Friday, March 30, 2007

Media Making Up Nonsense

A media source in Kelowna was speculating yesterday that Jeff Truitt is going to be replaced as Head Coach of the Rockets by Jack McIlhargey.
The former Vancouver Canucks Assistant Coach was canned this summer when Marc Crawford was gassed and then new Head Coach Alain Vigneault decided to get rid of the two assistants Crawford had, which included McIIhargey.
McIIhargey is now a scout with the Canucks, so he still remains in the organization.

But let's set things straight here!

The media source that opened up this can of worms by suggesting Truitt was being canned and is going to be replaced by McIIhargey is a total joke.
Where did that come from?
I know there has been speculation that Truitt would be in trouble if the team didn't make the playoffs, but GM Bruce Hamilton said it many times when asked the question if he'd replace the coach.
The answer was no!
And to say that if Truitt was let go that McIIhargey would be his replacement is totally out of left field.
If we are going to make stupid assumptions on who is going to be the next coach of the Rockets, why don't we throw Howie Meekers name out there.

Oh sure he's retired, he's getting up in years, but 'golly gee' he could make the guys play hard couldn't he?

He lives in Vancouver, so Howie could fly in for all the games.
Absurd right? Of course.
Freedom of speech is a good thing, but when media groups that have no clue on what is happening with the internal workings of an organization, and throw names out there for the sake of stiring the pot, I have just one thing to say.
Stick to news reporting!

I had to laugh at some comments Bruce Hamilton made in a Kelowna Daily Courier article last week about fighting.
N.H.L Commissioner Gary Bettman had just beaten his chest stating that he thinks fighting should remain a part of the game despite an incident that saw Flyers forward Todd Fedoruk get clocked by Rangers enforcer Colton Orr.
The Courier wanting to get a local angle on fighting and spoke to Hamilton, who said he was against it.
What?
Against fighting?
Hamilton built his team on toughness in the 90's when the club relocated from Tacoma to Kelowna to play in the small confines of the Memorial Arena.
Fighting came first - if you won the game at the end of the night - BONUS.
Look at the roster of the Rockets in 1996-97 if you want an example of 'team toughness'.
Scott Parker, Kris Malette, Todd Fedoruk. Ray Schultz and Justin Jack.
Can you imagine seeing all five of those guys out on the ice at the same time? You'd soil your pants if you had to lineup against those five.
If everyone dropped the gloves, I'd make a beeline to the goalie hoping he would be my dance partner.
That team from 1996-97 had 11 players over 200 pounds.
Back then the Rockets didn't win many games, but many fans stayed for the entire
game just to see the fights.
Hamilton has assembled a much more skilled team over the years, and the results have shown with championships banners that now hang above the Prospera Place ice.
But I had to chuckle when I read that he was against the hand-to-hand combat, when his team led the charge when it came to fisticuffs in the mid 90's.
I guess the game has changed over the years, so Bruce is allowed to change his mindset on the way the game should be played too.

I can hear it now.
Fire the coach of the Swift Current Broncos if they are eliminated tonight in game five of their playoff series with the Pats.

Granted Dean Chynoweth is 18 and 24 lifetime in the playoffs, so his track record of success won't win him a lot of confidence votes to stick around, but doesn't the problem not fall with the scouting?
Since 1999, the Broncos haven't exactly been world beaters at the bantam draft.
Scott Scherger in 99, Torrie Wheat in 2000, David Schulz in 2001 and Ryan Sawka in 2002 are examples of four consecutive years of less than stellar 1st round picks.
The only saving grace from the 1999 draft was the Broncos picked Jeremy Williams and Ian White as late as they did.
The 2001 draft wasn't a total right off as the Broncos picked Kyle Moir in the 3rd round.
While fans will be calling for Chynoweth's head if the Broncos falter in the playoffs,
you have to remember the old saying 'you can't win a battle if you don't have the soldiers', which may describe the predicament Chynoweth is in thanks to continuous miscues at the draft table.
The Broncos have had some success in drafting Paul Postma and Geordie Wudrick with 1st round picks in 2004 and 2005, but those players will be future impact guys.
Bronco fans wanting instant gratification will say those players are projected to be good, but they don't want a winner down the road - they want one now.

This guy doesn't look very happy does he?
Does he look vaguely familiar?
Kinda looks like Kyle Cumiskey doesn't he?
His brother played with the Kelowna Rockets.
Still can't get it?
It's Kyle Cumiskey's brother Clayton who played this season in the BCHL with the Williams Lake Wolverines.
Cumiskey, who just turn 17 10 days ago, is a draft pick of the Swift Current Broncos in the 6th round of the 2005 WHL bantam draft.
Clayton had 13 goals and
16 assists for 29 points in 60 games in his rookie season.
Remember he was playing with a pretty bad team in Williams Lake that won just 18 games.
Maybe Clayton will play with the Broncos next season and turn that frown upside down!

Maybe he looks so sad in the picture because someone told Clayton it was ok to wear a back t-short under a white dress shirt?

Remember Clayton never take fashion tips from your brother Kyle, never!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

No Surprise in Cougar Sweep!


I am not surprised that the Cougars eliminated the Blazers in 4 straight?

You had to know the Blazers were in trouble heading into the playoffs when they ended off the season with a 13 game winless streak on the road.
Ok they used a shoot-out win in one of those, but they were horrible on the road down the stretch.

