Wednesday, December 31, 2008

McColgan Makes Home Debut

Kelowna Rockets fans will get a first hand look at Shane McColgan when the 15 year-old forward makes his home debut against the Spokane Chiefs.
McColgan was the Rockets first round draft pick, 13th overall in the 2008 Western Hockey League bantam draft. He made his WHL debut on December 16 in Red Deer and scored his first WHL goal, a game winner,the following night in Edmonton. This season McColgan is playing with the Los Angeles Junior Kings.
McColgan will be joined by Max Adolph, the Rockets 4th round pick from 2007 bantam draft. This season Adolph is a key contributor for the Saskatoon Contacts ofthe SMAAAHL. Adolph and the Contacts are currently playing at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in Calgary.

Rockets President/General Manager Bruce Hamilton states, “We’ve been short-handed for the last few games. With the addition of Shane and Max we’ll finally have a full line up after we lost three players to the World Juniors. Plus it’ll give our fans a chance to see two very good future Rockets.”

Both McColgan and Adolph will play Friday night against Spokane and Saturday against Moose Jaw.

Red Hot Goaltender Can't Cool Rockets

  • The Rockets faced a red hot goaltender Tuesday night and almost got burned in a 2-1 home ice win. Twenty year-old Kevin Armstrong was nothing short of solid enabling his team to be in a tight game when they had no business being in one. Armstrong, named the games second star, made 39 saves in the setback.
  • If Armstrong keeps up this type of play he may find himself traded to a contender at the WHL trade deadline. Armstrong's rebound control was tremendous and he never overplayed pucks. The sign of a veteran goaltender is one who doesn't move to get in the way of shots that are simply straying wide of the net. Armstrong's quick reflexes on several in-tight chances had you wondering why his save percentage is under .900.
  • It was nice to see Lucas Bloodoff getting on the board with a pair of power play goals. Lucas realizes he will never be a big goal scorer at this level, but the 19 year-old needs to chip in more with Jamie Benn, Kyle St. Denis and Stepan Novotny out of the lineup.
  • How did Colin Long not get a star in last night's win? The best player on the ice outside of Armstrong, Long was able to show the skill we have grown accustomed too yet often take foregranted. Long's 'thread the needle' pass to Bloodoff in the 3rd period was one that won't make the highlight reel, but it was one of the best passes I've seen all season long. It won't make the highlights after Bloodoff ended up shooting the puck wide of the Cougar goal.
  • This game lacked intensity. It took just 2 hours and five minutes to play as both teams showed little animosity for one another. The Rockets liked it that way considering they played a night earlier in Vancouver while the Cougars waited patiently in Kelowna for Tuesday night's game. The Cougars could have made it hard on the home team by playing a greaser game, but the visitors weren't interested.
  • Rookie Adam Brown got the start in goal after veteran Kris Lazaruk became ill after a solid performance the night before in Vancouver. Brown is now 4-0-0-0 against the Cougars this season.
  • Lazaruk wasn't the only Rocket feeling ill. Cody Almond is fighting a bad cold, yet played hard despite it sucking energy out of the veteran forward.
  • The Cougars coaching staff received some positive press when they elected to wear helmets during team practices, yet when I watched the Cougars workout at Prospera Place before the Rockets boarded the bus for Vancouver, all I saw was head coach Wade Klippenstein and assistant Jeff Battah wearing no head gear.
  • Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton was back at his usual perch after spending the last two days in Calgary at the Mac's Midget Hockey Tournament. I spoke to Hamilton in the first intermission and will share that interview with you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Broncos Lose Classy Individual

The resignation of Eldon Moberg as assistant general manager/hockey operations of the Swift Current Broncos may mean little to the average fan, but the move is of interest to me.
I consider Moberg a friend/rival from our days as competitors at radio stations in Swift Current. Moberg was the sports director at the local FM station while I was on the AM dial at CKSW. I often envied Moberg's postion because it included calling the play-by-play of the Swift Current Broncos. Once Moberg left the broadcast booth following the 1994-1995 season to join the Broncos organization in a different capacity, the job opening created a chance for me to cut my teeth at the Western Hockey League level.
The first game I ever called was with Moberg by my side in Kindersley Saskatchewan when the Broncos faced Medicine Hat in an exhibition game. Moberg was my colour man on that night and while my memory is somewhat foggy of that broadcast (thank God), I do remember a compassionate Moberg who knew he was working with a raw rookie yet attempted to make my transition to the air-waves as smooth as could be humanly possible. In the back of his mind he must have been second guessing himself on why he left the broadcast booth with such an incompetent replacement, but again he didn't let it show. It speaks clearly of the quality person Moberg was and is to this day. Many broadcasters would feel intimidated to have an ex-broadcaster in the booth beside them as they tried to fill his shoes, but I felt like Moberg wasn't there to hinder my development but to make me sound better.
Some of my fondest memories was Moberg and I perched above the ice surface at the old Cranbrook Arena watching Chad Beagle fire laser beams at Kootenay Ice goaltender Dan Blackburn during a playoff series in the late 90's. It wasn't necessarily the tremendous action that I remember most between the two teams, but the frigid temperatures inside the building that had us both wearing winter coats and gloves to call the play-by-play.
Those are just some of the memories I take away from my time with Moberg, who I saw sparingly once I moved out West to join the Rockets organization. Now that Moberg has elected to leave the Broncos organization for a local accounting firm, I want to thank him for setting me on the path to a occupation I continue to love some 13 seasons after 'we' called our first game together in Kindersley back in the fall of 1995.
Somethings have changed and somethings remain the same. I believe I am a much better broadcaster since that dreadful day, yet Moberg remains the quality person he was when he guided me that night through my first hockey broadcast.

Thanks Eldon, and good luck in your new venture.

Here is a video taken last night in Vancouver with injured forward Kyle St Denis. I have received several e-mails from blog readers wanting me to add more of these as the season goes on. I'll do my best with the aid of camera man Gord McGarva:

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Giant' Effort Comes Up Short

