have good talks before games while simply sitting in the stands looking at the ice surface in front of us. My proudest moment involving him came last summer when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. I didn't see that coming when he was 17. But again, what's been so rewarding for me is to see him mature, gain confidence and ultimately, with great coaching, become a better player. 
Like Cole Martin, Tyrell Goulbourne will be a success story in whatever challenges he faces. Will he/they play in the NHL? You need commitment, opportunity and a little bit of luck doesn't hurt either. 
All I know is that I've been privileged to cross paths with both of these elder statesmen as they attempt to achieve their dream. I'm just glad I've been able to get to know them both personally as the team's broadcaster.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Rockets/Americans collide again in round one

Eric Comrie - Shoot the Breeze Photo

  • Who will stand out from the rest when the WHL playoffs open Friday night for the Kelowna Rockets? Put your money on Tyson Baillie. This is typically his time of the year. The harder the game becomes the more the 19 year-old elevates his play. The four year veteran has 27 playoff games under his belt and typically at this time of the year shows up on the score-sheet more times than not. Baillie has 13+16=29 in those 27 career playoff games. Proof enough for ya? In 14 playoff games last year, the undrafted forward, had 5+8=13 in 14 post season games. Looking for a game winning goal in overtime? It's typically 'Tyson Time'. 
  • I expect Cole Linker to make an impact in this years playoffs. Maybe not on the score-sheet, but he has a warrior mentality and will sacrifice for the betterment of the team. The 19 year-old had only 4+3=7 in 14 playoff games last season but may see some power play time in the playoffs this go-around after getting basically zero last season. Again, Linaker had seven power play goals this season. Last year, used primarily shorthanded, had none.   
  • Tyrell Goulbourne is a five year veteran so his resume allows him to boast the greatest number of games played of any Rockets player in the post season. The 21 year-old has 35 games under his belt. Madison Bowey has 30 games of experience in the 'real season' and has impressive point totals with 5+9=14 in 14 playoff games in last years run towards the Western Conference final. 
  • Nick Merkley may be only a second year player, but the 17 year-old has 4+16=20 in 21 career playoff games. As a raw 16 year-old last season, Merkley had 4+13=17 in 14 post season games. Merkley also played seven playoff games as a 15 year-old.
  • The Rockets met the Americans last year in the opening round. The series went five games. The majority of the games were close, with Eric Comrie making sure of that.
  • What will attendance be like when the playoff puck drops Friday at Prospera Place? In game one of last years opening round series with Tri City, 58 hundred fans showed up, but the first two games were part of the regular season package. In game five back in Kelowna in round one, just 4,875 fans showed up. In Tri City is was significantly worse. Just 2,010 showed up to see Eric Comrie (pictured right) make 52 saves in a game three-4-3 win.
  • The sellouts in the playoffs last year didn't come until the third round in the Western Conference final against Portland. Game one drew 6,218 with game two getting 6,341. Game five was solid with 6,331 patrons.    
  • It will be interesting to see what Justin Kirkland brings to the table when he is healthy. Many people forget that he had 5+5=10 in last years playoffs as a rookie and scored a goal in all three series including two against Portland in the WCF.
  • While Jackson Whistle is a first year starter, he has played one playoff game. In the 2013 post season, in game three in Kamloops, Jordon Cooke started but was pulled after giving up three goals on 11 shots. Whistle, in a relief appearance, came into the game but the Blazers won 5-4 in overtime.
  • The Rockets were good on home ice last year in the playoffs winning 6 of 8 games. On the road was a different story. After winning a season high 29 times on opposition ice in 2013-2014, they had a 3-3 road record in post season.
  • Who was the Kelowna Rockets leading point producer in last years playoffs? Damon Severson had 4+14=18 in 14 games. Nick Merkley was next with 17 points.       
  • Why didn't the Rockets make more of series with Portland last season? Goal scoring among the 20 year-old's was non-existent. Ryan Olsen and Marek Tvrdon had 1 goal between them. Myles Bell was hurt in game four of an opening round series against the Americans. 
  • The Rockets are meeting the Americans in the playoffs for the third time in the last six seasons. They are meeting in 2015, they met in 2014 and were involved in a five game series in 2010 in which the Americans advanced to the third round in five games. Dan Lambert was a first year assistant coach with the Rockets that season.
  • In the 2013 playoffs, seven of the Rockets 11 playoff games were decided in overtime. Last year they played in one overtime game, losing game three of the WCF in Portland.
  • How much is Rodney Southam looking forward to this playoff series? Southam was traded by the Americans to the Rockets on November 4th. The Rockets surrendered a 5th round bantam pick this summer for Southam's services.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rockets close out regular season with spirited effort