Dropping back-to-back home games to start the series was a killer for the crew from Kamloops, as winning on the road seemed almost impossible with games 3 and 4 in Prince George.
I caught some of the Cougars post game show last night on the internet, and the fans there sounded excited.
And rightfully so!
Good to see them jumping on the bandwagon with some pretty decent crowds of just over 45 hundred Tuesday (I demanded 45 hundred needed to show up on a previous blog) and over 52 hundred took in last night's game.
If you compare that with the two playoff games they hosted last season in a first round playoff series with Vancouver, the Cougars got almost 49 hundred for game three and just over 42 hundred for game four.
The difference between that playoff series in 2006 and this year?
The Cougars lost both to the Giants, this time a 4 game sweep allows Prince George to experience playoff hockey in the second round.
The last time the Cougars made it to the second round was in 2001, when they lost to Portland in 6 games.
The biggest crowd in PG for that series was game 5, when 5 thousand 826 fans watched the hometown Cougars suffer a 5-3 loss.
Good on you Cougar fans for supporting the team, keep it up!

I hate to say it, but I am being totally honest here.

The Swift Current Broncos are done!

A politically correct statement would make me say, despite being down 3-1 in their series with Regina, they have the fortitude to come back and win game 5 and then send the series back to Swifty where momentum would be on there side for game six which would lead to a game seven back at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

Sorry Bronco fans, it ain't happening.

Where has Broncos second leading scorer Dale Weise gone?
43 points during the regular season, and just one point in four games.
Ouch!

At least Jeremy Schenderling is playing with desperation. The overager has 4 goals in 4 games.

The Broncos d-men are a combined minus 15 in the series.
Sorry to pick that out Kenner, but it's like turning on a flashlight in the dark, you can't help but see it.


The Giants are done playing around with Chilliwack.

After getting a scare early on in the series with a one goal win followed by a home ice loss, the Giants have recording back-to-back 4-0 and 5-1 wins.
In the last two games Vancouver has out-shot the Bruins 50-26 in the second and third periods.

The Bruins are lucky the top line of Rabbit, Lucic and Repik have struggled out of the gates with just 6 points combined in the first 4 games.

Chilliwack's top line of Moller, Santorelli and Aspenlind are a combined -11 in the series.

It should be pointed out that Aspenlind, a former Cougar, has 2+3=5 in the series while Santorelli has 2+3=5 against the Giants.
Oscar Moller has faded a bit in the playoffs with no goals and a -4.

Some Rockets fans will cringe when they see who has the best goals against average in the W.H.L playoffs so far.

Yepper, it's Derek Yeomans.
Not like fans around here aren't cheering for him, but his 0.75 goals against average makes you shake your head.
Did the Rockets get enough in return for Yeomans when they dealt him to Seattle in the summer?

Obviously not, but at the time GM Bruce Hamilton told me interest in a 20 year-old goaltender was low. Had he been a year younger - maybe?

Yeomans has played 37 playoff games over his career, and with the T-Birds holding a 3-1 series lead over Tri City, it looks like that number will grow.

Seto Sensational - Just ask the Blazers


Did the Prince George Cougars pay too much to get Devin Setoguchi?

Cougars fans would have said yes in October when he was being hampered by a bad knee, but now they are jumping for joy that the 19 year-old forward is on there team.

Setoguchi was sensational for the Cougars in their opening round playoff series against Kamloops, scoring 5 goals and collecting 2 assists in a 4 game sweep.
It looks like the player they gave up, 15 year-old Stefan Elliott and a first round pick in this summers bantam draft, may now have been worth it.

Cougars Dallas Thompson has made many blunders in his day's as G.M - but this isn't one of them.
Oh sure I've heard rumors all season long that Setoguchi wanted out of Prince George, and that he wasn't happy when he was traded there instead of Vancouver.

Some had even suggested he was faking the knee injury, and that it wasn't as bad as he was making it out to be.
If the rumors are indeed true, it makes his regular season and postseason success even that much more impressive.
To score 36 goals in a place where you reportedly didn't want to play shows Setoguchi is mentally strong enough to focus on the game of hockey and control what he can control - his attitude and his performance on the ice.
Throw in the fact he was cut by the Canadian World Junior team and you have a player that could have been sitting around pouting.
Setoguchi isn't pouting, he's producing, and Prince George Cougar fans are loving it!

Sure the NHL draft is still 3 months away but an ESPN sports writer has a list of some of the players you'll likely see drafted from the W.H.L in the first two rounds.

They include Brandon Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels, who is sited as having the same type of grit and determination as the Sutters, but with a lot more skill than his uncles.

Vancouver's Michal Repik can find seams in the offensive zone. Repik is described as having a deadly shot which allows him to score big goals.

Everett's Zach Hamill is described as having one of the best natural hockey senses in the draft. While his lack of size is a concern, his hockey IQ and his ability to use his teammates is second to none.

Colton Gillies of the Saskatoon Blades plays the game much like his uncle (Clark Gillies) did. He is described as a power forward who needs to improve his skills.

W.H.L defenseman that could hear their name called in the first round of this summers NHL draft include Calgary's Carl Alzner who is suggested to be the best d-man in the draft because of his battle level, and some are comparing them to Wade Redden.

Kamloops rearguard Keaton Ellerby makes very few mistakes, and won't put up points. But NHL teams realize they need a player like Ellerby to win.

John Blum of the Giants is catching the attention of NHL scouts.
He loves to jump into the rush and is a quarterback on Vancouver's power play. This kid was great at 16, and is down right solid as a 17 year-old sophomore.

Thomas Hickey of the T-Birds is a player I've loved to watch this season.
Even though he's small (5'11 185), he makes smart plays and plays with passion. NHL scouts like his offensive upside and compare him to John-Michael Liles in Colorado.

Eric Doyle in Swift Current is being mentioned. A big kid who skates pretty well, scouts think he has decent poise and his hockey IQ is ok.
But some scouts aren't sold on him yet. A good playoff wouldn't hurt his cause.