  • It could be suggested that defenseman Collin Bowman should be wearing the goat horns after this one, but lets remember that there were missed chances at the other end of the ice that were also costly. Sure Bowman’s ill advised cross ice pass was the direct result of the game winning goal by Giants forward Mike Piluso with 2:46 left on the clock, but missed chances such as a two on none between Colin Long and Brandon McMillan in the first period that didn’t even result in a shot on goal was equally as damaging.
  • Bowman may have been a - 2 at the end of the night, but up until his cross ice pass, he was one of the Rockets best defenseman. Bowman and Tysen Dowzak were especially good on the penalty killing unit limiting the Giants to just one power play goal on seven chances.
  • The Rockets power play struck for two goals, but it was the players that scored them that tickled my fancy. Evan Bloodoff was willing to fight for position to deflect a point shot to open the scoring and then Mitchell Callahan’s chip shot at the right of Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith gave the visitors a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
  • If the game was a race between two well conditioned athletes, the Rockets would have won the 100 meter dash while the Giants would have won the marathon. The Rockets were the better team in the opening 20 minutes but the Giants slowly took over the play as the game went on. The shot clock is a good indicator of that. The Giants out-shot the Rockets 29-10 in the final 40 minutes.
  • Kris Lazaruk was acquired to come up big in the ‘big game’, and didn’t disappoint Monday night. Lazaruk, named the games second star, faced 29 shots over the final 40 minutes and had no chance on the tying power play goal from Craig Shira with 8 minutes left in the third or the game winner, which was arguably the ugliest goal of the game.
  • Overall the work ethic displayed Monday night was an extension of what we saw Saturday in a shootout win against Kamloops. Yet this time Mitchell Callahan, Evan Bloodoff and Tysen Dowzak become more involved in the play.
  • I don’t want too, but I have too. The officiating in this game was….not good. Mitchell Callahan getting fingered to the penalty box for goaltender interference midway through the second period was a joke, and the non-call where a Rockets player was tripped and went flying into the air (aka Bobby Orr) with the goaltender pulled and the puck in the Giants zone was laughable. I don’t even want to mention the referee’s names. If you’re interested, check the score sheet.
  • Moose Jaw Warriors GM Chad Lang was watching last night’s game closely. Might he be a seller at the trade deadline? I know of one player the Rockets should watch closely when the Warriors pay a visit Saturday night – overage forward Joel Broda. Broda has 26 goals in 34 games this season. What’s most impressive about Broda’s goal total is only 4 of his 26 are on the power play.
  • In an unrelated note, Claude Lemiuex is attempting to make an NHL comeback at the age of 43 with the San Jose Sharks. It makes me wonder if a much younger Jeff Finley - age 41 - may also consider the bold move? Me thinks not.
  • If Vancouver Giants head coach Don Hay ever submitted his name to coach the Canadian world junior team, would he not automatically be handed the job?

Game Notes vs. Giants

Tonight’s Preview: The Rockets and Giants are meeting for the 4th of 8 times this season. The Rockets are 0-3-0-0 against their BC Division rivals having been out-scored 15-5 in the first three games. This is the Rockets third stop in Vancouver this season after losing previous games by scores of 7-1 and 5-3. The last win for Kelowna at Pacific Coliseum was February 24/08 in a 3-2 shootout win. Overall the Rockets are 4-3-0-0 in their last seven games in Vancouver. Following tonight’s contest these two teams won’t see each other until January 21st in Kelowna. The Rockets are coming off a 4-3 shootout win Saturday night over the Kamloops Blazers. Cody Almond scored the game winner in the shootout. Colin Long (2+1=3) and Brandon McMillan (1+2=3) led the Rockets attack while Kris Lazaruk earned the win in goal. The Rockets out-shot the Blazers 42-14. Excluding three losses to Vancouver this season, the Rockets have out-scored BC Division teams 60-17 and are 11-0-0-0.

Digging Deeper: The Rockets are 3 for 17 (17.6%) on the power play in the three games against the Giants this season. Conversely the Giants are 8 for 21 (38.1%) with the extra man in the three games.

High Five: Kelowna Rockets forward Colin Long registered his 5th – 2 goal game of the season Saturday night against Kamloops. That matches the total he set last season where he registered five-2 goal games. Over his career Long has 11-two goal games.

Four Rockets @ World Juniors: Four members of the Rockets organization are at the world junior hockey championships in Ottawa. Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers are wearing Team Canada colours while athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn is a member of the Team Canada medical staff. Forward Stepan Novotny is playing for the Czech Republic.

Milestones Within Reach:
Evan Bloodoff - 2 games shy of 165 (163 games currently played) – 44 career points
Jamie Benn - two shy of 80 games played (78 games currently played) – 110 career points
Cody Almond - 7 games shy of 200 (193 games currently played) – 129 career points
Dylan Hood – 8 games shy of 150 (142 games currently played) – 39 career points
Lucas Bloodoff – 2 games shy of 175 (172 games currently played) – 76 career points
Brandon McMillan – 5 games shy of 165 (160 games currently played) - 77 career points
Colin Long – 6 shy of 200 games (194 games currently played) – 181 career points
Tyson Barrie – 78 career points
Tysen Dowzak – 1 games shy of 185 (184 games currently played) – 23 career points
Jesse Paradis – 2 games shy of 75 games (73 games currently played)

Noteworthy Digits: Five of Dylan Hood‘s 8 goals this season have been scored on the road. Ten of Lucas Bloodoff’s 18 points this season have been registered on home ice. Of the 52 goals Cody Almond has scored over his career, 25 (48.1%) have been scored on opposition ice. Fifteen of Colin Long’s 19 goals this season have been scored at Prospera Place. Six of Brandon McMillan’s eight goals have been scored this season on the road.

Top Four On Average:
Jamie Benn: Averaging 1.41 points per game over career (Chuck Kobasew averaged 1.13)
Colin Long: Averaging 0.92 points per game over career
Tyson Barrie: Averaging 0.76 points per game over career
Cody Almond: Averaging 0.67 points per game over career

Achieving Personal Best: Three Rockets have already reached personal bests. Colin Bowman has 1+11=12, which is three more points than the 2+7=9 he put up all of last season. Dylan Hood has 8+11=19 this season, which is one point better than the 10+8=18 he put up one season ago. Kyle Verdino has 0+11=11, which is a 7 point improvement from the 0+2=2 he had in his rookie campaign.

Broadcaster Tidbits: Kris Lazaruk has played 131 career games…The Rockets have given up the first goal in four of their last five games and five of their last seven.…Mitchell Callahan leads the Rockets in fighting majors with six. Tyler Myers has 5 fighting majors….The Rockets have scored 6 or more goals – eight times this season. The Rockets have managed to score 6 or more goals three times against the Cougars, with single game outbursts against Kamloops, Kootenay, Everett, Chilliwack and Seattle. Last season the Rockets scored 6 or more goals 12 times… The Rockets are 20-4-0-0 when they score 3 or more goals. The only three games where they’ve scored three or more goals and lost were 4-3 to Calgary, 5-3 to Vancouver, 8-6 to Everett and 7-3 to Lethbridge. The Rockets are 9-6-0-0 in games where they’ve allowed 3 or more goals.


