Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rockets bid for 2020 Memorial Cup

Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton and MC chairman Tom Dyas  
Winning the Memorial Cup in 2004 in front of the hometown crowd was a memory Kelowna Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton will never forget.
The architect of one of the most successful junior hockey franchises in all of Canada wants to do it all over again.
The Rockets organization made it official Thursday by throwing their hat into the ring by announcing they will bid for the 2020 Memorial Cup.
Hamilton says if league governors grant them the right to host the 10 day tournament, it will be better than it was 16 years ago.
"We have more arms to reach out and grab", when speaking of the volunteer base that exists in Kelowna. "We needed to make it bigger and better. We need new ideas. We can't stand by and do the same thing".
The organization has enlisted businessman Tom Dyas to chair the bid committee, who will make a presentation before WHL governors in early October.
"If there is a community that is going to raise the bar on tournaments of this nature, it would be this community. With its involvement, with its love for the sport of hockey, it is something that will just happen almost naturally."        
Buffalo Sabres defenceman Josh Gorges was on hand for the announcement. Gorges was the captain of the Rockets when they won junior hockey's ultimate prize.
"I am excited about the fact that they have an opportunity to bring the Memorial Cup back to Kelowna. I think it is a great spot for it, and to be honest, I don't think their is a better spot for it".   
Kelowna will compete for the right to host the 2020 Memorial Cup with Kamloops and likely Victoria, who have yet to formally announce their interest in the marquee event.  

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Miles away yet still mourning

A picture I took of now NHLer Tyson Barrie before boarding the Kelowna Rockets bus
I've ridden on a junior hockey bus for 23 years. That's over 1,000 times without incident. Heck, current Edmonton Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan attempted to teach me the game of chess without success on a junior hockey bus. I've helped the bus driver put chains on the Kelowna Rockets bus on an icy highway between Spokane and Tri City. I've watched movies, some good yet mostly bad on what can affectionately be called the 'Iron Lung'.

Whether it is sharing a laugh or attempting, with little success, to get some shuteye with the use of a body pillow on the floor of the bus, not for a split second have I ever taken for granted the safety while traveling across Western Canada at the United States.

I've logged many miles with the likes of McLellan, Brad McEwan, Marc Habscheid, Jeff Truitt, Ryan Huska, Dan Lambert and current Kelowna Rockets head coach Jason Smith just to name a few. Thankfully, every time we arrive at our destination safely we promptly return home without incident. While measured by wins and losses over the course of the hockey season, we are agonizingly reminded again, of how blessed we are at the conclusion of the hockey season that we can say, 'We made it'. Sadly, the Humboldt Broncos and the coaches and players that perished in Friday's incident near Tisdale, Saskatchewan can't utter those same words.

I was crushed to hear 15 members of the SJHL team were killed or injured after a semi trailer unit t-boned the team bus at an intersection without adhering to a stop sign. In a split second lives were changed. The hockey world was changed. Not for a hour. Not for a day. Not for a year. The hockey world will be changed forever.

Being a father of twin 15 year-old boys, I can not imagine the shear emotional pain the families that lost loved ones are going through right now. It has to be nothing short of devastating to see so many young lives being extinguished in the blink of an eye. The only thing I can remotely draw parallels too was when a  teammate of mine, Nix Anderson, lost his life while traveling home from Swift Current to Meadow Lake in the winter of 1992.

Nix Anderson and I played in the White Mud Hockey League with the Eastend Jets. We would often pay for gas as Nix, 19,  drove with pride his new Chevy Beretta to and from road games. Often driving well over the speed limit in an effort to get us to Eastend or any other road game along the circuit, I often shuttered at the speed in which he drove us and his valued vehicle along the narrow stretch of paved highway. Not once did I say anything about the speed, only to regret later not opening my mouth when Nix was killed behind the wheel of that car when he lost control while heading back home to Meadow Lake during less than ideal road conditions.
Attending his funeral shortly after the fatal accident, it left a lasting impression and made me question my own immortality, even though I was 24 at the time and still had the misconception that I was invincible.

In the fall of 1986, when the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos re-locating to my hometown from Lethbridge, going to games was a must see event. The players were local heroes in the community of 15 thousand. You knew every player by name and felt the team represented everything good about who you were. They put the city on the map and made you feel a sense of pride every time they beat bigger cities like Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert.
When tragedy struck on December 30th of that year, the entire community was in mourning. Four adopted sons to many, or brothers to others, were lost when the team's bus crashed just outside of Swift Current while traveling for a road game in Regina.
In a flash, the lives of Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Chris Mantyka and Brent Ruff were snuffed out.
Well over 30 year's later, the Swift Current Broncos bus accident remains fresh in my mind. Those players. Those families. That mourning as a community will never leave me.

While 13 hundred kilometers away from the bus crash that claimed 15 members of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League's Humboldt Broncos Friday night, the impact of that horrible tragedy makes my heart pound yet again. I knew none of the coaches. I did not know any of the players. But that doesn't matter. The lives of the families, friends and those in Humboldt that cheered them on, win or lose, are forever changed.

Will we ever truly heal from this recent tragedy? Sadly no.
Undoubtedly we will cope, but Swift Current has never forgotten.
Those lost on that Humboldt Broncos bus will forever be remembered.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Gorges career in jeopardy?

It may be the end of the line for Josh Gorges.
The Kelowna minor hockey product has played close to 800 NHL games, but his career may come to an end as the Buffalo Sabres play their final game of the season Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
The 33 year-old Gorges has been a healthy scratch for much of the season, playing in only 33 of 80 games on the league's worst team.
When AM 1150 spoke to Gorges this past summer, he knew 'Father Time' wasn't on his side.
"The game is getting younger and faster. You watch these kids come in, 18, 19, 20 years old. The way they can play the game. The way they skate. It puts a lot of pressure on us (veterans) to keep working in the off-season to keep pace with these young guys".        
The greying 13 year veteran will see his contract end with the buzzer sounds Saturday night. 
"You have to know where you stand. Can I skate with these guys? Probably not foot for foot with alot of them. You have to think the game quicker and get the puck into players hands that can go skate", Gorges added.        
The Kelowna product hasn't played in more than 6 consecutive games this season after not being a health scratch in 10 seasons playing in San Jose, Montreal and with Buffalo.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Upset in round one? Not even close.