W.H.L goaltenders being mentioned include Regina's Linden Rowat, who is getting rave reviews, and is now poised to go before Vancouver's Tysen Sexsmith.
Scouts like Rowat's size, and quick glove hand.

Sexsmith and Portland's Kurtis Mucha are running neck-and-neck as scouts contemplate who is better.
Sexsmith is on a pretty team, while Mucha saw more rubber with a Hawks team which was dead last.
His quickness and competitiveness is an attribute, yet he is still rated as the 10th best goalie heading into June's draft.
Check out the article at ESPN.COM

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Overtime Ecstasy!

There is nothing like overtime hockey, especially in the W.H.L playoffs, to get the heart palpitating.

A goal in overtime usually isn't a calculated play, it often comes off a bad bounce, a huge miscue by the opponent or from an outstanding individual effort.
They usually come out of no where, and appear before your eyes when it looks like a scoring chance isn't about to develop.
What's great about overtime hockey at this time of the year, unlike the regular season where a time limit is in place, o.t in the playoffs can go on forever.

The Kelowna Rockets have had a fair share of exciting finishes over the last few years thanks to 'overtime ecstasy' - and for whatever reason three games in post season where extra time was needed brings back great memories. Two of the hero's in those games are now earning a paycheck in the N.H.L.

Oddly enough two of three goals that standout were scored against the same team, in the same building, on the same day but just one year apart.

Scary!

It was April 11th, 2003 and the Rockets were on the road in Spokane.

While the Rockets had a 3-0 series lead after a 4-1 win over the Chiefs in game three, the heroics of Cam Paddock in the extra session in game 4 propelled the Rockets into the Western Conference final that season against Seattle.

The goal by Paddock, was an individual effort where he worked himself behind the Chief net with the puck, skated out-front untouched, and somehow roofed the puck over the shoulder of Barry Brust in a 4-3 win.

What made the goal so dramatic was the Chiefs were coming on in the game, scoring twice in the 3rd period to tie the game, erasing a Rockets 3-1 lead.

Who would assist on Paddock's heroic game winning goal?
Joni Lindlof!
Where the heck is he?
I always say between Joni Lindlof and Richard Kelly, I don't know which was a better practice player?
Both players had great skill, could skate and looked like 50 goal men in practice.
But get them into a game, and they were facing competition way over their heads.

I still have to laugh when you look up Richard Kelly's name on the W.H.L website, and it showed he played with the Kamloops Blazers in 2001-2002 and had 29 goals - 45 assists for 74 points in 54 games.
Trust me he never played for the Blazers, and only in his dreams could have put up those type of numbers.

Sorry I got sidetracked, let's get back to the overtime heroics.

One year earlier in the 2002 playoffs, Travis Moen played hero in overtime.

Again against Spokane, the Rockets were battling from behind all series long until Moen's goal totally turned the tide of the series in Kelowna's favor.

In an odd series which saw the Rockets split the first two games with the Chiefs by playing one game on the road despite having more points in the standings during the regular season, the Chiefs opened with back-to-back wins forcing the Rockets to dig deep to get back in the series.

And they did.

A one goal win in game 3, followed by an 8-2 win in Spokane in game four had the Rockets and Chiefs tied at 2 wins apiece.
But game 5 would be the pivotal contest for both teams as the best of seven was now down to a best of three.

That's where Travis Moen came in.

Oddly enough the date was again April 11th, and again the opponent was the Chiefs.

Moen would score in the second overtime session in a 2-1 Rockets victory.

Moen's goal came from just over centre ice, a long blast that somehow beat - you guessed it - Barry Brust.


The goal was the back breaker, as the Rockets would wrap it up in game six with a 2-0 shutout win on home ice.

I could bring up bad memories of the 2004 playoffs where the Rockets lost five times in overtime, including three to Everett in the Western Conference final, but I am finally getting over that fiasco.
While the hockey Golds were against the Rockets in that playoff season, they were blessed from above one year later when divine intervention appeared to play a factor in the Western Conference final with Kootenay.

The two teams split the first two games, only to see the Rockets win games three and four in regulation before the Ice stayed alive with an overtime win in game five.

Game six back in Kelowna was magical as the Rockets had a chance to put the Ice away.

Cue the hockey Gods.

With the Ice holding a 1-0 lead in the game, Rockets d-man Mike Card would score with just over 2 minutes left in regular time on a centre ice long shot, that hit Kootenay goaltender Jeff Glass and found its way into the back of the yet.

Then in overtime, in a scramble in front of the Ice net, the puck miraculously came out to Shea Weber, who wired a wrist shot past Glass, officially clinching the series, and sending the Prospera Place faithful into a frenzy.


I still have the audio portion of that goal, and it brings shivers down my spin every time I hear the crowd erupted with joy as Weber wired it into the back of the net to send the Rockets into the W.H.L final.

It was an o.t winner I won't soon forget!

Regan's Ramblings:

Congrats to Rockets Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn for being named to the training staff of the Canadian Under 18 hockey team. Thorburn will join Rockets head skipper Jeff Truitt in Finland for the games, as Truitt is Team Canada's assistant to Trent Yawney.

Clayton Barthel's pro debut with the Phoenix Roadrunners was a successful one. Saturday night Barthel earned an assist as the East Coast Hockey League team fell 4-3 to Fresno. It's interesting to note that a former Western Hockey League sharp shooter is Barthel's coach in Phoenix.

Do you remember Brad Church?



The former Prince Albert Raider is the head coach of the Roadrunners after the teams head coach resigned late last week.