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Were they teasing us? We may have seen a glimpse of what the Kelowna Rockets are capable of doing. In the first period of Saturday's 5-2 home ice win over the Vancouver Giants, the Rockets played arguably their best period in over a month. Yes, it was against a Giants team that were eliminated from playoff contention a night earlier, but the Rockets thoroughly dominated play. The passes were quick, crisp and on the tape. The Rockets were first to pucks and came in waves. It all translated into a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes and a sure sign of what level of play this team is capable of preforming at. Cole Martin scored 24 seconds into the game and the home team wouldn't let the visitors off the hook. Goals by Tyrell Goulbourne less than five minutes later and Cole Linaker's career high 14th goal of the season to close out the period almost had the capacity crowd wanting to jump to their feet for a standing ovation at periods end. Again it was the best 20 minutes we've seen from this group in what feels like a long, long time.
  • Gage Quinney can play. The 19 year-old had a four assist effort. Playing with Leon Draisaitl and Tyson Baillie, the Las Vegas product managed his first-four point game of his career. Since January 24th, Quinney has points in 20 of his last 27 games. The player no one in these parts knew much about in the Josh Morrissey trade, collected 31 points in 38 regular season games wearing Kelowna Rockets colours.  The suggestion is now he could earn a 20 year-old spot with the team next season. 
  • Leon Draisaitl scored twice and added an assist in the win. His one timer in the second period had the type of power you only see at the NHL level. It came and went off his stick in a flash. The 19 year-old played 32 regular season games with the Rockets, collecting 19 goals and 53 points. In his last three games, Draisaitl has eight points (3+5=8). Draisaitl was on the same point total pace from a season ago when he scored 38 goals and collected 105 points in 64 games with the PA Raiders. If you double his games played this season (32 to 64), his goals (19 to 38), and his points (53 to 106), it is just slightly ahead of last years pace.    
  • The Rockets swept the seasonal series against the Giants, winning all eight games. Overall, the Rockets have now won 13 straight games against the G-Men.  
  • The Rockets end the season with 53 wins. It is the second highest win total in franchise history after the 57 win season a year ago. The team won 26 times on home ice and 27 times on the road.  
  • Cole Martin closed out his junior career with a regular season +/- rating of +143. A nice compliment from Leon Draisaitl when he told the media after the game, "He is the best defensive defenceman I have ever played with in my life. You can't beat this guy one on one."  
  • The Rockets face the Tri City Americans in the first round of the WHL playoffs. These two teams met one season ago, also in the opening round.  Game one and two are next Friday and Saturday night at Prospera Place with Dillon Dube and Justin Kirkland expected back in the line up after both sat out with injuries in two weekend games against the Giants.
  • I really liked the jerseys the Rockets wore last night. The jersey off your back promotion featured the XX logo on the front celebrating 20 years of the organization in the city of Kelowna. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Finally an overtime win

Leon Draisaitl's one timer ties the game at three 

  • Need a big goal? Leon Draisaitl is your man. The 19 year-old forward found the back of the net on a 'must score' power play late in the third period to tie the game at three. Draisaitl then went out and assisted on the game winner in overtime in the Kelowna Rockets 4-3 win last night in Vancouver. Draisaitl didn't have a dominant game, much like his teammates, but he came through in the clutch when his team needed him most. At the end of the night, the German forward was in on every goal the Rockets scored with a goal and three assists. It may be the quietest four point effort of his WHL career? But again, with the game on the line Draisaitl didn't cower or fade. The great players elevate or rise to the occasion. The Oilers first round draft pick did just that. 
  • Madison Bowey can shoot the puck. If he had any doubters, the 11 thousand fans at Pacific Coliseum last night are now believers. The 19 year-old blasted a hard slap shot from just inside the blue-line on the power play for the game winning goal. The Rockets made it look easy. Rourke Chartier won the draw and got the puck back to Bowey. Bowey allowed Draisaitl to take it, stick handle with it for five seconds before sending it back into Bowey's wheelhouse for the one time blast. The goal took just eleven seconds to generate.
  • The good news? The Rockets power play scored three times on five chances. The bad news? The penalty killing unit gave up two power play goals of their own. 
  • Did the Rockets dominate this game? Not even close. The Giants had significant territorial time and often had a stronger battle level than the visitors. Vancouver has a horrible time generate offense and so that is where the two teams are separated by a wide margin. 
  • I thought the Goulbourne, Merkley, Chartier line really struggled. Usually they make an impact. All three looked out of sync in this game.
  • The one positive I can take out of the win was the ability to battle back after surrendering an ugly goal which gave the G-Men a 3-2 third period lead. Goaltender Michael Herringer and defenceman Lucas Johansen got their wires crossed up at the side of the net, the puck squeezed loose from Herringer's glove and 15 year-old Giants rookie forward Dawson Holt got the 'Merry Christmas' gift.   
  • The overtime win snapped a five game overtime losing streak for the Rockets. Overtime has not been kind this season for the Western Conference leaders. Kelowna is now 2 and 5 when playing after 60 minutes. 
  • The Rockets won for the 27th time on the road, which is the second best total in franchise history behind only the franchise record/WHL record 29 road wins they had last season.
  • The team scored four goals last night, with Bowey's game winner being the 300th goal the team has scored this season. It marks only the second time in Kelowna Rockets franchise history the team has manufactured 300 or more goals in back to back seasons. Only the Brandon Wheat Kings have scored more times than the Rockets this season.
  • The differential is two. The Rockets trail the Wheat Kings by two points for first place in the WHL standings with one game left to be played for both teams. The Rockets must beat Vancouver again tonight and Brandon must lose in regulation time to visiting Moose Jaw. That is the only way the Rockets can claim their second straight Scotty Munro Trophy.     

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rockets final 'roady' of regular season

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets enter the final weekend of the regular season with a road date against the Vancouver Giants. The Rockets are 6-0-0-0 in the seasonal series, having won in Vancouver by scores of 5-3, 4-0 and 5-2. Overall in the six games the Rockets have out-scored the G-Men 30-12. These two teams close out the regular season tomorrow night at Prospera Place in Kelowna. The Rockets are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss Wednesday night to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Rourke Chartier and Dillon Dube scored in the setback, the fifth time the team has lost in overtime this season. Jackson Whistle made 21 saves and received third star status. The Rockets were 1/5 on the power play while killing off five of six penalties. The Rockets are 23-8-2-1 since the Christmas break. Overall, the Rockets have points in 20 of their last 25 games (17-5-2-1). The Rockets have three wins in their last eight games (3-3-2-0).