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Did we witness an upset in the opening round when the Tri City Americans eliminated the Kelowna Rockets in four straight games? Hardly. If you were not paying attention, the Rockets were struggling mightily down the stretch. Despite a five game winning streak in their back pocket entering the post season, those wins came against inferior competition. Sorry playoff-less Kamloops and Prince George, but you both weren't very good. That said, the Rockets squeezed out wins against them down the stretch. It left me feeling uneasy. Conversely, the Americans were unhealthy all season long and were just getting their entire team back in the final few weeks of the season, They entered the playoffs with 6 wins in their final 7 games, all against US Division opponents. As one media observer pointed out, the Americans could have had 45+ wins had they played in the BC Division. The colleague even pointed out the Rockets wouldn't have enjoyed a 40+ win season had the roles been reversed. It is hard to argue considering the Rockets had just two wins south of the border all season along. Regardless, the Americans, with 38 wins this season, wasn't a true indication of exactly how good they indeed were. Only GM Bob Tory knew that his team was underachievers and envisioned how good they could be if healthy and how much better they would get if they acquired elite d-man Jake Bean from the Calgary Hitmen. You don't make that trade if you don't have a belief that indeed your team can play with the big boys in the WHL. Tory is no dummy. He isn't a dreamer. Tory knew what he had and wasn't scared to make it better when Bean was obtained when no one saw it coming.
  • So let's dispel the notation of this being an upset...because it was anything but. Did I think the Rockets would be swept? No, I did not. But I knew goaltending would play a significant factor in this series and it did. Patrick Dea stole the show in game one with a 39 save shutout performance and the 20 year-old needed to only be average after that point. And honestly, Dea was just ok the rest of the way. If I see a downfall of the Americans going forward, it is in that position. Rockets rookie James Porter Junior started all four games and struggled with consistency. While I thought he made some terrific saves in game four, it was the saves that he was unable to make that were costly. Case in point was Morgan Geekie's first goal of the game which came late in the second period when the dynamic forward was able to squeeze the puck past Porter to make it 2-1. Porter was in a great position and it looked like he had it, but it somehow found it's way through him. I didn't like Nolan Yaremko's third period goal either, where the puck was literally chipped over Porter during a mad scramble. Let's don't forget Porter's massive save on Yaremko in the first period when he was all alone in front of the net to keep the game 1-0, but it was those series of backbreaking goals when the line between winning and losing is so thin that made a significant difference.
  • A defender of goaltending in general on this blog, before we pile on Porter let's remember the Rockets organization was taking a significant risk by starting a rookie 17 year-old in the playoffs. It was unchartered territory for this team, who typically go with 19 or 20 year-old netminders at the most important time of the season. So, if you are going to roll the dice and not upgrade in that position, you live with the results. Seventeen year-old Carl Stankowski's hero like effort last season for the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds was an anomaly. Going a long distance with a wet behind the ears goalie is not common place.
  • Morgan Geekie had Porter's number. With 9 goals in the series, it was clear that Porter had problems when Geekie had the puck on his stick. I've seen it happen before...as early as last season to be exact. I remember every time Reid Gardiner had the puck on his stick, Portland Winterhawks netminder Cole Kehler just couldn't read where Gardiner was about to shoot it. It seemed Geekie had gotten into the head of Porter much like Gardiner owned Kehler a season ago in round two. Gardiner had 7 goals in that series against the Winterhawks if you want statistical evidence.   
  • While goaltending is pivotal at this time of the year, team defense is needed especially if that area of your game is in question. But lacking depth on the blue-line made it hard to defend. James Hilsendager was playing hurt, so it was up to Cal Foote, Gordie Ballhorn, Braydyn Chizen and Kaedan Korczak to carry the mail. Libor Zabransky saw spot duty, but it was tough sledding on the blue-line. The Rockets surrendered 24 goals in 4 playoff games. That is the most goals the team has given up in one playoff series - ever. The team lost 5-0, 9-7, 5-3 and 5-3. What you were asking the forwards to do was score more than 5 goals per game in order to win.
  • The Americans did two things significantly better than the Rockets. 1) They played a better team game. Routinely, the Americans would dump pucks into the zone from the blue-line and chase it. The Rockets, almost like it was evil if they did the same, wanted to skate the puck into the zone and make a move around a defenceman to create a scoring chance. More times than not, it failed. 2) The Americans were hungrier in front of the opposition net. How many times did they score from mad scrambles in front of Porter? They were always looking for secondary chances on goal. The Rockets, which was common place throughout the season, played more of a perimeter game and relied on goals from the face-off dots. While visually pretty to watch, jamming away at loose pucks in the skates of a defender or goalie was like the hair on my bald spot. Sporadic at best. The Americans d-men often feathered or saucered a puck towards the net, hoping it would be knocked down and a mad scramble would ensue.
  • When you look at really good teams, the fourth line typically makes some type of contribution. If they don't contribute, then at least they don't hurt you. The Americans were able to safely put those players on the ice with nothing adverse happening. It makes a big difference if that trust factor is there.
  • The Rockets elected to play Dillon Dube with Kole Lind and Carsen Twarynski in game four. And why not? With all offensive eggs in one basket, Dube had two goals and that line was often a handful. But as good as Dube and Lind were, it seemed like they were better separated than together. The two had some chemistry, but something was always missing there. The two often wanted to bring the puck into the zone themselves rather than using each other to make it easier.
  • The four playoff games consisted of 240 minutes of hockey. Of those 240 minutes, the Rockets carried the lead for just 26 minutes and 11 seconds. That lead was only enjoyed in game two. It was the dreaded 9-7 loss. In games one, three and four, the Rockets either trailed the game or had it tied, but never enjoyed the lead in three of the four games.
  • The Americans opened the scoring in three of the four games and carried the lead into the third period in three of the four.
  • The loss meant the conclusion of the playing careers for 20 year-old's Geordie Ballhorn, Carsen Twarynski and James Hilsendager. I will share more on those three players in a later posting. The team also looses its top four point producers from this season in Kole Lind, Dillon Dube, Carsen Twarynski and Cal Foote. That is a loss of 321 points combined heading into next season. Gulp.
  • The team returns Kyle Topping, Leif Mattson, Connor Bruggen-Cate, Nolan Foote and Kaedan Korczak to name a few. Of the returning players next season, I thought Topping and Korczak showed the best in the four game playoff series. Topping had 2+3=5 in four games and Korczak looked extremely comfortable with 1+3=4.
  • So the season is officially over. The team exits the playoffs in the opening round in a four game sweep for the first time since 2012 when the Portland Winterhawks sent the Rockets packing. Having enjoyed four consecutive trips to the Western Conference final, it feels odd that the team isn't playing hockey after April Fools. This season, the joke is on the Rockets. They are the first team in the WHL playoffs to be eliminated and must now watch with envy as others attempt to attain the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rockets backs are against the wall!