Church, pictured to the left, was a 1st round round pick of the Washington Capitals in 1995, after scoring 42 goals and collected 88 points in the 1995-96 season with the Raiders, yet played just two games with the Capitals before spending the rest of his career in the American Hockey League and the East Coast League.

Church is just 30 years old.

I have been working early morning's this week at the radio station, meaning I've been getting out of bed at 3:30 am and arriving at work shortly after 4.
It again reminds me why I left Swift Current after doing early morning sports and play-by-play for the Broncos for 5 years.
Frankly it was a killer.
Having to be awake that early was tough in itself, but then trying to sound awake for the game that night was ludicrous.
I know my buddy Jon Keen in Swift Current does it, and I am sure it's also common place in Saskatoon, PA, Moose Jaw and Brandon.
The radio stations in those markets don't care if they burn these play-by-play guys out, all they care about is getting the most out of these employees at any cost.
Sadly many of these radio stations will claim that it's just part of the job, take it or leave it!
It's a situation many of my media cohorts sadly accept, but it just isn't right.

Here's one for you.
Name the goaltender that is credited with introducing us to the 'bird cage' mask?
Summit Series 1972 saw Russian Vladislav Tretiak wear the helmet-cage mask for the first time on North American soil.
The mask was poorly designed at the time, as the helmet shifted during play and wasn't designed to absorb the impact of the puck.
After Philadelphia Flyers Bernie Parent had to end his career in 1979 after getting a stick in the eye using a moulded mask which sat flush on the face, many goaltenders switched to the bird cage, similar to the one used by Tretiak.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Shouldering the Load come Playoff Time


Hockey fans beware!

Don't get to critical over that favorite player of yours who may not be putting up great numbers at this time of the year.
You may be all concerned that he simply isn't contributing like he did during the regular season.
The reason behind the struggles may mean he's playing hurt!
Playing with pain is never easy, but playing with pain in the playoff is more common place because the stakes are so high.
It happens at the pro level, and it's more prevalent than you might think even in junior hockey.

No one played with more pain for the Kelowna Rockets then Tyler Spurgeon, who's photo is on the left.


I remember asking myself the question last season when captain Spurgeon just wasn't carrying the mail like he did during the regular season.
Going 8 playoff games without a point seemed odd to me for Spurgeon.

Why was he struggling offensively? Why was he avoiding contact in such a crucial series?

As the playoff went on, the worse he became.
Sure he'd work hard, but he just wasn't the regular season Tyler Spurgeon I was used too.

The reason?

As I found out after the playoffs were over, he was playing hurt with a badly separated shoulder.

In fact instead of getting shoulder surgery after dislocating it in one of the Rockets final regular season games against Seattle after being hit by T-Birds D-Man Zack Fitzgerald, Spurgeon decided to press on, put the surgery on hold, play injured and let the cards fall where they may.

He was that type of warrior.

Battling injuries over his career was common place for the Edmonton product, and in his 19 year-old season with such a talented team, he just couldn't fathom going under the knife and watching his teammates battle for another birth at a Memorial Cup while he sat watching on the sidelines.

How badly dislocated was the shoulder?

Spurgeon couldn't even take a shot on net, without feeling the agonizing pain.
If you watched closely in warm-up during the playoffs, Spurgeon wouldn't even shoot a puck as the pain was that great.
All he'd do was skate, stretch and off the ice he'd go, hopeing to contribute to his team as an inspirational leader and face-off man.
Funny thing is nobody detected a problem.
The opposition didn't clue in, the media missed it, but his teammates were in awe that he was playing in excruciating pain, yet putting the team before himself believing by being in the lineup it gave them a better chance of winning.

I remember asking Spurgeon in the Rockets playoff series with Everett about his lack of production offensively, and if he was indeed playing hurt?
With a straight face he said, nope, I just need to play better to help my team win.

So if you are a fan or media type and a key player isn't preforming up to snuff, he could be in a slump, or more likely he could be playing hurt!

It would be best to watch warm-up a little more closely these days, because you too may notice something that explains why your favorite player isn't pulling his weight in post season!

The answer may be - he's playing in pain.

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Speaking of bad shoulder's.

No coach that I have had the privilege of traveling with over the years was as banged up as former Swift Current Broncos coach Todd McLellan.
Now an assistant with the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings, McLellan's junior career with the Saskatoon Blades, and short pro career with the New York Islanders was filled with shoulder injuries, and shoulder surgeries.

I remember Todd showing me a 4 inch gash on his left shoulder from two separate surgeries, a shoulder that was so bad that he couldn't lift his arm over his head.

I remember going to an afternoon practice at the Civic Centre one day only to see Todd in his Swift Current Broncos track suit, blowing his whistle and putting the guys through the paces.....with his arm in a sling!

Todd told me he was playing with his son Tyson at home, and his shoulder popped out.

That season it happened twice, once playing with his new baby boy, the other was in Kootenay when he was so upset the way the team was playing in the playoffs that he kicked over a garbage can and went to push something out of the way in disgust when - pop - out went his shoulder.

He's wasn't overly animated the next night on the bench, where he was dressed in a three piece suit with his left arm in a sling.

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WHL disciplinarian Richard Doerksen was busy Monday handing out fines totalling 5 thousand dollars following game two of the Everett-Spokane series.

Both teams were fined 25 hundred dollars each, after fights broke out after the Tips won in overtime.

Spokane's Judd Blackwater was suspended for 3 games while teammate Mitch Wahl and Everett's Brandon Campos were suspended 2 games each for getting into a fight after the game had ended. Tips forward Kyle Beach was also suspended for one game for his actions following that contest.

The WHL has suspended Red Deer's Martin Hanzal for one game for a checking from behind incident against Medicine Hat in game two.