50 Goal Scorers: Rourke Chartier is attempting to join an allusive group. Only seven Tacoma/Kelowna players have hit the 50 goal mark. Four of those seven have hit the benchmark as a member of the Kelowna Rockets. Here are the sharp shooters:
1992-1993: Allan Egeland 56 goals     1995-1996: Robb Gordon 51 goals       2005-2006: Justin Keller: 51 goals                              
1993-1994: John Varga 60 goals         1997-1998: Jason Deleurme 51 goals  
1994-1995: *Vaclav Varada 50 goals   2002-2003: Jesse Schultz 53 goals

Most points in a season: The Rockets have 108 points this season. How does that rate among the highest point totals in club history?
2013-2014: 118    2014:2015: 108    
2002-2003: 109    2004-2005: 106
2012-2013: 108
                             
Sharp Shooters vs. Giants: Nick Merkley has 2+9=11 in the six games against the Giants in the seasonal series. Rourke Chartier has 5+5=10 in five games. Tyrell Goulbourne has a team high six goals and nine points in only five games. Leon Draisaitl has 3+2=5 in only three games against the G-Men. Michael Herringer has played in four of the six games, posting a record of 4-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.25 and a save percentage of .952. Jackson Whistle is 2-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 3.50. Giants forward Jackson Houck has 2+4=6 in six games. Payton Lee has played in four of the six games with a 0-4-0-0 record and a goals against average of 5.10.   

This and That: Dillon Dube’s goal Wednesday night was his first in eight games…Madison Bowey is two points shy of his career high 60 points accumulated last season….Bowey has a career high 42 assists this season…Rourke Chartier has 24 more goals than he scored all of last season…Kole Lind, Jordan Borstmayer and Brayden Chizen have joined the team for the remainder of the season. Lind and Borstmayer played for the Saskatoon Midget Contacts. Borstmayer is a third round pick from 2013 while Lind was the second to last player taken in the fourth round that year. Chizen was a 9th round bantam pick that year…The Rockets are 4 goals shy of 300 this season. The team has scored 300 or more goals only five times in its 20 seasons in Kelowna. The team has scored 300 or more goals in two consecutive seasons…Nick Merkley is the fastest Rockets player to reach 100 career assists. Merkley hit the milestone in 133 career games. The record was held by Shane McColgan, who had 100 career assists in 150 career games…The Rockets have been held to just one goal seven times this season. Kamloops (road), 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 (143) in the WHL this season…Justin Kirkland has missed thirteen straight games with a LBI…Josh Morrissey is missing his eighth straight game tonight with a LBI.

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 51-13-5-1 this season, good for 108 points. After 70 games last season the team was 55-11-0-4, which was good for 114 points. The team has scored 296 goals this season. At the same time last year after 70 games, 299 goals were scored and 174 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 178 goals against.  

Hot to Trot: Nick Merkley has points in five of his last six games. The 17 year-old has 3+5=8 over that stretch….Madison Bowey has points in eight of his last ten games. Bowey has 2+7=9 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl had his thirteen game point streak snapped last Saturday. The 19 year-old had 9+16=25 over that period. Draisaitl has twenty-nine points (9+20=29) in his last eighteen games.

Three Star Balloting: 
Player:                          1st Star    2nd Star   3rd Star   Total 
Rourke Chartier:              6              7              2            15
Jackson Whistle:             7              5              3            15
Nick Merkley:                   5              3              6            14
Tyson Baillie:                   4              6              3            13
Leon Draisaitl:                 7               2             2            11