  • Pick a cliché. Backs against the wall. Do or die. There is no tomorrow. The Kelowna Rockets are a loss away from their longest off-season in 6 seasons. Morgan Geekie had two goals and an assist in the Tri City Americans 5-3 win last night at the Toyota Center. The win gives the first wildcard seed in the Western Conference a 3-0 lead in the best of seven series with game four tonight in the old building that I knew as Three Rivers Coliseum when it opened in 1987. If the Rockets don't win tonight, it will be the first time since 2012 that the team has been swept in the opening round. Portland ended the Rockets season that year in quick fashion.
  • Let's discuss Dillon Dube's ejection from last night's game. The 19 year-old received a 5 minute major and game misconduct for a hit on Americans defenceman Dylan Coghlan at the midway point of the first period. It was Dube's second ejection in this series after receiving a 5 minute major penalty for charging in game one. I honestly didn't see the hit when it originally happened. The puck was coming up ice when it left Coughlin's stick and I was watching it (puck), not the collision, when it happened inside the Tri Cities zone. After watching it on video replay though, this is what I saw. 1) Dube comes at a high rate of speed towards Coghlan, the puck carrier. 2) Dube doesn't take a stride before making contact, but sticks out his knee and clips Coghlan, who attempts to avoid the collision. 3) It is clearly a penalty. 4) Coghlan goes down and is lying on the ice for over a minute grimacing in pain and is only able to get to the bench with the help of teammates. Coghlan appears to be favoring his left leg and puts no pressure on it as he makes his way off the ice. 5) The injury looks serious. My first thought is Coghlan may be done for the series. 6) The officials gather, with Coghlan still on the ice, essentially not moving. They hand Dube a 5 minute major penalty for kneeing.
  • Let's dig deeper here. I don't see anything good coming from a hit like that. It is going to go one of two ways. Dube is going to blow up Coghlan with a massive open ice hit that will likely be regarded as a charge if he hits him squarely. If he gets a piece of Coghlan, like he did with his leg, it results in a kneeing penalty. Either way, the chances of body contact of any kind on Coghlan in open ice will likely result in a penalty. There is too much separation between the two when they finally come together in the collision. If I'm Dube, I play it smart. Ejected in game one for a suspect charging major, it is best to be physical but don't attempt high risk body contact in open ice at high rates of speed. Lesson learned in game one. It also isn't the wisest decision when the score is 2-1 and only 9 minutes has elapsed from the score-clock. Often times a lack of judgment and frustration go hand-in-hand when the score is out of reach and one team is trying to take physical liberties late in the game. In this case, the infraction came early in game three and the visiting team was in a good position at that point. It wasn't a smart hockey play by a highly intelligent player.
  • On the flip side, what I didn't like about Coghlan's part in the incident was his embellishment on the ice. He clearly wasn't as hurt as he was letting on. After making his way to the bench, he never left and came onto the ice for the second period and looked no worse for wear. But when he is laying face first on the ice and doing his best acting job, the officials have no other choice but to eject Dube from the game. Maybe he is a quick healer? Whether it be Victoria's propensity for diving or this situation, I hate embellishment of any kind. It makes a mockery of the game. Again it was kneeing without question. I just didn't like the overacting.   
  • Is the hit suspendable? If Coughlin is lost long term, than yes. But the fact that Coghlan returned for the second period, essentially unscathed, erases any doubt in my mind that Dube should be in the line-up for game four. Again, Dube deserved a penalty. No debate there. Coghlan's acting job precipitated an ejection from the game. How can the referee's not make that call with Coghlan on the ice looking as if his season is over? Ok, enough of that debate, which is never winnable.
  • I thought it was a rough night for the officiating staff. A missed too many men on the ice call had Morgan Geekie scoring the game winner moments later to make it 4-2. Also, if you watch the Americans 5th goal, Geekie's third period power play goal, Rockets d-man James Hilsendager has his stick whacked out of hands before the goal is scored. Is that not interference? Those are two infractions that resulted in goals.
  • The Rockets penalty killing unit, which has taken a licking in this series was remotely better in game three. While surrendering two power ply goals, the unit was able to kill off the 5 minute major penalty to Dube which could have put the game on ice had the Americans struck a couple of times with the extra man. The Rockets PK has surrendered 7 power play goals in three games. Yikes.
  • I thought Cal Foote's compete late in the game when it was a 5-2 score was impressive. Who fights to the bitter end? Who blocks shots? Who gives up when the score is out of reach? The guy wear #25 doesn't.
  • Having been able to watch Jake Bean over a series of games, I sure like his calm demeanor on the blue-line. His soft hands and ability to escape on-coming fore-checkers is at an elite level.
  • A tough crowd in game three. Tough from the standpoint that the bodies in the stands, while loud and proud, was very small. It is shame that the Americans feature three players that are first round NHL draft picks but the casual fan doesn't really take notice or appreciate it.
  • Facing playoff elimination, the Rockets will have to pull out all the stops tonight in order to force a game five Saturday at Prospera Place. If the Americans win tonight, they will advance to the second round for the first time in 5 seasons.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rockets need a win on the road

Cal Foote
Game Day Preview: Welcome to game three. The Kelowna Rockets trail the Tri City Americans 2-0 after a 5-0 loss in game one (Thursday) and a crazy 9-7 setback in game two (Saturday). The game one win snapped a 20 game losing streak for the Americans are Prospera Place. The story in this series has been Tri City’s power play going 5 for 6. The Rockets are a respectable 3 for 8 in the series after going 3 for 4 in game two. Both teams have opened the scoring once with both teams have held the lead going into the third period. The Rockets are making their 11th straight appearance in the WHL post season. The team has missed only once in franchise history. The Rockets have appeared in four straight Western Conference finals. The Portland Winterhawks were able to reach the WCF five times between 2011 and 2015.

Game One Recap: Patrick Dea made 39 saves in a 5-0 shutout. The Americans carried a 2-0 lead into the third period before striking for three power play goals. Michael Rasmussen and Morgan Geekie each had 2+1=3 in the win.

Game Two Recap: Rockets leading scorer Kole Lind had 2+2=4 and Captain Cal Foote had 1+2=3 in a 9-7 loss. The Rockets gave up the lead four times in the setback. Nolan Foote, Carsen Twarynski, Kyle Topping and Kaedan Korczak scored for the home team. James Porter Junior made 12 of 16 saves before giving way to Brodan Salmond.  