Tim Kraus won't be in the Giants lineup tonight in game three of their playoff series with the Cougars after being suspended for a checking from behind incident also in game two.

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After losing a bet, Kelowna's Mayor had to wear a Chilliwack Bruin's jersey to yesterday's City Council meeting.

Sharon Shepherd wore an autographed jersey, after losing the friendly wager to Chilliwack Mayor Clint Hames, about who's team would end up in the playoffs.

Shepherd says its all in good fun, but she will always be a Kelowna Rockets fan.
Kelowna City Hall also had to put up a Chilliwack flag as part of the bet.

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Are you looking at stumping your buddy with hockey trivia?

Ask him who was the first goaltender to ever wear a mask in the NHL?

He or she will tell you - Jacques Plante of course!

Wrong!

In 1930, Montreal Maroons goaltender Clint Benedict tried a crude leather face protector but gave it up because he believed it impaired his vision.

Enter Jacques Plante.

Plante used one in practice, until he was was badly cut in a game in 1959 that he insisted on wearing a mask. The Canadiens were concerned that the mask may make him less alert, but after the teams went undefeated in 10 games, Plante's mask became a permanent fixture.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Can Sexy repeat what Blackburn did?

'Sexy' isn’t looking sensational, and that has Giants fans worried.

It's led to speculation the Vancouver Giants will start backup Blaine Neufeld in game three of their playoff series when it switches venues to Chilliwack for games three and four Tuesday and Wednesday night.

'Sexy' is Giants rookie Tysen Sexsmith, the 17 year-old goaltender who escaped by being pulled by Head Coach Don Hay in game one as the Giants won in overtime, before returning to the pipes, suffering a one goal loss in game two Saturday night.

The series is tied at one, it's now down to a best of 5.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see a young goaltender like Sexsmith faltering under the playoff pressure, especially in a year when his team has already secured a birth as Memorial Cup hosts.

You have to be a special player to lead your team to a W.H.L title when you are as green as Sexsmith is.

Who was the last 17 year-old goaltender to lead his team to a Memorial Cup birth?

It’s the man pictured to your left, Dan Blackburn.

Blackburn was just 16 when he led the Ice to a W.H.L title in 2000, before turning 17 just prior to the start of the Memorial Cup, a championship that saw the Ice lose all 4 games.

Blackburn was the youngest player ever to win the league playoff M.V.P honor at just 16.

Blackburn and Sexsmith were both first round bantam picks, and were exceptional minor hockey talents, yet Blackburn played on a small market team (Kootenay) where the media spotlight consisted of just one radio reporter and a newspaper guy that writes maybe two stories a week.
In Vancouver Sexsmith is scrutinized by the media at every turn, and the knowledge that if he screws up means Neufeld is there to take the #1 job away.
No one wants to lose the starters job at any time, and if you are Sexsmith, especially when your team is hosting the Memorial Cup and to make matters worse it's your draft year.

Congrats to two former Kelowna Rockets who won a Canadian University Men’s hockey championship on Sunday.
Nick Marach and Jesse Ferguson helped the University of New Brunswick to a 3-2 overtime win against Moncton.
Both Ferguson and Marach are in their 5th and final year of university.
The two helped beat former Rocket Chris Di Ubaldo, who is in his 4th year at the U of Moncton, earning a business administration degree.

Di Ubaldo is the picture on the left.

Marach played just 35 games for the Rockets in 2002 when he was acquired from Vancouver, while Ferguson played 53 games in Kelowna after being obtained from Portland early in the 2001 season.

Di Ubaldo played two seasons with the Rockets from 1999-2001 before being sent to Prince George where he played 44 games before being shipped to Prince Albert to end his junior career.


It’s always interesting to compare playoff data.

Eighty eight (88 goals) have been scored in the first two night’s of the 2007 playoffs, but how does that compare with the first two night’s in last year’s post season?
In fact 5 more goals have been scored than in the 2006 playoffs, when 83 goals were scored.
What’s interesting is 40 power play goals were scored after 16 playoff games last year.
This year, under the new rule changes where penalties are being handed out like penny’s to pandhandler, just 36 goals have been scored with the extra man.

I’ll be interested to see what type of reception the Prince George Cougars receive when they host Kamloops in game three and four of their series.

The Cougars have a 2-0 series lead after thrilling overtime wins on the road, and are clearly in the drivers seat.
If close to 45 hundred fans don’t show up for game three Tuesday night, the fans in Prince George get what they deserve.


This Cougars team has underachieved this season I will agree, but are extremely entertaining, and despite a rocky regular season, they are taking it to a new level when it really counts – the playoffs.


To stay at home would be a huge mistake.


Come on Cougars fans support this team. Take ownership before this team goes elsewhere.

As the old saying goes, you don't know what you've got until it's gone!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Giants Questioning Goaltending?