If You’re Wondering? Rockets forward Kyle St. Denis is missing his 21st straight game tonight with a broken wrist. The wrist was broken October 24th against the Chilliwack Bruins. The Rockets are 12-8-0-0 with St. Denis out of the lineup.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • The Rockets will be without Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers for their game Monday night in Vancouver, so should we accept a poor performance against the Giants because of the loss of those two key veterans? Nope. The Giants will be without leading goal scorer Evan Kane and top defenseman Jonathon Blum who are also at the world junior hockey championships. If Giants head coach Don Hay doesn't let his team off the hook, why should Rockets head skipper Ryan Huska.
  • In my opinion 16 year-old Spencer Main may have played his best game in a Rockets uniform Saturday night against Kamloops. Main is a player you often don't notice. That can be a good and a bad thing. Some would suggest as a rookie forward the less you notice him the better. I just thought he was more involved in the play Saturday night which was the result of a little more determination in the offensive zone. Instead of being out muscled in puck battles, Main was winning his share. Let's hope it's a sign of things to come for the likable forward.
  • I spoke glowingly about Brandon McMillan's play Saturday night, and the goal and two assists isn't the statistic that stands out for me. Why I liked McMillan so much Saturday was his willingness to get involved. The statistic that catches my attention is the 4 minutes in penalties. They weren't lazy hooking or holding penalties, but both minor penalties were the result of roughing. Those penalties were a clear indication to me that McMillan wanted to get involved and wanted to make an impact.
  • What has Colin Long meant for the offensive totals of linemate Mitchell Callahan? Since Callahan was put alongside Long, the 17 year-old forward has two goals and 3 assists. That's five points in 7 games.
  • Let's hope the Rockets can get the Giants into a shootout. Kamloops, Prince Albert and Everett have all beaten the Giants this season when a shootout is required.
  • The Giants have lost in regulation to Chilliwack and Tri City.
  • The Giants have not lost in regulation time at home this season. They are 17-0-0-2 and have scored an amazing 5.4 goals a game on home ice. Calgary doesn't even come close at 4.45 goals per game at home.
  • Have you noticed the neck guards being worn by Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers at the world junior hockey championships? All Canadian players are wearing the protective device, but no one wears them in the Western Hockey League. My belief is the neck guards wouldn't be totally foreign to them, considering Benn and Myers must have used them in minor hockey.
  • You'll notice some cool photos being displayed at Manhattan Point Restaurant at Prospera Place. Pictures of several Rockets players like Lucas Bloodoff, Colin Long and Kyle St. Denis are displayed on the wooden pillars looking onto the ice surface from the restaurant. It's a nice added touch.
  • Prompts to the Rockets organization for treating long time hockey fan Adeline McNeil to free tickets for herself and her family to the game against Kamloops on the weekend. McNeil turned 100 years-young December 25th and celebrated with a visit to Prospera Place Saturday night. McNeil even wore a Rockets jersey with #100 on the back. She assured me that when she doesn't attend a Rockets game she is always at the other end listening to the radio broadcast.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shootout Success

  • The Kelowna Rockets' erased a 2-0 first period deficit in a 4-3 home ice shootout win Saturday night at Prospera Place. The Rockets received two power play goals from Colin Long and an even strength marker from Brandon McMillan in the teams 21st win of the season.
  • Three veterans stood out for me Saturday night. Brandon McMillan (1+2=3), Cody Almond (0+0=0) and Colin Long (2+1=3) were at their best. Almond had several shots on goal, won numerous face-offs and played with determination. Funny thing is Almond didn't even register a point, yet was one of the best players on the ice.
  • I suggested on this blog that the Rockets should consider making McMillan a defenseman full time. Can I take back that comment? McMillan was extremely good Saturday night as a forward by initiating body contact and winning loose pucks. Maybe McMillan was just excited playing alongside Colin Long? That or he is determined to elevate his play with the second half of the season quickly approaching.
  • It marked the first time this season the Rockets were forced to decide a game in a shootout. All three of the Rockets shooters scored. Cody Almond was credited with the game winner after beating Blazers goaltender Justin LeClerc with a quick shot blocker side after an attempted poke check. Colin Long and Tyson Barrie were also successful in the shootout, electing to beat the Blazers goaltender on the back hand.
  • LeClerc was full marks for being named a star in this one. The 19 year-old goaltender faced 20 shots in the second period alone. His counterpart, Rockets goaltender Kris Lazaruk, struggled and looked as if the Christmas break hampered his game.
  • Rockets defenseman Tyson Barrie returned to the Rockets lineup Saturday night after missing three games with a concussion. Barrie picked up a power play assist and scored in the shootout but looked a little tentative when body contact was applied.
  • Blazers defenseman Giffen Nyren again impressed. Nyren logs a ton of ice time and doesn't show fatigue. What a great pickup for the Blazers. I also didn't mind 16 year-old Blazers defenseman Brandon Underwood, who loves to get involved physically.
  • Nashville Predators scout Rick Knickle and Ottawa Senators scout Bob Lowes took in the game.
  • Kyle St. Denis is still a month away from returning to the lineup. It's expected St. Denis will have another cast put on his broken wrist in an effort to speed up the healing process.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Game Notes vs. Blazers

Tonight’s Preview: The Rockets and Blazers are meeting for the 4th time this season. The Rockets are 3-0-0-0 having outscored the Blazers 16-6 in the first three games. This is only the second game for the Blazers at Prospera Place this season. On September 27th the Rockets earned a 5-4 win. Following tonight’s game these two teams won’t meet again until January 24th in Kamloops. Tonight the Rockets open a portion of their schedule playing eight of their next nine games on home ice. The only road game over that period is Monday with a date in Vancouver against the Giants. One night later the Rockets open a 7 game home stand against the Prince George Cougars. The Rockets enter tonight’s game coming off a 3-0 win in Edmonton December 17th. Kris Lazaruk made 31 saves in the victory, recording his 6th career shutout and third this season. Fifteen year-old Shane McColgan scored the game winner with his first WHL goal just 37 seconds into the hockey game. The Rockets were 0/5 on the power play while the Oil Kings were 0 for 7. The Oil Kings out-shot the Rockets 31-24.

Beating Up On BC: Excluding three losses to Vancouver this season, the Rockets have out-scored BC Division teams 56-14 and are 10-0-0-0 against those teams.

Looking Deeper: The Rockets three wins this season against the Blazers have been by scores of 5-4, 6-2 and 5-0. Kris Lazaruk has started all three games in goal for the Rockets. The Rockets power play is 8 for 24 in the three games (33.3%).The Rockets have out-scored the Blazers by period:

1 2 3 Total
Rockets: 3 7 6 16
Blazers: 3 1 2 6

Four Rockets @ World Juniors: Four members of the Rockets organization are at the world junior hockey championships in Ottawa. Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers are wearing Team Canada colours while athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn is a member of the Team Canada medical staff. Forward Stepan Novotny is playing for the Czech Republic.

Achieving Personal Best: Three Rockets have already reached personal bests. Colin Bowman has 1+11=12, which is three more points than the 2+7=9 he put up all of last season. Dylan Hood has 8+11=19 this season, which is one point better than the 10+8=18 he put up one season ago. Kyle Verdino has 0+11=11, which is a 7 point improvement from the 0+2=2 he had in his rookie campaign.