Digging Deeper: These two teams met four times during the regular season, with the Rockets going 2-1-1-0. While separated by only 8 points in the Western Conference standings, the two teams allowed the exact same number of goals (249). The Rockets are facing the Americans in the opening round for the second time in three years. In 2015, the Rockets eliminated the Americans in four games on their way to winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Dillon Dube has the most playoff experience with 55 games under his belt. Dube has 14+25=39 in those 55 playoff games. Dube is the only remaining member of the 2015 WHL championship team.    

Battle on the blue-line: This series features four-first round NHL draft picks, with three residing on the blue line. Cal Foote, a first round selection of Tampa Bay anchors the Rockets defensive core. The Americans are highlited by Jusso Valamaki, a first round pick of the Calgary Flames. Joining Valamaki is Jake Bean, a first round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s don’t forget Gordie Ballhorn and Dylan Coghlan either. Both had terrific seasons and will make some noise both defensively and offensively in this series.

Award Winners: Captain Cal Foote was named the MVP and Top Defenceman in 2017-2018. Foote collected 19+51=70, which was two points shy of the franchise record of 72 points set by Tyson Barrie in 2009-2010. Foote is a two time recipient of the Top Defenceman award, joining the likes of Damon Severson, Gavin McLeod, Tyson Barrie and Luke Schenn, who have also won it twice. Scott Hannan won it a franchise record three times. Gordie Ballhorn was the Unsung Hero and Top +/- winner. Ballhorn shared the Humanitarian award with Carsen Twarynski. Twarynski was named the Most Improved player while Leif Mattson was the Most Sportsmanlike player. Connor Bruggen-Cate was voted the Top Defensive forward. The Rookie of the Year was Kaedan Korczak. 

Broadcasters Notebook: This is the 7th time these two teams have met in the WHL playoffs. The last time was 2015, when the Rockets eliminated the Americans in four straight games…Cal Foote was named the Western Conference nominee for Defenceman of the Year. Foote will go up against Kale Clague of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the league award. The last Rockets player to win WHL Defenceman of the year was Tyson Barrie in 2009-2010….Foote was also named a Western Conference First Team All-Star while teammate Dillon Dube was named a Second Team Western Conference All-Star….Dube has the most playoff experience of anyone in the WHL post season. The 19 year-old has played 56 playoff games, which includes a WHL championship in 2015 and three appearances in the Western Conference final.

Roster Stats:

Player total: 25

Year by Year Breakdown:

20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           

19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen

18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne

17’s (2000) - 9   Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair

16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran

NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017 - Signed), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016 - Signed), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016 - Signed), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Monday, March 26, 2018

Things that make me go hmm.....

Nolan Yaremko's beard has him walking on water
  • Did you notice Americans forward Michael Rasmussen being taken over by emotion after scoring his first goal of the playoffs Thursday night? The 19 year-old first round NHL draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings was being consoled on the bench by teammates even minutes after he found the back of the net. The reason? I asked him before game two. "A good friend of mine passed away back home, so I dedicated that goal to him. I am going to miss him very much. It is obviously very emotional". I had never met Rasmussen before. At the end of the interview he thanked me by name. Impressive.    
  • Speaking of Rasmussen, I asked him how tall he is. I have seen various reports out there he is 6'5 and some suggesting he is 6'6. Rasmussen says he is a tad over 6'6 and I don't doubt him. I think he and Rockets d-man Braydyn Chizen should have a slam dunk contest before game three. Chizen also towers well over 6'6. 
  • How would you like to be Jake Bean? Acquired from Calgary at the WHL trade deadline, the 19 year-old first round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes doesn't have to be flashy by producing offense with his new team. All he needs to do is play steady defensive hockey and make solid outlet passes. For Cal Foote, it is a completely different story. Foote has to defend like a junk yard dog and then look to generate offense at the other end of the ice. Foote's responsibilities far exceed Bean's. That my friends is why Cal Foote is the Rockets MVP and the Western Conference defenceman of the year.
  • Bean is former teammates of Kelowna Rockets overager Carsen Twarynski. Neither were selected in the WHL bantam draft. Bean is a first round NHL pick while Twarynski just signed an NHL contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Those two are great examples why you should never quit believing.
  • How about Kaedan Korczak's goal in game two? Oh, it was ugly, but what 16 year-old d-man (Yes I know he turned 17 in January) has the balls to skate up ice, dump the puck in and chase it and then try for a scoring chance? Who does he think he is, Tyson Barrie? Wonderful to see. As quiet as a field mouse, I am going to work on him with more interviews until he leaves us after his 19 year-old season. Trust me, Tyler Myers struggled behind the mic when I first interviewed him as a 15 year-old in Lethbridge. Now he can chat it up with the best of them. I'm targeting you 'Korzy'!
  • Players and coaches of WHL teams don't read this blog do they? Not a chance. 
  • Director of Officiating Kevin Muench took in both games one and two of the Rockets/Americans series and was a prominent fixture in the video replay booth at Prospera Place. My hope is to interview him either before game three or four. I always glean some valuable information from him when we sit down and chat. Muench has to have one of the toughest jobs considering everyone, typically, has nothing good to say about he or his vast array of officials. I am not a referee hater. Trust me on that. I will call a spade a spade if a call is questionable, but I find it extremely weak as a broadcaster to hack on them endlessly over the course of a game.    
  • Rockets blue-liner Braydyn Chizen hit Americans forward Isaac Johnson hard in game two. While Johnson was helped to the bench by teammates, it will be interesting to see how effective he will be in game three. So far, Johnson has done more than asked with three goals in this series. 
  • Best playoff beard in this series. Americans forward Nolan Yaremko of course. But lets remember he has been working on that beard all season long. Dillon Dube started the week before the playoffs and would give Yaremko a run for his money if both were clear shaven. I am not sure if you saw the Americans Halloween pictures, but Yaremko was dressed as Jesus. I thought it was awesome. So far, the 19 year-old has been walking on water against the Rockets with the hat-trick in game two.  
  • The Rockets are 8-4 with 1 overtime loss in their last 13 playoff appearances at Toyota Center. While that may not mean much in junior hockey where turnover is great from season to season, it still shows that the team has had more success than not in that building. 
  • We on media row were discussing the Americans power play proficiency numbers after game one. While the stat sheet says 3 for 3, that isn't accurate. Yes, they scored three power play goals but at the end of the day they should have been 3 for 5 and conversely 5 for 8 in the two games. Whichever way you want to write it up, it is darn impressive regardless.  
  • Americans Head Coach Mike Williamson, one of the best interviews in the game, told us his defencemen, as a group, were slow in moving pucks in game one, resulting in a 39 save performance by 20 year-old Patrick Dea. I will admit they were much quicker in getting the puck into the forwards hands and the fore-check of the Rockets was less effective in game two. "Sometimes those thoroughbreds always want to make strong plays. I think at the start of the game, simple and safe is probably the route we need to go", Williamson told Evan Cooke before game two. 
  • I really believe the Americans feel fortunate to be up 2-0 in the series. Mike Williamson said it himself, the score could have been reversed in game one had Patrick Dea been average. 
  • When to pull a goalie and when not too. It is a hard read for any coach. Damned it you do. Damned if you don't. As much as I didn't like the fourth goal that Rockets goalie James Porter Junior surrendered in game two, my belief is the call to lift him from the game was purely to change momentum after the Americans scored four unanswered goals. I am not saying the fourth goal wasn't a factor, because it was as Brodan Salmond came into the game in a relief appearance. Porter will be just fine. 
  • The Rockets have given up 14 goals in two games. While needing to play cleaner in their own zone, defending isn't purely the defencemen's responsibility. The forwards play a massive part in defending. If the forwards are going to cheat the zone and leave prematurely before puck possession is established, you are not playing for the better good of the team. I don't like it. It is selfish hockey. You MUST defend first. NHL coaches won't touch you with a 10 foot pole if you don't commit to defending. I will be watching that very closely in game three and won't be afraid to tell you on the radio who is committed and who is cheating.
  • Anyone being hard on Cal Foote this season should give their head a shake. While one of the best defenders ever to wear Kelowna Rockets colours, Cal Foote will make mistakes. They all do. Who gave up the puck to Nolan Foote on his second period breakaway goal? Jusso Valamaki, a second team Western Conference all-star and a first round NHL pick of the Calgary Flames. No one is exempt from the occasional miscue. Trust me, I called the Toyota Centre in Kennewick the CN Centre the other night on the radio. Sadly, that was error #136 on my broadcast.
  • I'm off to Kennewick tomorrow in our AM 1150 Community Cruiser. I never travel with the team in the playoffs with affiliated players and other personnel filling the seats on the Kelowna Rockets bus. What I have learned in my travels in Washington State is don't go over the speed limit, even by a smidgen. The Washington State Highway Patrol have shown no grace in the past. Trust me, I know. ;)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Just when I thought I had seen it all