Solid goaltending is always a key in the playoffs, but the Chilliwack Bruins surprised many when starter Matt Esposito was scratched from game one of their playoff series with Vancouver.
It was no surprise to the Bruins though, who knew a month before hand that Esposito was playing on borrowed time with a bum knee.
From what I have been told Esposito buggered up his knee more than a month ago, and in clinching the final playoff spot with a win over Spokane late in the season, did further damage to the knee on a penalty shot given to Chiefs forward David Rutherford.
The extent of the damage isn't be known, as the Bruins want to keep it all hush-hush.
Bottom line is losing your #1 tender was something the expansion franchise didn't want to hear going into game one against the mighty Giants.
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You have to be impressed that Chilliwack earned a split in their first two games in Vancouver.
You would have to be thinking Giants Head Coach Don Hay is a little concerned with his #1 goaltender.
Tysen Sexsmith has allowed 7 goals on 25 shots in the first two games.
Do you think GM Scott Bonner is now rethinking about not trading for an upgrade in goal?
Ask the Vancouver Canucks how valuable a goaltender is. They'd be in deep trouble without Roberto.
************
The new W.H.L rule this season where the team icing the puck is unable to make a line change played a factor in game one of the Bruins-Giants series. In one case it saw the Bruins icing the puck with the 4th line of Bhungal-Smuk and Glennie out against the Giants #1 unit of Lucic-Repik and Rabbit.
Talk about a mismatch as the Bruins were looking for a line change while the Giants were licking their chops.
*********
You won't often see many suspensions during the W.H.L playoffs, but league disciplinarian Richard Doerksen will be watching video following an altercation following the Everett Silvertips overtime win in game 2 against Spokane.
The rough stuff started after Zach Hamill scored. The Tips were celebrating when all hell broke loose, with Chiefs Judd Blackwater receiving a major for charging and a series of fights broke out.
The Chiefs have to be kicking themselves though.
Sure they scored late in the 3rd to tie the game, but had a 5-3 power play in overtime and didn't score, before Hamill responded to give the Tips a 2-0 lead in the series.
**********
You have to hand it to the Regina Leader-Post newspaper for a full assault in game coverage in the first two playoff tilts with the Pats and Broncos.
The Leader Post had three different stories in the paper, one being a game story, with two opinion columns from Rob Vanstone and Murray McCormick.
Sure the columns were patting the Pats on the back, but even Swift Current fans have to appreciate the extensive coverage of the series.
In this day and age of cutbacks, the Leader-Post impressed me with the amount of effort they are putting into covering this series.
Obviously not being there, these articles give you an idea of what is happening against these two Eastern Conference rivals.
**********
I bad mouthed Kirt Hill the other day, and what does he do? He earns 3rd star status in game one of the Pats-Broncos series.
I was giving the former Rocket a bad time because of his lack of offense since he went to Regina, and even questioned if he'll play there as a 19 year-old next season.
From what I understand he played an agitating role in game one, something he never - and I mean never showed in these parts.
And he was hitting guys? Excuse me?
Has 'Hiller' transformed his game over the last 3 months? Has the prairie air changed the way he plays on the ice?
Whatever it is, keep it up man!

*************
Now that I am your average WHL fan because the Rockets are in the purgatory-playoffs (we face Lethbridge tonight - followed by Saskatoon tomorrow before battling Portland on Wednesday), I have been trying to listen to some of the games on the Internet.
But frankly listening to some of these games takes no less than 15 hoops to jump through plus an anal cavity search before finally being able to listen.
You need to first find the 'listen to icon', which on most web pages are hidden.
What's with that?
As an example the Chilliwack audio feed has you clicking three different areas only to get no- where.
Some ask for passwords, and an e-mail addresses.
Come on!!
Why can it not be one easy step of clicking on the icon, and then - bang - the game comes on.
Maybe it's just me. I guess I'm not the computer geek I thought I was.
*************

Kootenay Ice fans, what's up?
Attendance at the first two games of that series against Calgary were less than stellar.
Was Friday night bowling night, or maybe it was Saturday night salsa dancing that kept the people away?
Even big Eddie Chynoweth was on a sports radio show Friday scratching his head over the poor attendance.
He didn't slam the good folks of Cranbrook, but he didn't sound like he was overly happy with the 3 thousand and change that took in the games.
Sure the Chynoweth's aren't losing money in Cranny, but with those type of numbers they sure aren't making any.
Isn't that the key in any business venture?
Making money?

***********
In the first 8 games of the playoffs Friday night, of the 44 goals that were scored, 22, or exactly 50% were scored on the power play.
One night later the exact same number of goals were scored - 44.
This time only 14 power play goals were scored.
Bottom line - 36 power play goals scored in two night's - or 40.9% of the goals so far have been with the man-advantage.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Swanny enjoying playoff hockey in Swifty!


Remember this guy?

That's Kevin Swanson.

The former Rockets goaltender is now enjoying the W.H.L playoffs as a goaltending consultant for the Swift Current Broncos.

Swanny played three seasons in Kelowna from 1998-2001 and played a total of 167 games with the mighty Rockets, but frankly on some pretty bad teams.
He was a work horse in goal, playing in 68 games during the 1999-2000 season alone.

That's uncanny.

He could be a lot of help for Broncos current starter Kyle Moir in an opening round playoff series with Regina.

Swanson was a 20-year old netminder with the Rockets in 2000-2001, and knows what playoff pressure is all about.

Swanson, who still holds team records for games played in a season (68), and in a career (167), will try to help Moir do something he failed to do as a player.

Advance to round two!

While we are on the topic of former Rockets goaltenders, do you ever wonder where Shane Bendera ended up?

I did, and found out.

He's hanging out in Edmonton.

Bendera is married and is making a living as a carpenter of all things.

Bendera played just 30 regular season games with the Rockets when he was picked up in a trade from Red Deer in 2001-2002.
Bendera was a winner when he was picked up, winning a Memorial Cup title with the Rebels, and was named the tournament MVP.

A draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Bendera was a calm, cool, yet cocky goaltender who simply blew a chance to be an N.H.L'er because of what many say was a bad attitude.

My fondest memory of Bendera was his calm demeanor.
You knew he was on his game when he never moved in his net. Every motion Bendera made was well calculated, and was the stabilizing force the Rockets needed when they made it past the first round for the first time in franchise history.
The sweep over Kamloops was sweet, before losing to eventual league and Memorial Cup champion Kootenay.