Broadcaster Tidbits: Evan Bloodoff has 5 goals after 34 games this season. Last year at this point the 18 year-old had 9 goals after 34 games …Kris Lazaruk has played 130 career games…The Rockets have given up the first goal in four of their last five games and five of their last seven.…Mitchell Callahan leads the Rockets in fighting majors with six. Tyler Myers has 5 fighting majors….The Rockets have scored 6 or more goals – eight times this season. The Rockets have managed to score 6 or more goals three times against the Cougars, with single game outbursts against Kamloops, Kootenay, Everett, Chilliwack and Seattle. Last season the Rockets scored 6 or more goals 12 times… The Rockets are 20-4-0-0 when they score 3 or more goals. The only three games where they’ve scored three or more goals and lost were 4-3 to Calgary, 5-3 to Vancouver, 8-6 to Everett and 7-3 to Lethbridge. The Rockets are 9-6-0-0 in games where they’ve allowed 3 or more goals.

If You’re Wondering? Rockets forward Kyle St. Denis is missing his 20th straight game tonight with a broken wrist. The wrist was broken October 24th against the Chilliwack Bruins. The Rockets are 11-8-0-0 with St. Denis out of the lineup.

Dirty Data

Moving Closer to Milestone:
Evan Bloodoff - 3 games shy of 165 (162 games currently played) – 44 career points
Jamie Benn - two shy of 80 games played (78 games currently played) – 110 career points
Cody Almond - 8 games shy of 200 (192 games currently played) – 129 career points
Dylan Hood – 9 games shy of 150 (141 games currently played) – 39 career points
Lucas Bloodoff – 3 games shy of 175 (172 games currently played) – 76 career points
Brandon McMillan – 6 games shy of 165 (159 games currently played) - 77 career points
Colin Long – 7 shy of 200 games (193 games currently played) – 178 career points
Tyson Barrie – 77 career points
Tysen Dowzak – 2 games shy of 185 (183 games currently played) – 23 career points
Jesse Paradis – 3 games shy of 75 games (72 games currently played)

Noteworthy Digits: Five of Dylan Hood‘s 8 goals this season have been scored on the road. Ten of Lucas Bloodoff’s 18 points this season have been registered on home ice. Of the 52 goals Cody Almond has scored over his career, 25 (48.1%) have been scored on opposition ice. Thirteen of Colin Long’s 17 goals this season have been scored at Prospera Place. Five of Brandon McMillan’s seven goals have been scored this season on the road.

Top three Performers:
Jamie Benn: Averaging 1.41 points per game over career (Chuck Kobasew averaged 1.13)
Colin Long: Averaging 0.92 points per game over career
Tyson Barrie: Averaging 0.76 points per game over career
Cody Almond: Averaging 0.67 points per game over career

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Looks Very Different For Me This Year

(My Mom and Dad at a Phoenix Coyotes game in February)

Christmas looks very different for me this year. For the first time in my 40 years on earth, my Mom won't be at sitting near the Christmas tree nor will she be busy in the kitchen preparing Christmas dinner.
My Mom (Lil) died of a brain tumour in July. She was taken away from us in just 6 short weeks when she was first diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. It would be easy to try to shield myself and my family away from the emotional pain by trying to ignore it, instead replacing the loss with laughter and the gifts that will be enjoyed by our kids and nephew and niece at Christmas. And while their will be lots of that, I thought it would be special for my family to gather around my Mom's grave site Christmas day and read this poem.

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below. With tiny lights, like Heaven's stars, reflecting on the snow. The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear; For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear. But the sounds of music can't compare with the Christmas choir up here. I have no words to tell you the joy their voices bring. For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart. But I am not so far away, we really aren't apart. I cannot tell you of the splendor or the peace inside this place. Can you imagine Christmas with our Savior, face to face?

I will ask him to light your spirit as I tell him of your love. So then pray for one another as you lift your eyes above. So be happy for me, dear ones, you know I hold you dear. And be glad I'm spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I sent you each a special gift, from my heavenly home above. I sent you each a memory of my undying love. After all, love is a gift more precious than pure gold. It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my Father said to do. For I can't count the blessing or love he has for each of you.

So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear. Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

For all of you who have lost a significant person in your life recently, I sympathize greatly with you, especially at this time of the year.
I want to wish the readers of this blog a Merry Christmas, and remind you to love the ones you're with this holiday season. I would have never believed it had you told me that Christmas 2007 would be the last I'd spend with my Mom. Count your blessings, and take it from me, it can all be taken away in a flash.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Kelowna Rockets Christmas Card

A Kelowna Rockets Christmas Card:
www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1050.MP3&nid=848141

Audio of a conversation I had last week with Chicago Black Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville on former player, now Rockets assistant coach Jeff Finley:

www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1120.MP3&nid=848142

It was nice to see 15 year-old Rockets prospect Dillon Simpson join the team on the Rockets recent road trip. Simpson is the son of former NHL'er Craig Simpson:

www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1121.MP3&nid=848145

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • Mr. Obvious will tell you that if Mikael Backlund indeed plays for the Rockets after the world junior hockey championships, Lukas Matejka is the odd man out. With just one point in 24 games, his time in a Rockets uniform would surely be severed. Come to think of it, Matejka's chances to prove himself appear to be slipping away regardless of whether Backlund plays here or not. European draft picks are suppose to be 1st or second line players, not 4th liners.
  • What kind of impact could Backlund make if he joined the Rockets after the Christmas break? Defenseman Duncan Keith played in 37 games after the break, collecting 46 points. Keith was also a +32.
  • What will it take for the Kelowna Rockets to challenge the Vancouver Giants for the Western Conference crown? If the Rockets are a long way off, is it worth making a series of trades just to come close? If Backlund does come to Kelowna, the void of a top six forward has been filled but now the aim would be to obtain a top end defenseman. GM Bruce Hamilton would surely have to part with a first round pick in the bantam draft to get quality in return. Is he willing to go that far with the potential of going through Spokane or Tri City just to get to Vancouver in a possible conference final?
  • In my opinion the Rockets are two players away from challenging Vancouver, yet if the Giants make a significant trade at the deadline that number will obviously increase.
  • Could the Rockets beat the Giants with this current lineup? Yes. In a seven game series? No!
  • The Rockets have played 970 games as the Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets will play their 1000th game in Kelowna February 27th in Red Deer..the site where the team won it's first ever WHL championship. The Rockets franchise is closing in on 500 wins during it's time in Kelowna. The Rockets have 490 victories. Overall the franchise has 635 wins since it was born in 1991-92 as the Tacoma Rockets.
  • My favorite NHL team is now the Chicago Black Hawks. Why? Those ten Western Hockey League players have everything to do with it. What makes me feel old, yet privileged is to say that I have been able to broadcast games involving all ten of those players at the junior level. Yes even 31 year-old Brent Sopel is on that list. Sopel was with the Swift Current Broncos when I was cutting my teeth as the play-by-play caller of the Broncos in the late 90's.
  • I was going through several video tapes the other night and stumbled across one where I am calling the play-by-play between the Swift Current Broncos and Portland Winter Hawks. I want to publicly ask the listeners in Swift Current for forgiveness. At the time you don't realize how bad you were until you listen 10 years later. Maybe I'll listen to what I am doing 10 years from now and think the same thing?
  • Going back to Rexall Place was a thrill. I watched my first ever NHL game in that building as a teenager when my uncle took me to watch some young guy named Wayne Gretzky face the LA Kings. What do I remember most about that game? The public address announcer at the start of the game saying "Led by Grant Fuhr, your Edmonton Oilers." That same announcer I believe is still at the helm almost 30 years later.
  • At the time I knew it as Northlands Coliseum, which was built in 1974. It received a 14 million dollar reno in 1994. Yet I swear the blue seats in the upper deck at Rexall Place are the same as when I took in my first NHL game in the 80's. The club seats are new, but in the upper deck the seats are those run of the mill wooden type.
  • The broadcast booths at Rexall Place all have glass sliding doors, basically like you'd find as you go onto an outdoor deck.