Madison Bowey:              3              3              3             9

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Late season struggles


  • What was rookie Lane Pederson doing on the ice in overtime? Why was back up goaltender Logan Flodell getting the start in place of veteran Taran Kozun? How could the Seattle Thunderbirds win after playing the night before at home against the Tri City Americans? It all went down last night in the Kelowna Rockets 3-2 overtime loss to a dreaded U.S Division playoff foe. A loss in overtime against a solid team like the T-Birds can happen, but the way this game played out has to be a little concerning this late in the season. The Rockets should have been the fresher of the two teams by a country mile. The T-Birds bused through the night after winning Tuesday night - at home - to the Tri City Americans. The home team should have been well rested and bursting with energy after playing Saturday - at home  - and having Sunday and Monday to recharge the batteries. The Rockets weren't flat, but they didn't play with the same energy or desire that the T-Birds did. What is Seattle playing for right now? Pride? The Rockets had more on the line with their slim hopes fading fast in a quest to beat Brandon for the WHL regular season title. As head coach Dan Lambert put it on our post game show, "Hey, they (Seattle) played harder then we did tonight. At the end of the day, that's the difference". 
  • The desperation or commitment to winning was clearly on display with the T-Birds shot blocking. How many pucks did T-Bird defenders take off a shin pad? Or maybe the question should be asked, how many shots did the Rockets block? The T-Birds commitment to winning was high. The Rockets wasn't. End result? A overtime loss for the fifth consecutive time. The only overtime win came opening night in Everett when Cole Linaker found the back of the net in a 5-4 victory. Do the Rockets start playing with desperation in the playoffs? Can they turn the switch on like that? The players, in interviews I conduct with them, tell me they can't. So if that is the case, shouldn't I be just a little concerned?     
  • Jackson Whistle was named the third star in last night's loss. The 19 year-old made a massive save against Seattle forward Donavon Neuls late in the game on a breakaway when Rourke Chartier attempted to leave the puck for captain Madison Bowey at the Rockets blue line. The problem was both players elected to go for a line change. Chartier was as stunned as anyone that Bowey elected to go for a breather when he did. The puck was left at the blue line as a gift for Neuls to pick up. It wasn't the only mental error the marquee defenceman would make. An ill advised pass at the Rockets blue line in the first period gave T-Birds forward Scott Eansor a free pass towards Whistle. Again, the veteran goalie made the stop.
  • Whistle made no less than four solid saves in the setback. It is hard to come down hard on him for the opening goal, which seemed to hit his stick and then trickle upward and literally bounce into the net. I can't see Whistle making that same mistake twice. 
  • Two nice goals in this one. Seattle's second period power play goal was Mathew Barzal at his finest. The draft eligible prospect stick handled the puck along the far boards like it was on a string before saucing a pass to Shea Theodore for a pretty three-way passing play. The Rockets also had a sweet power play goal in the third period when Leon Draisaitl located Tyson Baillie in the slot, who quickly backhanded the puck off to rookie Dillon Dube, who scored on his off wing to tie the game at two.         
  • With so many passengers, Rockets head coach Dan Lambert elected to move Leon Draisaitl with Tyson Baillie and Gage Quinney. That line created a few scoring chances, including a goal post that Draisaitl struck late in the game on a scramble beside the T-Birds net.
  • Tyrell Goulbourne played a gritty game. Not bad for a player who has been ill the previous few days and must have felt dehydrated at games end. There were many players that took the night off.  
  • The Rockets have scored just five goals in their last three games. That is five goals in the last nine periods heading into the final two games of the regular season. Those two games are against the Vancouver Giants this weekend.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rockets/T-Birds preview

Leon Draisaitl - Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets enter the final week of the regular season with two of three games on home ice. The Rockets host the Seattle Thunderbirds tonight in the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Rockets have a losing record against the T-Birds with a mark of 1-2-0-0. The T-Birds have out-scored the Rockets 11-9 in the three games. The Rockets host Seattle tonight before completing a home and home series this weekend against the Vancouver Giants. For the third Friday in the last four weeks the Rockets visit the Vancouver Giants before hosting the G-Men Saturday to close out the regular season. The Rockets are 23-8-1-1 since the Christmas break. Overall, the Rockets have points in 19 of their last 24 games (17-5-1-1). The Rockets are coming off a 2-1 win Saturday night over the visiting Kamloops Blazers. Rourke Chartier scored 47th goal of the season while Madison Bowey had a goal and an assist. Overall, the Rockets have lost two of their last four homes.

50 Goal Scorers: Rourke Chartier is attempting to join an allusive group. Only seven Tacoma/Kelowna players have hit the 50 goal mark. Four of those seven have hit the benchmark as a member of the Kelowna Rockets. Here are the sharp shooters:
1992-1993: Allan Egeland 56 goals     1995-1996: Robb Gordon 51 goals       2005-2006: Justin Keller: 51 goals                        
1993-1994: John Varga 60 goals         1997-1998: Jason Deleurme 51 goals   
1994-1995: *Vaclav Varada 50 goals   2002-2003: Jesse Schultz 53 goals

Most points in a season: The Rockets have 107 points this season. How does that rate among the highest point totals in club history?
2013-2014: 118    2014:2015: 107    
2002-2003: 109    2004-2005: 106
2012-2013: 108
                             
Sharp Shooters vs. T-Birds: Nick Merkley has 2+4=6 in the three games in the seasonal series with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Rourke Chartier has 3+0=3 in the three games…Riley Stadel has 1+2=3…Leon Draisaitl does not have a point in two games against the T-Birds…Jackson Whistle has played in two of the three games, posting a goals against average of 3.66 and a save percentage of .833.  Michael Herringer has earned one start against Seattle with a goals against average of 1.57 and a save percentage of .935. Mathew Barzal leads the T-Birds with 2+3=5 in two games against the Rockets. Taran Kozun is 2-0-0-0 with a goals against average of 1.50 and a save percentage of .958.    

This and That: Madison Bowey is two points shy of his career high 60 points accumulated last season….Bowey has a career high 42 assists this season…Rourke Chartier has 23 more goals than he scored all of last season…Kole Lind and Jordan Borstmayer have joined the team for the remainder of the season. Both played for the Saskatoon Midget Contacts. Borstmayer is a third round pick from 2013 while Lind was the second to last player taken in the fourth round that year…Lind is the second player from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan to play for the Rockets. The other is J.J Hunter (1998-2000)….The Rockets are 6 goals shy of 300 this season. The team has scored 300 or more goals only five times in its 20 seasons in Kelowna. The team has scored 300 or more goals in two consecutive seasons…Cole Martin turned 21 on Sunday…Nick Merkley is the fastest Rockets player to reach 100 career assists. Merkley hit the milestone in 133 career games. The record was held by Shane McColgan, who had 100 career assists in 150 career games…Jackson Whistle missed ten games after undergoing appendix surgery on February 6th. The Rockets were 8-2-0-0 in those games…The Rockets have been held to just one goal seven times this season. Kamloops (road), 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 (143) in the WHL this season…Rourke Chartier had missed eight games with an UBI before returning last Saturday against Kamloops …Justin Kirkland has missed twelve straight games with a LBI…Josh Morrissey is missing his seventh straight game tonight with a LBI injury.