Kole Lind celebates after scoring twice in 9-7 setback
  • I've called many classic Kelowna Rockets playoff games over the last 18 years. Saturday night's 9-7 loss to the Tri City Americans will forever be etched in my memory, but for all the wrong reasons. I've witnessed the Rockets score 10 goals in a playoff game. They beat the  Vancouver Giants 10-1 in the 2003 post season. What I had yet to do, up until last night, was see the team surrender 9 goals against in post season. That all changed in game two of the Western Conference playoff series between these two teams, where no lead, and let me emphasis - no lead - was safe. The Rockets surrendered leads of 3-0, 5-4, 6-5 and 7-6. The game was lights out crazy. When the home team scored three goals in the opening 2:24, it appeared that the series would shift to Tri City tied at one win apiece, but the visitors had other ideas.
  • You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Rockets in game two. A quick power play goal from Kole Lind and then Kyle Topping's quick shot had the home town team up 2-0 just :51 seconds into the opening face-off. It was a great sign after being shut out for the first time this season in a game one - 5-0 loss. Cal Foote, who ended the game with 1+3=4 and was named the first star, made an impact early by firing home his first of the playoffs and the Rockets were in the drivers seat, or so we thought.
  • Down 3-0, Americans head coach Mike Williamson could have easily pulled starting goaltender Patrick Dea. But let's give the veteran coach some credit here. While he eventually did give Dea the yank after rookie defenceman Kaedan Korczak's softy to make it 6-5, Williamson attempted to allow his goaltender to find his footing. I like that. With the visitors ability to score, maybe he has more of a luxury to allow his starter to work out the kinks? Beck Warm, who came in relief, allowed only one goal the rest of the way. It was a different story at the other end when James Porter Junior was replaced after giving up 4 goals on 16 shots. 
  • I can't see why Porter won't start in game three, and to be honest, outside of the fourth goal that Nolan Yaremko fired home beating him to the blocker side, I thought the rookie goaltender had no chance on three of the four goals he surrendered. Porter's confidence shouldn't be shattered considering I didn't think his play was a massive factor in allowing the Americans back in the game.   
  • The Rockets are no strangers to giving up leads, specifically in the last month, so the meltdown didn't come as a complete surprise. When Carsen Twarynski scored a power play goal to make the score 7-6, it was at that point I was convinced the Americans would strike back. Heck, they had three times previous so why wouldn't they do it a fourth time? Sadly, as good as Brodan Salmond was in a sequence of making a nice save on Jordan Topping in the third period and shutting down Michael Rasmussen on a breakaway in the third period, three of the four goals he did allow, specifically five hole goals to Isaac Johnson and Morgan Geekie were back breakers. I will give you one softy, but I can't give you two. 
  • It was a strange game in the defensive zone. Often times the Rockets were seen running around as the Americans moved the puck around at will. It was especially ugly in the first period as Tri City stormed back with four unanswered goals and went into the first intermission up 4-3. I thought the defensive coverage was better in the second and third periods against a high octane team that can make you look silly. 
  • You have to hand it to the Americans top end players. Morgan Geekie and Michael Rasmussen have been instrumental in the opening two games. Both players have 4+3=7. Kole Lind, who always plays solid against elite competition, had two goals and an assist and did what only great players do. Sadly. Dillon Dube, who should be on the score-sheet in a game that consists of 16 goals had 0+0=0. That stat line can't exist.
  • A high 5 to Rockets forward Jack Cowell. I thought it was one of his best games in some time. I thought he was effective out there in limited duty. 
  • What is the deal with Isaac Johnson? What would be considered the equivalent to the Rockets Connor Bruggen-Cate, the 17 goal man this season has 3 goals and 5 points in the opening two games. That is awfully impressive for a lesser light.
  • How do you stop the Americans power play? Stay out of the box - please! The Ams are 5 for 6 on the man advantage and are either getting back into games (game two) or winning them outright (game one) that way. They are tearing the Rockets PK apart. The penalty killing unit has been one of the weak areas for the Rockets this season despite players doing all they can to sacrifice in an effort to block shots. It has been a weird season for that unit, which finished 18th among the 22 teams during the regular season. That said, the Rockets PK had to kill off the fourth most chances of any team in the WHL this season. That unit had a lot of time to practice their craft. 
  • The 9 goals the Rockets surrendered Saturday night is not a Kelowna Rockets franchise playoff record. The team allowed 10 goals against, in a playoff game against the Tri City Americans in 1996. The Rockets lost that game 10-4. 
  • I've been impressed with Kyle Topping. I think he has been better than his older brother Jordan in the first two games. I'd argue, Kyle, has been one of the best forwards for the Rockets in game one and two. Kyle looks engaged, is making a difference and isn't shying away from a Tri City team that isn't afraid to make body contact. If I'm Kyle Topping, I am busting my hump right now. The scouts are watching and now is not the time not to be playing your best hockey.
  • The Rockets have been in this situation before. Down two games to none is nothing new. The team was in a similar predicament in the 2013 post season when they dropped the opening two games on home ice, only to eventually win the series in 7 games.
  • Positives? The team looks as dynamic as ever in the offensive zone. Nolan Foote was lethal, Kole Lind is dangerous and I have no problems with what the team is doing on the attack. If that area of the game was going sideways, I'd be extremely concerned. This team can score. What they need is greater discipline and better defending.  
  • This series wasn't going to come easy. If anyone thought this would be a walk in the park, they clearly were not paying attention. The Americans were winners of 6 of their final 7 games of the regular season, so by no means were they coming in with a lack of confidence. Now it's time for the Rockets to do what the Americans were able to accomplish, with the road team nailing down two victories to send the series back to Kelowna for a game five on Saturday night. Hey, we've seen it all haven't we, so is it improbable for the Rockets to manufacture back-to-back wins at Toyota Centre? In junior hockey, specifically, anything can happen. Need an example. Re-watch game two! 
  • Thanks to Evan Cooke for helping me out on the broadcasts the last two nights. With Gord McGarva and Kent Simpson enjoying Spring Break, Evan slid into the colour analysts seat seamlessly. I can see him taking over my position in the broadcast booth in 20 years!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Rockets blanked for first time this season