Damage To Knee Extensive for Dana

The damage to Team Canada forward Dana Tyrell's knee is worse than many people had suggested.
CKPG Sports Director Al Bristowe spoke to the Prince George Cougars forward Sunday morning where the 19 year-old told him he's is done for the season with damage to both the ACL/MCL. He'll need surgery on his ACL.
Tyrell will spend Christmas at home in Airdrie instead of with Team Canada, but they did tell him he's still a big part of the team and might bring him back for the medal round.

Thanks to Al Bristowe for the update.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is Backlund Joining the Rockets?

This article was in the Calgary Sun this morning. This would be huge.

A story out of Sweden -- at least if you read a translation by Google -- says Flames top prospect Mikael Backlund has been threatened with being kicked off his men's league team for poor play.
Flames GM Darryl Sutter didn't want to comment on the record about it at last night's game in Minnesota.
Nor did Backlund's agent, Calgary-based J.P. Barry, who said he wanted to look into the story further to find out what's going on, since the translated version and word of mouth from people he knows overseas didn't clear up the matter.
Backlund, who'll soon be in Ottawa with his country's entry for the world juniors, has only four goals and four assists for his team. He is playing in a third-line role despite an excellent performance in the playoffs last year.
According to a source, it's the Flames that aren't happy with how little the talented centre has been used, losing ice time to men simply because team officials believe Backlund intends to play in North America next season.
Sutter said that wasn't the case.
Still, don't be surprised if Backlund decides he doesn't want to return to Sweden after the world juniors and opts to play junior in Canada, where the Kelowna Rockets hold his rights.

Barrie Named To Prospects Roster


Rockets defenseman Tyson Barrie will play in the CHL Top Prospects Game January 13th and 14th in Oshawa Ontario. Here is the conversation I had with Barrie last night in Edmonton, in advance of the roster being announced:

www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1106.MP3&nid=846275

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

McColgan Makes Impact


  • It didn’t take Shane McColgan long to make an impression with his new team. The 15 year-old Manhattan Beach resident scored the game winner just 37 seconds into the first period in the Rockets' 3-0 win Wednesday over the Edmonton Oil Kings.

  • Here is the goal, as called by Team 1260's A.J Jakubec. www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2Frockets_goal_1.mp3&nid=845848

  • McColgan’s goal wasn’t one of beauty, but, like he said in our post game interview, they all count. www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1117.MP3&nid=845840

  • The Rockets sealed the game with empty-net goals from Dylan Hood and Cody Almond. It was Almond's first goal in 9 games and Hood's 2nd in 9 games.

  • Kris Lazaruk was solid as he played in his hometown of Edmonton. The Rockets' veteran goaltender made 31 saves for his 3rd shutout of the season. Lazaruk was named the game's first star.

  • The win snapped a three game losing streak and sent the Rockets into the Christmas break with 20 wins.

  • Before last night’s game, the Rockets' top four players had 6 goals combined in the last 7 games. Long, Almond, Lucas Bloodoff, Dylan Hood and Brandon McMillan were a part of that group.

  • After watching Brandon McMillan this weekend, is he not a better defenceman than a forward? I’m no coach, but I’d want to think twice about putting him up front with the way he played in three games this weekend.

  • Special thanks to Guy Flaming from the Team 1260 in Edmonton for bringing me a toque before the game. Man, could I have used that baby three days ago when the windchill in Edmonton made it feel like -39.

  • The players departed for their homes following the game. Most of them flew out of Edmonton. The only players remaining on the bus back to Kelowna were Cody Almond, Evan and Lucas Bloodoff, Brandon McMillan and Dylan Hood.

  • Rick McMillan will have a better appreciation for the Rockets bus. The father of Brandon McMillan made the trek back to the Okanagan with us.

  • Derek Yeomans took in Wednesday’s game. The former Rockets goaltender is now with the University of New Brunswick. Yeomans lives in nearby St. Albert.

  • Anaheim Ducks assistant coach Newell Brown came in to pick up his son Adam. Adam Brown is a rookie goaltender for the Rockets this season.

  • If Tyson Barrie is not invited to the Top Prospects Game, something is wrong. The roster will be announced Thursday in Oshawa, Ontario. The game will be played in Oshawa, January 14th.

Shane McColgan Pre-Game

If you missed the interview on our broadcast on AM-1150, here is the conversation I had with 15 year-old Shane McColgan prior to his WHL debut Tuesday against Red Deer:

www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1098.MP3&nid=845667

Duncan Keith Convo


My conversation with Chicago Black Hawks d-man Duncan Keith prior to Tuesday's matchup against the Edmonton Oilers.

www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1095.MP3&nid=845666

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rockets' Losing Streak Reaches 3 Games