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.    

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 51-13-4-1 this season, good for 107 points. After 69 games last season the team was 54-11-0-4, which was good for 112 points. The team has scored 294 goals this season. At the same time last year after 69 games, 295 goals were scored and 173 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 175 goals against.  


Hot to Trot: Nick Merkley has 3+4-7 in his last five games….Madison Bowey has points in eight of his last nine games. Bowey has 2+7=9 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl had his thirteen game point streak snapped Saturday. Bowey had 9+16=25 over that period. Draisaitl had a career high thirteen game point streak last season as a member of the PA Raiders…Leon Draisaitl has twenty-eight points (9+19=28) in his last seventeen games…Draisaitl has goals in seven of his last games 11.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fresh legs/mind make Chartier a standout

Chartier scores 47th - Shoot the Breeze Photography

  • Rourke Chartier was the best player on the ice Saturday night in a 2-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers. Why? Because he was fresh. The 18 year-old (doesn't turn 19 until April) returned to the line up after an eight game absence and scored the opening goal less than two minutes into the game in a one goal victory over a determined Blazers team. You could clearly see that the time off for Chartier not only helped him heal from his ailment, but it recharged his body and mind. Chartier was a factor almost every time he was on the ice because he wouldn't quit in pursuing the puck. Simply put, he had the type of jam and energy in his game that his teammates had earlier in the season. What does that tell you? Yes, it obviously tells you that Chartier is a talented player and is sorely missed when he is not in the line up, but what it demonstrates is the physical and mental fatigue the Rockets are going through at this juncture of the season. The Rockets are not alone as the other 21 teams are most likely feeling the same pain. The marathon 72 game regular season, which includes travel, practices and public appearances is almost over and then the real fun starts with the playoffs less than two weeks away.
  • Madison Bowey wasn't very good Friday night in a 5-1 loss in Kamloops. Either were his teammates. The 19 year-old made up for his poor play Saturday night with a goal and an assist and a first star selection. Bowey made a nice hard hit early in the game, assisted on the Chartier goal and then joined the attack and scored on a nice high shot that beat Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram to the glove side. What I liked about Bowey's play Saturday was his willingness to just play defense. While joining the rush on the game winning goal, it wasn't common place that he was found up the ice. The KISS principle was applied and he was far more effective playing alongside Devante Stephens.
  • You could see Nick Merkley also had some addition jump in his step with Chartier's return. What I like about Merkley is his overall work ethic and the thrill in his eyes when a teammate scores. The 17 year-old is a team player, and despite leading the Rockets in scoring, his unselfish play makes him a great teammate. 
  • It was a quiet weekend for Leon Draisaitl. That is not a good thing. The 19 year-old had just a lone assist in the two games. True, the Rockets only scored three goals against the Blazers in the two games but Justin Kirkland can't return to the line up soon enough. Draisaitl needs someone with above average skill to play with. While he can make others around him better, he still needs to feel good about his game and have a belief that the scoring chances he creates can eventually find the back of the net. 
  • The Rockets played this game without Josh Morrissey, Justin Kirkland and Tyrell Goulbourne, three marquee players. The good news is the list shorter than it was heading into the weekend.  
  • While the Rockets managed to split a pair of games with the Blazers on the weekend, lets remember that the BC Division rivals are a better team than what many people believe. In fact, they may have underachieved for a good portion of the season before finally finding their game. They are no slouch. I would be shocked if they don't make the playoffs.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Worst effort of season bar none

  • How ugly was that? Without question it was the Kelowna Rockets worst effort of the season. No other game even comes close. No secondary shots. No hitting. No urgency. Call it Friday the 13th flatness. The Rockets were outworked in every facet of the game in a 5-1 loss last night to the Kamloops Blazers. The hungrier team won. The Blazers snapped an 18 game winless streak against the Rockets dating back to the 2012-2013 season. It also marked the first time in nine games that the Blazers could take away two points from its BC Division rivals.
  • The opening period was fairly evenly played with both goaltenders turning aside several quality chances. The best save Connor Ingram made in the Blazers net was off Rodney Southam less than a minute into the game. The rookie goalie flared his left pad out to make a stop on Southam, who was fed a wonderful pass from line-mate Leon Draisaitl. Ingram’s most timely save may have come late in the second period when he used his blocker to deny Cole Linaker. While Linaker didn’t appear to get all he wanted on the puck, the rookie didn’t give up on the play resulting in a quality stop. Honestly, I thought the Rockets were fortunate to be down only 2-1 after 40 minutes after barely breaking a sweat in the second period. They had only two shots on net in the first 17 minutes of that period up until that power play goal was scored. They had nothing going on in the offensive zone.
  • I mentioned hitting; did one Rocket forward make a hit? Chance Braid did, but it was for interference in the second period.  
  • The best Rockets forward was Nick Merkley. No points but it looked like he cared. The 17 year-old and Joe Gatenby were the only players not to register a minus in the +/- category. Tate Coughlin and Jordan Borstmayer could be included in that group, but both forwards saw limited ice time. 
  • The Brandon Wheat Kings moved into sole possession of first place in the WHL standings with a win over Saskatoon and a Rockets loss. Four games remaining for both teams. Three of the Wheat Kings final four games are on the road, with two of the four against the Moose Jaw Warriors.
  • The Rockets have given up 11 goals in their last two games.
  • The Rockets have lost back to back games in regulation time for the first time this season. 
  • Gage Quinney scored the lone Rockets goal, a power play marker late in the second period. That was the only time the visitors were overly hungry in front of the Blazers net. Quinney returned to the line up after being hurt last Friday in Vancouver against the Giants. Leon Draisaitl picked up an assist extending his point streak to 13 games.  
  • A frustrating night without question, specifically for Captain Madison Bowey. The 19 year-old needs to be one of the best players on the ice. Instead he took his frustration out by whacking his stick against the end boards after a non-call when he was checked awkwardly into them late in the third period.     
  • Sure, the Rockets were playing without Rourke Chartier, Justin Kirkland, Josh Morrissey and Tyrell Goulbourne, but on this night it can’t be used as an excuse. Not enough energy was expended by the 18 skaters on the ice. Fatigue didn’t play a factor in this one. Did complacency? If the Rockets work hard and still lose you can accept it. Friday’s effort makes you believe that their is lots of gas in the tank for the rematch tonight at Prospera Place.  
  • If these two teams meet in the opening round, it won't be the cake walk everyone expected.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rockets and Blazers clash in home and home set


Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets enter the second to final weekend of the regular season with a game against the Kamloops Blazers. This is the ninth of ten meetings between the two teams. The Rockets are 8-0-0-0, having out-scored their BC Division rivals 19-11 at Interior Savings Centre. On home ice, the Rockets have out-scored the Blazers 26-10. That total is inflated after an 11-4 win the last time these two teams met on February 18th. This is also the Rockets second to last road game of the season. The team visits the Vancouver Giants one week from tonight. Heading into game 68, the Rockets are a banged up bunch with no less than four regulars out of the line-up. The Rockets are 22-7-1-1 since the Christmas break. Overall, the Rockets have points in 18 of their last 22 games (16-4-1-1). Following tonight’s game the Rockets host the Blazers tomorrow night before welcoming the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday. The team concludes the season March 20th and 21st with a home and home series against the Vancouver Giants.

Most points in a season: The Rockets have 105 points this season. How does that rate among the highest point totals in club history?
2013-2014: 118     2004-2005: 104
2002-2003: 109
2012-2013: 108
2014:2015: 105 and counting (maximum 115 points can be attained)  

Sharp Shooters vs. Blazers: Tyson Baillie has 6+9=15 in the eight games against the Blazers. Nick Merkley has a team high 12 assists in those eight games. Rourke Chartier has eight goals in seven games and has collected 13 points. Jackson Whistle has played in four games, posting a goal against average of 2.50. Rookie Jake Morrissey has played in three games with a sparkling 2.27 average and a .925 save percentage. Matt Needham leads the Blazers against the Rockets with 2+6=8. Collin Shirley has five goals in the eight games while Cole Ully has collected seven points. Connor Ingram has played in five games against the Rockets with a goal against average of 4.01 but has only been tagged with two regulation losses and a shootout loss in those appearances.     

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: Nick Merkley’s two goal game Wednesday against Victoria was his first two goal game since January 2nd in a 6-4 win over the Blazers at ISC…Rookies Kole Lind and Jordan Borstmayer have joined the team for the remainder of the season. Both played for the Saskatoon Midget Contacts. Borstmayer is a third round pick from 2013 while Lind was the second to last player taken in the fourth round that year…Lind is the second player from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan to play for the Rockets. The other is J.J Hunter (1998-2000)….The Rockets are 9 goals shy of 300 this season. The team has scored 300 or more goals only five times in its 20 seasons in Kelowna. The team has scored 300 or more goals in two consecutive seasons…Cole Martin and Joe Gatenby share the same birthday this month. Martin turns 21 on Sunday March 15th while Gatenby blows out 18 candles mid-month….Affiliated player Alex Uryga remains with the team. The 16 year-old has played five games as an affiliated player….Nick Merkley is the fastest Rockets player to reach 100 career assists. Merkley hit the milestone in 133 career games. The record was held by Shane McColgan, who had 100 career assists in 150 career 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…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 (142) 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 13 of their last 15 road games (11-2-1-1)….The Rockets are 55-10-3-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons…Rourke Chartier has missed six games with an UBI…Justin Kirkland has missed ten straight games with a LBI…Josh Morrissey is missing his fifth straight game tonight with a lower body injury.     

Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 50-12-4-1 this season, good for 105 points. After 67 games last season the team was 53-10-0-4, which was good for 110 points. The team has scored 291 goals this season. At the same time last year after 67 games, 286 goals were scored and 170 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 169 goals against.  

Streaking: Madison Bowey is riding a seven game point streak. Bowey has 1+6=7 over that stretch….Leon Draisaitl has a twelve game point streak (9+15=24). Driasaitl had a career high thirteen game point streak last season as a member of the PA Raiders…Tyson Baillie has points in 11 of his last 15 games. Baillie has six goals and thirteen assists (6+13=19).…Leon Draisaitl has twenty-seven points (9+18=27) in his last fifteen  games…Draisaitl has goals in seven of his last games 9…Nick Merkley has 3+3=6 in his last three games. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Rockets/Royals one final time!