Cal Foote - Shoot the Breeze Photo

  • Early pressure, solid goaltending and a little controversy added up to a Tri City American 5-0 win over the Kelowna Rockets last night in game one of their Western Conference quarter final series. Let's start with the early pressure. The Rockets fired 19 shots at the Americans net in the opening period but came away empty handed. Had it not been for 20 year-old goaltender Patrick Dea's early exploits, the home team could have been up 3-0 instead of down 1-0 after 20 minutes. It was the Rockets best period of the three as the game went downhill after that. The Americans scored three power play goals in a span of 2:22 and the visitors walked away with a win at Prospera Place for the first time in 21 games. Yep, 21 games. The Americans had lost 15 consecutive regular season games at Prospera Place and five more in the post season. Add it up. That is 20 straight losses. 
  • How about the controversy? It went down when Rockets forward Dillon Dube went around Americans defenceman Jake Bean and quickly cut hard towards the goal with the puck. In an attempt to score, Dube, with the help of Bean, slammed into Tri City goalie Patrick Dea, knocking not only the goaltender down but knocking the net off its supports. Clearly a goaltender interference penalty was going to be called. Everyone in the building knew it was coming. What no one expected was Dube receiving a 5 minute major and game misconduct for charging and the Western Conference all-star was ejected from the game. The majority of the 51 hundred fans in the building were not happy. Rockets Head Coach Jason Smith was sour. The Americans would score two of three goals on the ensuing power play and it was lights out in game one.
  • I can see a charging major if Dube losses the puck and crashes into the goaltending at a high rate of speed with reckless abandon. But Dube had the puck on his blade through the entire sequence. Did Dube crash into Dea at a high rate of speed? Yes he did. Is Dube one of the fastest players in junior hockey? Umm....ya! Plus, Jake Bean, beaten to the outside by Dube, did make contact with the speedy forward and only exasperated the problem by pushing him into Dea. Why was that not taken into account?
  • The Americans top players made a significant difference. Leading point getter Morgan Geekie had 2+1=3 while marquee forward Michael Rassmussen matched that with two goals and one assist. The real shocker was the 2-0 goal that came off the blade of Isaac Johnson, who had 17 goals this season. When Johnson is scoring, that is a bonus goal at this time of the year.
  • Speaking of the Johnson goal, it all came about after a face-off win. How many goals did the Americans score when puck possession was acquired courtesy of a face-off victory? That needs to improve in game two.   
  • Let me state, the Dube ejection, despite what many fans want to believe, was not the game breaking play that sent the Rockets boat sinking to the bottom of the lake. The call did break the game open, but it was NOT the reason why the home team lost. In my opinion, when the score was 2-0, the Rockets had three consecutive power play chances in the second period and didn't score. I thought that sealed their fate. Even one goal would have made such a difference that Dube's power move towards the net in desperation to get the Rockets on the board wasn't required.   
  • It was the first time this season the Rockets were shutout. The last playoff shutout loss at home came against the Americans in 2010, when Drew Owsley made 24 saves in a 2-0 victory.
  • Don't be too concerned with the 5-0 loss in game one. Look no further than the 2016 post season when the Rockets lost game 6 (4-0) to Kamloops and came back and won game 7 in overtime.  
  • Game two is Saturday night. The reason why game two isn't tonight? Hedley plays at Prospera Place, so both teams have an extra 24 hours to reflect on what happened in game one. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Rockets/Americans ready to face-off

Shoot the Breeze Photography

Game Day Preview: Welcome to the playoffs. The Kelowna Rockets are making their 11th straight appearance in the WHL post season. The team has missed only once in franchise history. The Rockets have appeared in four straight Western Conference finals. The Portland Winterhawks were able to reach the WCF five times between 2011 and 2015. These two teams met four times during the regular season, with the Rockets going 2-1-1-0. While separated by only 8 points in the Western Conference standings, the two teams allowed the exact same number of goals (249). The Rockets are facing the Americans in the opening round for the second time in three years. In 2015, the Rockets eliminated the Americans in four games on their way to winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Dillon Dube has the most playoff experience with 54 games under his belt. Dube has 14+25=39 in those 54 playoff games. Dube is the only remaining member of the 2015 WHL championship team.    

Battle on the blue-line: This series features four-first round NHL draft picks, with three residing on the blue line. Cal Foote, a first round selection of Tampa Bay anchors the Rockets defensive core. The Americans are highlited by Jusso Valamaki, a first round pick of the Calgary Flames. Joining Valamaki is Jake Bean, a first round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s don’t forget Gordie Ballhorn and Dylan Coghlan either. Both had terrific seasons and will make some noise both defensively and offensively in this series.