  • Rockets’ No. 1 bantam pick Shane McColgan was all the talk heading into Tuesday night’s game in Red Deer, but it was the Rockets’ 11th round selection from the 2007 draft that stood out. Sixteen year-old Brett Bulmer showed why he is third in BC Midget League scoring with a solid effort in just his second career WHL game.
  • What impressed me most about Bulmer was his willingness to get involved. Bulmer wasn’t timid in battling for loose pucks in the corners or along the boards. Often younger players don’t exhibit a high battle level when playing against older, stronger players. Bulmer’s ability to battle and create scoring chances has me wondering why he was overlooked by so many teams before the Rockets stole him in round 11.
  • If you don't think an 11th round pick in the bantam draft can make an impact, you may want to speak to Colin Long.
  • Don’t get me wrong, McColgan didn’t disappoint in his WHL debut. Playing on a line with Colin Long and Mitchell Callahan, the ‘American Express’ line was born. McColgan had no less than three shots on goal and obviously shows some creativity in the offensive zone. Is he a keeper? Darn rights!
  • For the second straight game rookie Curt Gogol began the game on defense and was switched to forward. Brandon McMillan was again called into action to help control things on the blue line and handled himself very well.
  • Cody Almond didn’t score, but showed some improved jump from Sunday’s sluggish affair.
  • Adam Brown was almost as good as his counterpart at the other end. The Rockets rookie goaltender had no chance on the only goal he allowed less than four minutes into the game.
  • Say goodbye to the BC Division title. The Giants now have a 21 point lead on the Rockets for first place in the division. My question isn’t whether the Giants will win the division, but will the Giants lose more than 10 games this season?
  • Evan Bloodoff is now the only Rockets player that will be able to play in all 72 games this season. Bloodoff’s main rival, Stepan Novotny, missed last night’s game against the Rebels as he pursues a spot on the Czech national junior team. Bloodoff is the only Rocket to dress in all 33 games this season.
  • Who was the last Rocket to dress for all 72 regular season games? Colin Long was the only Rocket to play in all 72 games last season.
  • Tyson Barrie took the pre-game skate but did not play. Barrie is recovering from a concussion.
  • Fifteen year-old Dillon Simpson accompanied the Rockets to Red Deer. Simpson is still deciding on whether he will play junior or head to college. The fact he was on the bus has to be a positive sign.
  • Kristofer Westblom took in last night’s game. The former Rocket goaltender was in attendance as his mother conducted some business in Edmonton. Westblom is playing Canadian college hockey this season with the Acadia Axemen.

Blogging From The Bus

  • I can’t believe this is coming out of my mouth, but it was a great day in Edmonton. Why? It wasn’t as cold as it’s been the last few days, but the main reason was the ability to attending the morning skate for both the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Black Hawks. The Hawks workout was my main focus, considering they have 10 former Western Hockey League players on their roster, including former Rocket Duncan Keith.
  • After the Hawks morning skate Doyle Potenteau and I went down to the Hawks dressing room where I spoke with Keith in an interview that will air in the first intermission of tonight’s game in Red Deer. It’s hard to fathom that Keith is already into his 6th season of pro, including five with the Hawks. Our conversation centers around his involvement with the Rockets in winning the 2003 WHL title in the place we are headed to tonight – Red Deer.
  • Speaking of Doyle Potenteau, he was busy interviewing several Hawks who have links to the WHL. Players like Cam Barker (Med Hat), Colin Fraser (Red Deer), Dustin Byfuglien (Prince George) and Troy Brouwer (Moose Jaw) will be featured in a story he is working on as we speak. Look for it in the Daily Courier tomorrow. I have given the Hawks the name ‘Team WHL’ for the Western Canada flavor they have on this year’s team. And to think the Hawks are the youngest team in the NHL. Why are they having such a good season? Question answered.
  • I even spent a few minutes talking one-on-one with Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville. Why? I wanted to hear from the veteran coach about his influence on the playing career of current Rockets assistant Jeff Finley. Finley has often talked glowingly about his former coach, as Quenneviille guided the ship when Finley was with the St Louis Blues.
  • During the morning skate I spotted TSN’s Chris Cuthbert up in the stands. I had to say hello, so ventured up to shake the hand of the veteran broadcaster. As I approached I noticed that colour analyst Ray Ferraro was sitting right behind him, so introduced myself to both of them. I will admit I did little talking with Cuthbert as Ferraro is not scared to open his mouth and talk. That’s the sign of a good colour guy isn’t it? They seem to all have the same trait – the gift to gab.
  • What impressed me about Ray Ferraro was his knowledge of the WHL. Sure his 17 year-old son is a Red Deer Rebel, but Ferraro was speaking about players out West that only the astute hockey fan knowns about. I left my encounter with Ferraro extremely impressed by the passion he has for the game, and the willingness to talk openly about it.
  • What’s the benefit of being an Edmonton Oil King? You get a chance to see NHL players on a daily basis. During the Oilers' workout several members of the Oil Kings, including former Rockets Torrie Jung and Brett Breitkruez, were taking in the action. Both players stopped by and said hello.
  • I still don’t get the media scrum. The scrum is where all the media converge on one player with microphones and camera’s pointed firmly in his face. I guess it accomplishes the goal of getting a sound bite (a quick comment) from the player, but I waited until everyone moved away from the player to have a one-on-one conversation. As an example, a throng of cameras were in the face of Hawks forward Patrick Kane. Once the dust settled, a radio guy from the Team 1260 in Edmonton calmly sat down beside the Hawks leading scorer and likely had a great interview.
  • The odd sight of the day? A visit to a nearby Starbucks had me running into a gentlemen ( I use that loosely) riding a bike with roller blades on. Considering it was minus 15 outside and the streets and sidewalks in downtown Edmonton are snow/ice covered, it wasn’t the best mode of transportation. To make matters worse the knucklehead didn’t have a helmet.
  • A good article in the Edmonton Sun today about Colin Long getting snubbed by U.S.A Hockey. The article, written by a Calgary reporter, is amazed Long isn't off to the world juniors. You're preaching to the choir buddy, you're preaching to the choir.
  • If I don't get a cold on this trip I will be amazed. I don't dare turn around as I sit on the bus on our trip to Red Deer, but it sounds like a grizzly bear a few seats back. Lets just say its a nasty sounding cough. Where's my Sars mask anyway? Anyone have some anti bacterial hand wash? Am I a germ - a - phobe? Absolutely.

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Shane McColgan

10) McColgan started skating when he was 2 and a half and played defense for four seasons before moving to forward.

9) McColgan should be eligible for dual citizenship. His grandmother is Canadian and lives in Saskatoon. His mother Kelly moved to Saskatoon at a young age and competed in swimming. She missed out on swimming for Canada internationally.

8) His favorite team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. The reason? Two words - Sydney Crosby.

7) McColgan was born on the same day as his father - January 1st. McColgan's mother was going to call him Jake, but changed it to his fathers name - Shane - considering they were born on the same day.

6) McColgan's dad owns two bars in Los Angeles. Those two bars are located in Hermona Beach and Manhattan Beach.

5) What's his nickname? He is usually called 'Pup' because he is always the youngest player on the team because of his date of birth. 'Pup' or 'Mac' suits him fine.

4) What are the benefits of playing hockey in LA? You get to skate with actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. McColgan says he skated with the Jerry McGwire star once a week.

3) McColgan's dad played lacrosse and football, so athleticism runs in the family.

2) McColgan has a younger brother named Luke. The 14 year-old also plays hockey.

1) McColgan is looking forward to getting his license when he turns 16. He has his drivers test scheduled for February 20th.