Leon Draisaitl vs. Royals (Kevin Light Photo)
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets close out a two game home stand tonight when they welcome the Victoria Royals. This is the eighth and final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Rockets are 5-1-0-1 in the first seven games, having out-scored the Royals 29-19. In the last meeting between these two teams, February 25th, the Rockets earned a 4-2 victory. The Rockets tied a CHL record with a 5-2 win over visiting Spokane Saturday night. It was the hockey clubs 50th of the season, the third straight year the team has hit the 50 bench mark. The CHL record of three consecutive seasons with 50 or more wins is held by the Rockets (2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015), the Kamloops Blazers (1988-1989, 1989-1990, and 1990-1991), Edmonton Oil Kings (2011-2012, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014) and the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs (2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012). The Rockets are 22-6-1-1 since the Christmas break. Overall, the Rockets have points in 18 of their last 21 games (16-3-1-1). Following tonight’s game the Rockets are in Kamloops Friday before hosting the Blazers Saturday night. Of the six games left in the regular season, four are on home ice. The only road games are in Kamloops and Vancouver.

Most points in a season: The Rockets have 105 points this season. How does that rate among the highest point totals in club history?
2013-2014: 118     2004-2005: 104
2002-2003: 109
2012-2013: 108
2014:2015: 105 and counting (maximum 117 points can be attained)  

Sharp Shooters vs. Royals: Tyson Baillie leads all players with 5+4=9 in six games against the Royals in the seven game seasonal series. Madison Bowey also has nine points with 2+7=9. Leon Draisaitl has played only three games against Victoria, yet has amassed 3+5=8 points. Nick Merkley also has eight points in the seven games with 2+6=8. Michael Herringer has seen action in five of the seven games and has posted a record of 4-1-0-0 with a goals against average of 2.80 and a save percentage of .907. Brandon Magee leads all Royals with 4+4=8.     

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: The Rockets are 12 goals shy of 300 this season. The team has scored 300 or more goals only five times in its 20 seasons in Kelowna. The team has scored 300 or more goals in two consecutive seasons…Cole Martin and Joe Gatenby share the same birthday this month. Martin turns 21 on March 15th while Gatenby blows out 18 candles mid month….Affiliated player Alex Uryga remains with the team. The 16 year-old has played three games as an affiliated player….Mitch Wheaton is practicing with the team but is still not taking contact. The 19 year-old is expected to return to the line-up either next week or the first round of the WHL playoffs…Nick Merkley is the fastest Rockets player to reach 100 career assists. Merkley hit the milestone Saturday giving him 100 assists in 133 career games. The record was held by Shane McColgan, who had 100 career assists in 150 career games…Of the Rockets four regulation 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…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 (142) 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 13 of their last 15 road games (11-2-1-1)….The Rockets are 55-10-3-1 on opposition ice in the last two seasons…Rourke Chartier has missed five games with an UBI…Justin Kirkland has missed nine straight games with a LBI…Tate Coughlin’s goal Saturday night was his first in 46 games…Last season the team ended the final six games of the regular season with a record of 5-1-0-0…Sixteen year-old’s Marcus Mitchell and Danny Gatenby practiced with the team this week. Both played this season with the Okanagan Midget Rockets. Gatenby is the younger brother of current Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby. Mitchell is a listed player. 


Dare to Compare: The Rockets have a record of 50-11-4-1 this season, good for 105 points. After 66 games last season the team was 52-10-0-4, which was good for 108 points. The team has scored 288 goals this season. At the same time last year after 66 games, 283 goals were scored and 169 goals were given up. This season the team has surrendered 163 goals against.   

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dan Bylsma interview

video
NHL coach Dan Bylsma has been at practice with the Kelowna Rockets over the last few days. Fired in June as the head skipper of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bylsma is a former teammate of Dan Lambert's and was asked to come in and run two practices with the team this week. Here is my audio conservation with him.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Nick Merkley: The Prolific Passer

Nick Merkley is a dangerous distributor of the puck  

  • Second year forward Nick Merkley did it again. The reining WHL rookie of the year set a new franchise record Saturday night, which in essence got lost in the hoopla of his team setting a new CHL and WHL record for recording 50 wins in three consecutive seasons. Merkley's assist on Tyrell Goulbourne's empty net goal in a 5-2 win over Spokane was his 100th career assist. The impressive part of Merkley's milestone is that it came in only his 133rd career game, setting a new club record for the quickest surge to the 100 assist mark. The previous record was held by Shane McColgan, who took 150 career games to hit the benchmark. To put Merkley's accomplishment into perspective, the soft spoken Calgary resident hit the mark quicker than Portland Winterhawks Nic Petan. Petan, regarded in the WHL as the best pure passer in the 22 team circuit, earned his 100th career assist in his 137th regular season game. What's mind boggling is current teammate Leon Draisaitl earned his 100th career assist in his 125th career game as a member of the Prince Albert Raiders. Driasaitl was picked in the first round because of his play making abilities by the Edmonton Oilers. The Winnipeg Jets plucked Petan in the first round for the exact same reason. Is the Kelowna Rockets prolific passer the next to find his name called to the podium in the opening round in June? We are three and a half months from finding out.  
Top 4 Quickest Rockets to 100 Assists:
Nick Merkley: 100 assists in 133 games 
Shane McColgan: 100 assists in 150 games
Tyson Barrie: 100 assists in 162 games  
Colin Long: 100 assists in 169 games