Award Winners: Captain Cal Foote was named the MVP and Top Defenceman in 2017-2018. Foote collected 19+51=70, which was two points shy of the franchise record of 72 points set by Tyson Barrie in 2009-2010. Foote is a two time recipient of the Top Defenceman award, joining the likes of Damon Severson, Gavin McLeod, Tyson Barrie and Luke Schenn, who have also won it twice. Scott Hannan won it a franchise record three times. Gordie Ballhorn was the Unsung Hero and Top +/- winner. Ballhorn shared the Humanitarian award with Carsen Twarynski. Twarynski was named the Most Improved player while Leif Mattson was the Most Sportsmanlike player. Connor Bruggen-Cate was voted the Top Defensive forward. The Rookie of the Year was Kaedan Korczak. 

Bring in the recruits: The team has called up affiliated players Dallon Wilton and Cayde Augustine. Wilton is from Beausejour, Manitoba and was a third round bantam pick from 2016. Wilton had a great season with the Eastman Selects scoring 25 goals, collecting 27 assists for a 52 point season in only 48 games in the Manitoba Midget Hockey League. A big boy, the 16 year-old Wilton stands 6’2 and weighs 215 pounds. Augustine, from Airdrie, is a 6’2, 220 pound 16 year-old defenceman who played three games with the Rockets earlier this season.

Broadcasters Notebook: This is the 7th time these two teams have met in the WHL playoffs. The last time was 2015, when the Rockets eliminated the Americans in four straight games…Cal Foote was named the Western Conference nominee for Defenceman of the Year. Foote will go up against Kale Clague of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the league award. The last Rockets player to win WHL Defenceman of the year was Tyson Barrie in 2009-2010….Foote was also named a Western Conference First Team All-Star while teammate Dillon Dube was named a Second Team Western Conference All-Star….Dube has the most playoff experience of anyone in the WHL post season. The 19 year-old has played 54 playoff games, which includes a WHL championship in 2015 and three appearances in the Western Conference final.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 25
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 9   Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran
NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017 - Signed), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016 - Signed), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016 - Signed), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Rockets provide ‘giant’ effort to conclude regular season.

Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets wanted to end off strong. Mission accomplished. In the teams final regular season game of the 2017-2018 season, two goals and two assists from Dillon Dube and Leif Mattson lifted the Rockets to a 8-1 dismantling of the Vancouver Giants. Dube seemed to have chemistry with new line-mates Leif Mattson and Liam Kindree, with the trio combining for 10 points in the lopsided affair. Dube's usual partner, Carsen Twarynski, was given the evening off so Mattson and Kindree took full advantage. Dube, when on his game is arguable one of the best talents in major junior hockey, collected his 100th career WHL goal while Mattson scored twice, including a real nice shorthanded effort in the teams 43rd win of the season. Kindree, who seems to have his mojo back, collected two assists before a solid crowd of 57 hundred people. Kole Lind, Gordie Ballhorm and Libor Zabranky added singles as the team finished the season riding a five game winning streak.
  • Kole Lind collected a goal and an assist to give him 95 points. Leading the team in scoring for a second consecutive season, the 19 year-old is the first player to accomplish that feat since Myles Bell repeated as team scoring champion in 2013 and again in 2014. Lind ended the season with 26 multiple point games.
  • Cal Foote came close to tying a team record. With one assist, the 19 year-old team captain ended the season with 69 points, only three shy of Tyson Barrie's 72 point season which remains a franchise record. Foote also had 19 goals, which was two shy of the team record of 21 set by Madison  Bowey.
  • The Rockets 43 win total was the lowest number of wins the team has recorded in the last six seasons. The most wins is 57 set in the 2013-2014 campaign when the team went 57-11-0-0 under head coach Ryan Huska.
  • Congratulations to Gordie Ballhorn and Libor Zabransky for playing in all 72 games this season.  
  • The 93 points the team recorded was the 11th most in franchise history. The team record is 118 points in the 2013-2014 campaign. The Rockets have had 6 - 100 or more point seasons.
  • Dube was the first player to reach 100 goals in a career since Tyson Baillie and Rourke Chartier hit the mark during the 2015-2016 season.
  • Saturday night's game took only 2 hours and 9 minutes to play. It was the quickest game of the season. High five to referee's Mike Langin and Nick Swaine for calling a great game. Neither official was noticeable, which allowed for the game to flow nicely over 60 minutes. Only three minor penalties were issued. Fans bitch and complain about the officiating. I frankly don't get it. I have seen 72 games this season and I might have not liked the officiating in two of them.   
  • With Carsen Twarynski a health scratch, the 20 year-old ends his WHL regular season career with a team high 45 goals. It is the most goals since Rourke Chartier scored 48 times in 2014-2015. The last overager, outside of Twarynski, to score 40 or more goals was Tyson Baillie (43) in 2015-2016 and Geordie Wudrick ( 43) in 2010-2011.
  • The Rockets had 211 games lost to injury this season, the fourth most in the WHL. Seattle had the most while Swift Current had the fewest man games lost to injury.  
  • The Rockets scored 8 times last night, giving them a total of 280 goal season  this season. That was just three shy of the 283 they scored one season ago when gun slinger Reid Gardiner was acquired at the Western Hockey League trade deadline.
  • The Rockets scored 17 shorthanded goals this season, which was 5 better than the season prior. The Rockets record for shorthanded goals is 19 set in the 2002-2003 campaign.
  • The playoffs begin Thursday night with the Rockets facing the Tri City Americans in the opening round. These two teams met in the 2015 playoffs, with the Rockets advancing in four straight. This season the Rockets were 2-1-1-0 in four games with two of the four games decided in overtime. Carsen Twarynski was the scoring leader against the Americans with 4+2=6 in the four games. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Rockets/G-Men conclude regular season


Is Madison Bowey's team record in jeopardy this weekend?
Game Day Preview: Welcome to the final weekend of the 2017-2018 Western Hockey League regular season. The Kelowna Rockets play their final road game against the Vancouver Giants. The Rockets are 3-2-1-0 in the seasonal series, with two losses and a one goal win at the Langley Events Centre. The Rockets are 24-5-1-0 in the last 30 meetings against the Giants including 10-5-0-0 in their last 15 visits to Vancouver/Langley. Carsen Twarynski leads the Rockets in the seasonal series with 5+3=8 while Kole Lind has 2+4=6 in four games against the G-Men. James Porter Junior has appeared in 5 games, going 2-2-1-0 with a goals against average of 3.85 and a save percentage of .879. These two teams conclude the regular season tomorrow night at Prospera Place. The Rockets are coming off a 6-3 win over Prince George Wednesday night. Cal Foote scored twice in the come-from-behind win as the Rockets struck for five-third period goals. The Rockets fired a season high 50 shots on net in their third straight win.  