  • You will have to excuse Rockets assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert if he reflects on one of the biggest night's in Kelowna Rockets history. Cuthbert will return for the first time to the place where he helped the Rockets win their first WHL championship. It was May 10, 2005 when the Rockets beat the Rebels 2-0 in game six of the league final in Red Deer to capture the franchises first title.
  • Cuthbert had a chance to meet a former teammate at Rexall Place Monday when he ran into Edmonton Oilers tough guy Steve MacIntrye. The two were teammates with the East Coast Hockey League's Charlotte Checks in 2003-2004.
  • This feature airs five days a week on AM-1150. Here is Tuesday's feature with Shane McColgan. www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1094.MP3&nid=844655
  • I heard a good quote today. 'Team Work Makes The Dream Work'.
  • Tis the season. The first of a series of Christmas messages that is running on our Rockets roadcasts starting Tuesday night. Here is a sample. www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1047.MP3&nid=844656

Rockets Game Notes vs. Rebels

Tonight’s Preview: The Rockets and Rebels are meeting twice this season. Following tonight’s game the Rockets will again travel to Red Deer February 27th. The Rebels won’t visit Prospera Place this season. Tonight’s game is the first visit to Red Deer since January 27/07 when the Rockets wound up losing 2-0. James Reimer made 25 saves in the victory. The Rockets also fell 4-2 to the Rebels in a game earlier that season. On December 16/06 Brett Breitkreuz and Justin Bernhardt scored in the two goal loss. The last Rockets win in Red Deer came December 31/05 in a 3-1 victory. Clayton Bauer had a goal and an assist in the win. The Rockets had a three game road winning streak come to an end with a 4-3 loss in Calgary Sunday afternoon. Lucas Bloodoff, Stepan Novotny and Dylan Hood scored for the Rockets, who out-shot the Hitmen 25-21. Overall the Rockets have won 7 of their last 10 games. Tonight’s game is the second of three straight road games. The Rockets are in Edmonton tomorrow night. Following the Christmas break the team is back on the ice – at home – against the Kamloops Blazers on December 27th.

Team Canada: Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers have been selected to represent Canada at the world junior hockey championships in Ottawa. It’s the 7th time this decade that a Rockets representative has been named to that team. Rockets athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn is also on Team Canada’s medical staff. Who was the last Rockets player to play for Canada at the world juniors? Luke Schenn.

Stepan It Up: Rookie forward Stepan Novotny is in Brampton Ontario for the Czech Republic training camp for the upcoming world junior hockey championships. Novotny is one of 40 players attending the camp.

WHL Debut: Rockets 1st round bantam pick Shane McColgan makes his WHL debut tonight against the Rebels. McColgan was selected 13th overall in the 2008 draft and was the only American selected in round one. McColgan is just 15 years old and plays with the LA Junior Kings.

Call The Recruits: Sixteen year-old Brett Bulmer joined the team Monday for games tonight and Wednesday in Edmonton. Bulmer was an 11th rounder in 2007. Bulmer is 3rd in BC Major Midget League scoring with 19+15=34 in 22 games.

Who’s Hot: Colin Long has points in 10 of his last 11 games. Long has 3+13=16 over that period. Long is playing in his 192nd career game tonight. Cody Almond has 5+4=9 in his last nine games, yet hasn’t scored in 7 games. Almond is playing in his 191st career game tonight. Mitchell Callahan has 4 goals in his last seven games. Brandon McMillan has goals in two of his last four games. Dylan Hood’s goal Sunday against Calgary was his first in 7 games.

If You’re Wondering? Rockets forward Kyle St. Denis is missing his 18th straight game tonight with a broken wrist. The wrist was broken October 24th against the Chilliwack Bruins. The Rockets are 10-7-0-0 with St. Denis out of the lineup.

Broadcaster Tidbits: The Rockets have given up the first goal in three straight and four of their last five. The Rockets have not been shut out this season. The Rockets are 3-3-0-0 in six games against Central Division teams this season. The Rockets three wins came against Lethbridge, Edmonton and Kootenay and the two losses were to Lethbridge and Medicine Hat…Mitchell Callahan leads the Rockets in fighting majors with six. Tyler Myers has 5 fighting majors….The Rockets have scored 6 or more goals – eight times this season. The Rockets have managed to score 6 or more goals three times against the Cougars, with single game outbursts against Kamloops, Kootenay, Everett, Chilliwack and Seattle. Last season the Rockets scored 6 or more goals 12 times… The Rockets are 19-3-0-0 when they score 3 or more goals. The only three games where they’ve scored three or more goals and lost were 5-3 to Vancouver, 8-6 to Everett and 7-3 to Lethbridge. The Rockets are 9-5-0-0 in games where they’ve allowed 3 or more goals.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oilers Coach At Rockets Practice


  • The Rockets practiced this afternoon at Rexall Place. The home of the Edmonton Oilers is regarded as the best ice surface in hockey.
  • Three new faces were on the ice this afternoon working out with the team. Shane McColgan was joined by Brett Bulmer and Dillon Simpson. McColgan is the Rockets first round pick from this summers draft while Simpson was selected in the 8th round. Bulmer was an 11th rounder in 2007. McColgan and Bulmer will play tomorrow night against the Rebels.
  • Simpson is the son of former NHL'er Craig Simpson. Simpson is playing midget hockey this season with the South Side Athletic Club in Edmonton. In speaking to the 15 year-old defenseman, he has yet to decide if he will play junior or look at U.S college hockey. Simpson's dad played college at Michigan State.
  • Colin Long was practicing on a line with Mitchell Callahan and Shane McColgan. Maybe the 'California Connection' or 'American Express' line will exist?
  • Oilers head coach Craig McTavish watched the Rockets workout. Mac-T even had some time to sit down for a quick interview which I will share on tomorrow nights broadcast. MacTavish owns two properties in the Okanagan and can be seen hanging out in Kelowna with his family during the summer. www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1090.MP3&nid=844562
  • The Rockets were treated to a tour of the Edmonton Oilers dressing room after practice. I had a chance to get a sneak peek prior to the Rockets workout, and to say the dressing room is nothing short of impressive is an understatement. It's been suggested that the Oilers spent 3 million dollars to upgrade the dressing room, and it shows. As you enter the room you see five replica Stanley Cups in a glass case, with room for a 6th. All I can say is Sheldon Souray uses a big stick while Ales Hemsky works surprisingly with a small instrument. Insert joke here.
  • I am not sure who I like more, Shane McColgan or his father? Shane McColgan Sr. accompanied his son to Edmonton where they will spend the next few days with the team. I will post "Ten things you don't know about Shane McColgan" tomorrow morning. Shane and I sat down for an interview in the lobby today. A portion of our conversation will be posted later.
  • You can't stop in Edmonton without going to the West Edmonton Mall. The players made a stop there this afternoon, so family and friends, these guys should have no excuses for coming home for Christmas empty handed.
  • Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton isn't impressed with some of his veteran players. Check out the audio when I asked him if some need to step it up. www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1092.MP3&nid=844564

Note

Portions of an interview I conducted with Tyler Myers can be heard on newscasts throughout the afternoon on AM-1150. www.am1150.ca

Benn and Myers Make Team Canada


For the 7th time this decade the Kelowna Rockets have a representative on the Canadian world junior team. Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers were both named to the team earlier today.
I spoke to Jamie Benn about being one of just 22 players selected to the squad. Forgive me for the poor quality of the interview as it was conducted by phone in my hotel room in Edmonton.

www.am1150.ca/player/player?mediapath=&type=mp3&fi=files%2Fam1150%2Fsrimedia%2FR09_1083.MP3&nid=844376

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One Bounce Away From Possible Upset?