While Bendera never led the Rockets to a championship is his brief time here, he was credited for getting the organization into the mode of what it takes to win, a mindset that others bought into one year later in a W.H.L championship and an appearance at the Memorial Cup.

Say what you want about Bendera blowing his chances of playing pro, but he will always be remembered in Kelowna as one of the reasons this team turned their fortunes around from flopping in the playoffs, to finding a way to succeed.

If you don't like the 2 referee system, you will freak when you head to a W.H.L playoff game. Tonight the league will be implementing the two referee system for ALL post season games. Frankly it would be nice if the league had video review for all playoff games, much like they do in the O-H-L.
But the league will only use the technology in the league final and the Memorial Cup.

The Chilliwack Bruins are going to get a rude awakening in their series with the Vancouver Giants.

The media frenzy will be a huge distraction for the expansion team, as camera, radio crews and sports writers calculated their every move.
It won't be as bad as when the Rockets met the Giants two years ago in a playoff series where the media outnumbered the players on the ice for practice. The games were covered so closely because NHL hockey had taken a hiatus because of the lockout. The Giants and Rockets were the big show in town. It meant wall-to-wall coverage from the Vancouver Sun and Province, in a first round series that felt more like the league final.

Thank God the Rockets were a mature team, and didn't get swept away by all the media hype. Had they been younger and less mature, the focus would have been on what was being reported, rather than turning their attention to the ultimate prize, a series win and a chance at a 3rd straight appearance at the Memorial Cup.

Being a healthy scratch sucks.

Just ask Josh Gorges.

The former Rockets d-man has played just 6 games since the Canadiens acquired him from San Jose.

Gorges is seen sitting in the press box as the Canadiens try to challenge for a playoff spot.

Even on the Canadiens website, they've failed to update his picture, as he is still wearing Shark colors.

Maybe if he was a francophone he'd be in the lineup more often?

To say Gorges isn't having much fun right now, would be an understatement.

Rockets representation in WHL Playoffs - Sort Of!


The Kelowna Rockets will be well represented in this years Western Hockey League playoffs.

Or should I say their alumni will be!

Fans of Kelowna born Clayton Bauer will be watching as the Kootenay Ice open a best of seven series with the Calgary Hitmen.

You have to hand it to Bauer for a tremendous season with the Ice.

Dealt to Kootenay for goaltender Daniel Salamandyk this season, the now 20 year-old had 24 goals and 52 points, which for the record would been good enough to lead the Rockets in scoring this season.

Bauer was a power forward with so much potential when he was originally acquired by the Rockets from the Swift Current Broncos, but he never found his groove in K-Town.

Half of the problem revolved around him playing on a team last season which had so much talent among the forwards, that Bauer saw a limited role, and was requested to have more of a defensive mindset when in the back of his mind, he saw himself as a physical force with an offensive upside.

Bauer's new lease on life in Kootenay allowed him to expand his horizons and play more of an offensive game under Head Coach Cory Clouston, while still being responsible defensively with a +16 rating.


Bauer brings 36 playoff games of experience to the Ice this post season, second only to veteran Curtis Billsten, who has 38 post season games played.

Fans will also be watching with interest as three former Rockets, now members of the Regina Pats open their playoff series against Swift Current.

Troy Ofukany, Kirt Hill and Kaspars Saulieitis were sent to the Pats for Jason McDonald, Justin Bernhardt and Kyle St. Denis in a early December deal.


Ofukany ended the regular season with 25 goals, the exact total he scored in two previous seasons with the Rockets when he broke into the league in the 2004-2005 season.

When Ofukany was sent to the Pats in December, he put up 13 goals in 40 games, but had just 4 goals in his final 23 regular season games.
Not exactly stellar numbers heading into the best time of the year.

Ofukany brings with him 36 games of playoff experience though, with all three of his playoff goals over that period coming against Everett in last years Western Conference semi final series.
Kirt Hill didn't set the world on fire when he was obtained by the Pats, putting up just 3 goals in 40 games.
Hill brings just 15 games of playoff experience to the Pats, and just two playoff goals to his credit. Both of those came in an opening round playoff series with Kootenay last March.

Saulietis actually had a pretty good year, scoring 19 goals - 9 with the Rockets and 10 with the Pats.
Seventeen points in 35 games with the Pats has to have coach Curtis Hunt pretty happy.
Now it will interesting to see if he can elevate his play in the playoffs.

Don't forget Derek Yeomans. The 20 year-old will lead the Seattle Thunderbirds into battle against the Tri Americans. The former Rockets goaltender will play in his 34th career playoff game this evening.

Former Rocket Brent Howarth is involved in Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoff hockey. Howarth and the Selkirk Steelers have a 3-0 lead in their division final with the Winnipeg Saints.

Howarth had 49 regular season goals for the Steelers this season, and would like nothing better than to play for a Royal Bank title next month in Prince George.

How interesting it would have been had Howarth hung around for his 20-year old season. How many goals would he have scored with the Rockets as an overage?

Rockets prospect Kyle St. Denis is also alive in the playoffs, all be it as a member of the Vernon Vipers.
St. Denis and the Vipers lead their series 3 games to 1 over Trail, with a possible date with Penticton in the conference final.

St. Denis is a guarantee to play for the Rockets next season.

So while the Rockets failed to advance to the playoffs, it's time to cheer for the players mentioned above, who brought us some exciting moments over the last couple of years at Prospera Place.

As we approach game one of the start of the playoffs tonight, home ice is truly the advantage when it comes to post season play.
Of the 8 opening round playoff series last season, 6 of the 8 games saw the home team the winner on opening night.
The exception last season was Calgary pulling off a one goal win in Lethbridge while Kootenay used overtime in a victory in Kelowna.