 

Worth Watching: Cal Foote has 19 goals this season. The team record for goals by a defenceman is 21 set by Madison Bowey in the 2013-2014 season. Foote is currently tied with Tyson Barrie (2009-2010) for second, all-time, with 19 goals. Also worth watching this weekend is leading scorer Kole Lind. With 93 points, Lind is trying to become the first Rockets forward in 10 years to reach the 100 point plateau. Colin Long had 100 points in the 2007-2008 season. 

 

Bring in the recruits: The team has called up affiliated players Dallon Wilton and Cayde Augustine. Wilton is from Beausejour, Manitoba and was a third round bantam pick from 2016. Wilton had a great season with the Eastman Selects scoring 25 goals, collecting 27 assists for a 52 point season in only 48 games in the Manitoba Midget Hockey League. A big boy, the 16 year-old Wilton stands 6’2 and weighs 215 pounds. Augustine, from Airdrie, is a 6’2, 220 pound 16 year-old defenceman who played three games with the Rockets earlier this season.

 

Broadcasters Notebook: Nolan Foote returns to the line-up Wednesday after missing 17 games with an upper body injury. Foote had a goal and an assist in a 6-3 win over Prince GeorgeThe team has 25 wins at home, two more than last season at Prospera Place…The Rockets have five hat-tricks this season from Carsen Twarynski (vs. Portland/Prince George), and Kole Lind (PA/Kamloops/Prince George)……The Rockets had their 13 game home ice winning streak snapped January 5th vs. Seattle…The Rockets are 7 and 5 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind (twice), Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice) and Cal Foote (twice). The only losses in OT came against the Tri City Americans, Portland Winterhawks, Red Deer Rebels and Victoria Royals….The Rockets are 21-7-2-0 against teams in the BC Division…Carsen Twarynski is the first Rockets forward to score 40+ goals since Tyson Baillie (43) in the 2015-2016 season. If Kole Lind can score two more goals to join Twarynski, it will mark the first time since 1996-1997 that the team has had two-40 goal scorers. Jason Deleurme and Brett McLean hold that distinction.

 

Roster Stats:

Player total: 25

Year by Year Breakdown:

20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           

19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen

18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne

17’s (2000) - 9   Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair

16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran

 

NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).  

 

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

 

 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rockets can earn banner with win


Erik Gardiner - Shoot the Breeze Photography 
Game Day Preview: It is the final week of the regular season. You can smell playoff hockey next week can’t you? The Kelowna Rockets face the Prince George Cougars in the 8th and final meeting this season. The Rockets are 5-2-0-0 with both losses coming the last time these two teams met back on February 27th and 28th at CN Centre. Dillon Dube leads the way in the seasonal series with 5+12=17 in 7 games. Dube is 2 points shy of tying Jamie Benn (2007-2008) for the most points in a season against the Cougars. Benn had 19 points. Carsen Twarynski has 7 goals against the Cougars while Kole Lind has 6 goals in 5 games. Erik Gardiner has scored 5 of his 7 goals this season against Prince George. The Rockets are coming off a 4-0 shutout win over the Kamloops Blazers Saturday. Leif Mattson scored twice in the teams’ 40th victory of the season. Overall, the Rockets have points in 25 of their last 37 games (21-12-3-1). The Rockets close out the regular season Friday and Saturday night against the Vancouver Giants in a home and home series. 

Divine when born in 1999:
Connor Bruggen-Cate: The second year forward has 31 more points than a season ago. With a career high 18 goals and 44 points, the Langley, BC resident had just 1 goal in his first 15 games. Simply, Bruggen-Cate found his grove in the second half of the season with 11 goals since January 3rd.
Leif Mattson: With 39 more points than a season ago, the second year forward has 23 goals this season. Mattson started the year hot, scoring 6 goals in his first 9 games. Mattson has three-three game goal scoring streaks this season and had an 8 game point streak from February 3rd to the 17th.
Kyle Topping: After scoring 14 goals last season, Topping has 19 in his sophomore season. The Salt Spring Island, BC resident has four-three point games this season.  Kyle’s older brother Jordan plays in Tri City.

Heavy Hitters:
Kole Lind: Lind has 91 points this season, four more than a season ago. The 19 year-old has been held off the score-sheet just 6 times and leads the team with 23 road goals.
Carsen Twarynski: Twarynski has 10 multiple goal games with 27 of his 43 goals scored on home ice. Only once this season has the 20 year-old not had a shot on goal. Riding a 6 game point streak (5+2=7)
Cal Foote: With points in 9 of his last 11 games, Foote has scored 10 of his 17 goals this season on home ice. Foote has 21 multiple point games this season. Foote played in his 200th game Saturday vs. Blazers.
Dillon Dube: The only original member of the 2015 WHL championship team, Dube has points in 9 of his last 10 games (7+10=17). Dube has 39 points in 54 playoff games. Dube is a career +53.

Broadcasters Notebook: Nolan Foote returns to the line-up tonight after missing 17 games with an upper body injuryThe team has 24 wins at home, one more than last season at Prospera Place…The Rockets have five hat-tricks this season from Carsen Twarynski (vs. Portland/Prince George), and Kole Lind (PA/Kamloops/Prince George)……The Rockets had their 13 game home ice winning streak snapped January 5th vs. Seattle…The Rockets are 7 and 5 in overtime with game winners coming from Kole Lind (twice), Dillon Dube Carsen Twarynski (twice) and Cal Foote (twice). The only losses in OT came against the Tri City Americans, Portland Winterhawks, Red Deer Rebels and Victoria Royals….The Rockets are 20-7-2-0 against teams in the BC Division…Carsen Twarynski is the first Rockets forward to score 40+ goals since Tyson Baillie (43) in the 2015-2016 season. If Kole Lind can score two more goals to join Twarynski, it will mark the first time since 1996-1997 that the team has had two-40 goal scorers. Jason Deleurme and Brett McLean hold that distinction.

Roster Stats:
Player total: 25
Year by Year Breakdown:
20’s (1997) – 3   Ballhorn, Twarynski, Hilsendager           
19’s (1998) - 5   Salmond, Lind, Dube, Cal Foote, Chizen
18’s (1999) - 6   Topping, Mattson, Gardiner, Bruggen-Cate, Cowell, Skvrne
17’s (2000) - 9   Porter, Foote, Zabransky, Kindree, Brennan, McGauley, Kushniryk, Pow, Hair
16’s (2001) - 2   Korczak, Basran

NHL Drafted Players: Cal Foote (Tampa Bay 2017), Kole Lind (Vancouver 2017), Dillon Dube (Calgary 2016), Carsen Twarynski (Philadelphia 2016), Brayden Chizen (Minnesota 2016).   

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150