Sunday, March 8, 2015

50 shades of white, teal, red, black and copper

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • You have heard of 50 Shades of Grey, but how about 50 Shades of White, Teal, Red, Black and Copper? The Kelowna Rockets earned their 50th win of the season Saturday night with a 5-2 home ice victory over the Spokane Chiefs. It was a sexy win in it's own right, sending the Rockets into the Canadian Hockey League and Western Hockey League record books with their third straight 50 win season. The Rockets are only the fourth team in CHL history to accomplish the feat and only the third WHL team to hit that impressive bench mark. The Rockets join the Kamloops Blazers, Edmonton Oil Kings and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Saint Johns Ice Dogs as the only organizations to win 50 or more games in three consecutive seasons. The Rockets had 57 wins last season and 52 the year prior. The Rockets are 159-38-7-6 in the last three seasons. 
  • Chance Braid was named the games first star Saturday night with a goal and an assist. The 20 year-old had the privileged of playing alongside Leon Draisaitl and Rodney Southam. Braid scored a second period goal, similar to the one he netted February 25th when he scored at the tip of the crease by going five-hole on the goaltender. Braid now has multiple points in three of his last nine games.
  • Leon Draisaitl had two assists extending his point streak to 11 games. The 19 year-old was named the games third star, but again was a massive factor in the game. It makes you wonder where the team would be right now without him? With injuries to Josh Morrissey, Justin Kirkland and Rourke Chartier and the recent struggles of Nick Merkley, would the Rockets still me in first place without him?  
  • Speaking of Merkley, he looked like the Nick Merkley of old Saturday night. The 17 year-old had a goal and an assist and his hustle to retrieve loose pucks was the best of any Rockets forward. Merkley's assist was the 100th of his career. The third period goal he scored, which was actually an attempted pass, was his first in 11 games.
  • A solid starting assignment by Spokane rookie goaltender Tyson Verhelst. The 17 year-old made several solid stops in this one, including two against Draisaitl and one against Riley Stadel in the third period. The Brandon, Manitoba resident gave his team a chance to win.
  • A classy move by Kelowna Rockets fans when they applauding Chiefs forward Liam Stewart as he hobbled off the ice towards the dressing room after attempting to block a shot and taking a Madison Bowey blast off his inner knee. What does that say about the 20 year-old, who is attempting to block a shot when his team is down 5-2 late in the game? That's a gutsy move by a player who managed only 43 regular season games last season after suffering a significant injury January 29th, oddly enough in Kelowna, that kept him out of action for close to six weeks. 
  • Head Coach Don Nachbaur deserves all the credit in the world for the Chiefs record this season. What Nachbaur has done with his team is impressive. This is not a high end squad when it comes to talent, yet the veteran coach squeezes out every ounce of try from his players which translates into overachieving success.
  • How good is Chiefs rookie Kailer Yamamoto? The 16 year-old impresses me more than Vancouver Giants Tyler Benson. Yamamoto's compete level is excellent. Is he not the next coming of Tyler Johnson?
  • No matter what happens with this years edition of the Spokane Chiefs, remember they have Saskatoon's first round pick in this years WHL bantam draft. What does that mean? Spokane will likely get the first pick overall with the Blades on a collision course of finishing dead last this season. You can thank GM Tim Speltz for trading Collin Valcourt to the Blades for a Saskatoon's 1st round pick in 2015 after a head shaking deal was made between the two team's at the trade deadline in January of 2013. Speltz receives a high five from me for pulling off that doozy.        
  • The Rockets are back on home ice Wednesday against the Victoria Royals. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Goals galore for Goulbourne


  • Tyrell Goulbourne was due. The 21 year-old was overdue when it came to finding the back of the net. The Edmonton, Alberta product snapped a 17 game goalless drought last night with three goals and an assist in the Kelowna Rockets 5-2 win in Vancouver. Up until last night, Goulbourne hadn't scored since January 24th when he scored twice and added three assists for a five point night in a win over the visiting Everett Silvertips. It was a great week for Goulbourne, who signed an NHL contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.
  • Goulbourne now has four-hat tricks in his WHL career. The well liked overager had a career four goal game in 2011-2012 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Goulbourne now has 20 goals this season which is a new career high. His personal best was 17 scored last season. 
  • It was a rare game where the Rockets found themselves in a scoreless tie after 40 minutes before erupting with five-third period goals. The game changing call came four minutes into the third period when Giants forward Zane Jones was accessed a five minute major and game misconduct for hitting Rockets d-man Devante Stephens along the boards in the neutral zone. While surrendering a shorthanded goal, which tied the game at one, power play goals by Draisaitl and Riley Stadel essentially put the game on ice as the visitors enjoyed a 3-1 lead.     
  • Rourke Chartier was expected to return to the line up after missing three straight games with an upper body injury. The 18 year-old took the pre-game skate and felt like he wasn't ready to go, so was a late game scratch. 
  • Leon Draisaitl scored for the seventh consecutive game. Rourke Chartier had a ten game goal scoring streak earlier this season. The longest Rockets point streak this season is held by Nick Merkley, who had a 12 gamer earlier this season. Josh Morrissey had an 11 game point streak.
  • Michael Herringer was back in goal and made 25 saves in the win. The 19 year-old, who appears to have earned the back up role to starter Jackson Whistle, has started in five of the teams last seven games. 
  • The win was the Rockets 49th of the season, one shy of a third consecutive 50 win season. Only two WHL teams have won 50 or more games in three consecutive seasons. The Kamloops Blazers (1988-1991) and the Edmonton Oil Kings (2011-2014) have turned the trick. The Rockets will attempt to reach the milestone tonight against visiting Spokane.