In 2005, the home team won game one of the opening round 5 out of the 8 times.

Only one team in the 1st round of last years W.H.L playoffs beat an opponent that had more points than them in the standings.


The Portland Winter Hawks, despite failing to have home ice advantage beat Seattle in 7 games in the opening round.


The Hawks had 4 fewer points than the T-Birds during the regular season, yet provided the upset in round one.
Only two series in last years playoffs went to a game 7.
Portland eliminated Seattle in round one while Moose Jaw used 7 games to dispose of Calgary in round two.

Now - let the games begin!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fedoruk fed his Lunch Again!


You likely caught the highlights of Rangers tough guy Colton Orr knocking out Flyers bruiser Todd Fedoruk Wednesday night.
The former Rocket has taken a beating this season.
Not only was he knocked unconscious in last night’s tilt, but had to have reconstructive surgery on his face after a fight October 27th against Minnesota’s Derek Boogaard.
Fedoruk played 62 games in Kelowna from 1996-1998 before being shipped to the Regina Pats because of off-ice problems which included a drinking problem. He later would get help for alcoholism.
After this latest setback, Fedoruk isn’t sure when he will play again.
“I feel good," he said. "I got a good rest last night. Everything came back, everything was positive, all the tests and stuff like that. I feel good today and I am glad to be back in Philly."
Fedoruk admits he’s fighting a little more tentative after his scrap with Boogaard earlier this season.
“It is just a matter of time until I get back to my style," he said. "I am not really worried about it, but being tentative, you have to put yourself out there and when you change your style a little bit you leave yourself vulnerable and that's what happened to me last night. I am not worried about it. I will get back on track. I have had worse things done to me than this."
What # did Fedoruk wear when he was with the Rockets?
19.
That jersey has since been worn by Chuck Kobasew, Bryan Randall, J.J Hunter, Paul Hurd, Justin Keller and now Dylan Hood.

Remember Kevin Reinholt?
The Rockets number one pick from the 2003 Western Hockey League bantam draft is now 20, can you believe it?
Reinholt played 87 games with the Rockets from 2003 to 2006 before being dealt earlier this season to the Calgary Hitmen where he played just 13 games before being released.
Reinholt spent the rest of this season with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the A.J.H.L and is now in Fort McMurray working as a pipe fitter.
The Tofield, Alberta product is considering University next year, possibly at the U of C.

Looking back at his hockey career, Reinholt can blame bad timing for his lack of success at the W.H.L level.
When he came to the Rockets in 2004, the team was stacked with solid defenseman in Josh Gorges, Shea Weber, Brett Palin, Kyle Cumiskey and Mike Card.
Sure he learned a lot by watching these guys, but he rarely played, and when he did was injured because of a bad shoulder that would continuely pop out.
The injuries hampered his development.
You wonder as a 16 year-old if it would have been better for him to play a year of midget before making his mark with the Rockets one year later?
Hindsight eh!
Reinholt would score just one goal over his major junior career, against Prince George.

Kevin was a lovable guy during his time with the Rockets. Always available for a chat, he was as kind hearted as they came, and even though he was 6’2 and 215 pounds, he never could play the tough man’s game.
He was just too sweet of a guy.

I spoke to Chris Ray’s Mom Roxanne today and it looks like the overage forward will be letting his injured shoulder heal completely, meaning he won’t be joining another team for the remainder of the season.
Chris suggested at the awards banquet he may be interested in joining the Victoria Salmon Kings of the East Coast League for the remainder of the season, but now that looks doubtful.
Had Ray chosen to play for the Salmon Kings he would have joined former Rocket Kiel McLeod, who is the captain there.

I had a heated argument Monday with a buddy of mine that said Marc Habscheid would have done a better job with this group of Rockets this season had he been behind the bench.

While ‘Habby’ was a great motivator, I am not sure even he could have turned this team in a better direction than Truitt did because of all the youth.
I will admit Habscheid wouldn’t have let players off the hook, youth movement or no youth movement.
I remember Habscheid having some frank discussions with players at the front of the bus on many occasions. These were onesided conversations where Habscheid did all the talking and the player was doing all the listening.
A one sided conversation I remember had Habscheid grilling then overage forward Jan Fadrny about his commitment to the team during the late stages of the 2001 season.
Fadrny, a draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was picked up by the Rockets from Brandon early that season and was as good as they came when he put his mind to it.
Fadrny had 32 goals and 77 points in 56 games with the Rockets that season, but had to continually be pressed by Habscheid to play hard, especially in the defensive zone which didn’t interest Fadrny in the least bit.
He’d give it to Fadrny at the front of the bus, threatening him that if he didn’t play hard he’d go directly to Penguins GM Craig Patrick and out-him on his terrible work ethic.
Whether it was true or just intimidating tactics it worked.
Fadrny had 7 points in 6 playoff games that season before the Rockets fell victim to the Seattle Thunderbirds in the opening round.
If only Fadry had Habscheid with him 24-7, he’d likely be playing in the NHL right now.
He had all the skill in the world, but didn’t have the motivation or the heart.
I can still see him now, riding his stick ‘Tiger Williams style’ when he scored 2 goals and had 2 assists in his first game back in Brandon in December of 2000.
It was his first game back in Brandon since the trade, and Fads was loving it in the spotlight.
All Habschied could do was look on in disgust, shaking his head from the Rockets bench.
No matter how much trouble Fadrny was about to get into with his coach, the centre ice antics were well worth it to him.
Let just say since that day, I have never seen a Rockets player ride his stick like that, and likely never will.