  • If it wasn’t for a bad bounce at the side of the Calgary Hitmen net with under a minute left in regulation time, the Rockets would have certainly be headed to overtime against the top team in the WHL. Instead forward Cody Almond – who was situated at the right side of the net untouched - saw the puck hit his stick and go awkwardly into the corner. In the end the Hitmen held on for a 4-3 home ice win. The Hitmen have lost just once in 19 home games.
  • The Rockets out-shot the Hitmen 16-3 in the third period and out-shot them 25-21 in the game. It was only the 6th time this season the Hitmen have been out-shot and snapped a streak of 17 straight games where the Hitmen have out-shot the opponent.
  • Two key face-off wins inside the Hitmen’s zone by forward Colin Long with the goaltender pulled gave his team a chance at the tie.
  • Colin Long led the Rockets with 4 shots on goal. Jason MacDonald led the Hitmen against his old team also with 4 shots on net.
  • The Rockets played this one without defenseman Tyson Barrie. Barrie is out with a concussion and is questionable for Tuesday’s game in Red Deer.
  • While the coaching staff would have preferred to see a sense of urgency for a full 60 minutes, realistically could that have been attainable with just 16 skaters? The fact that the Rockets erased two – two goal deficits and had a chance to tie the game despite a depleted lineup shows the character of this team. Had the coaches been offered that deal before the start of the game they would have surely taken it.
  • The third period is a good indication that if you are willing to compete and outwork the opposition, you can beat a team with superior skill.
  • The loss snapped the Rockets road winning streak at three games. The Hitmen have now won 12 straight on home ice.
  • The Rockets went with five defenseman to start the game. The coaching staff elected to make a change after rookie Curt Gogol was on the ice for both of the Hitmen’s first period goals. Forward Brandon McMillan was relegated to defense while Gogol was moved up front. The change benefited both players.
  • Of the five defenseman the Rockets used in the game, four were just 17. The elder statesman was 20 year-old Tysen Dowzak. The Hitmen countered with a 20 year-old, two 19 year-olds, an 18 year-old and a 17 and 16 year-old.
  • You have to excuse Collin Bowman for feeling a little like Luke Schenn. Bowman had to wear Schenn’s old number 5 after his home jersey was left in the Rockets dressing room back in Kelowna.
  • The Rockets will pick up Shane McColgan from the airport in Edmonton Sunday night. The 15 year-old will make his WHL debut Tuesday in Red Deer. McColgan will wear sweater #18. The last Rocket to wear that number was Jason MacDonald, who scored the game winner Sunday in the Hitmen victory.
  • We should learn Monday on whether Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers will be apart of Team Canada for the upcoming world junior team.
  • Rockets rookie defenseman Curt Gogol played in front of family in his hometown of Calgary. Curt and mom and dad are getting away from the cold weather at Christmas as they head out on vacation to Costa Rica.

Rockets Game Notes vs. Hitmen

Tonight’s Preview: The Rockets and Hitmen are meeting for the first of just two times this season. The Rockets last visit to the Saddledome was January 28/07 in a 5-1 loss. Brodie Dupont and Keegan Dansereau each had a goal and an assist in the win. The loss came on the heels of a 4-3 overtime loss December 15/06. Ryan White scored the game winner just 6 seconds into overtime. Only seven players on the Rockets current roster have played a game in Calgary. Cody Almond, Brandon McMillan, Tysen Dowzak, Dylan Hood, Evan and Lucas Bloodoff and Colin Long have played in his building. The Rockets last win in Calgary came December 30/05 in a 3-2 overtime victory. Justin Keller scored the game winner on the power play at the 3:13 mark of overtime. The Rockets are 5-4-0-0 with one tie in their last ten visits to Calgary dating back to the start of the 2000-2001 season. The Rockets are coming off a 3-1 loss to Swift Current Friday night. Colin Long scored the lone goal after the Broncos built up a 3-0 lead. While the Rockets out-shot the Broncos 14-2 in the third period they could not solve goaltender Travis Yonkman. Overall the Rockets have won 7 of their last 9 games. Tonight’s game is the first of three straight road games. The Rockets are in Red Deer Tuesday before making a stop in Edmonton Wednesday. Following the Christmas break the team is back on the ice – at home – against the Kamloops Blazers on December 27th.

Calgary Connection: Two members of the Rockets have connections with Calgary. Rookie Curt Gogol were born and raised in the city while 19 year-old Cody Almond also made Calgary home for a good portion of his life. Almond now calls Kelowna home after his family moved to the Okanagan three years ago.

Big Mac: Hitmen forward Jason MacDonald is familiar with the Rockets organization. The 19 year-old forward was part of a six player trade the Rockets made with Regina two seasons ago. MacDonald was acquired along with Justin Bernhardt and Kyle St. Denis from the Pats. MacDonald played 40 games for the Rockets before being released. He would eventually land in Kootenay before cracking the Hitmen lineup this season.

Three Amigo’s Head East: Three members of the Kelowna Rockets are in Ottawa for Team Canada’s training camp in preparation for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships. Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers are two of 38 players vying for a spot on this year’s team while Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn is a member of the Team Canada medical staff.

Stepan It Up: Rookie forward Stepan Novotny will leave after today’s game in an effort to make the Czech Republic world junior team. Novotny is one of 40 players attending an evaluation camp in Brampton Ontario.

Call In The Recruits: The Rockets will be calling up forwards Shane McColgan and Brett Bulmer. McColgan was the Rockets 1st round pick in 2008 while Bulmer was an 11th rounder in 2007. McColgan will make his WHL debut Tuesday in Red Deer while Bulmer dressed for the Rockets in a 2-1 loss in Portland September 21st. Bulmer is 4th in BC Major Midget League scoring with 15+14=29 in 20 games.

Benn and Myers: Jamie Benn has never competed internationally for Canada. Myers has played for Canada at the Under 18 Championship, under current world junior coach Pat Quinn. Thorburn isn’t the first Rockets athletic therapist to be named to Team Canada. Scott Hoyer was a part of Team Canada’s staff in 2002 under then head coach Marc Habscheid.

Who’s Hot: Colin Long has points in 9 of his last 10 games. Long has 3+12=15 over that period. Long is playing in his 191st career game tonight. Cody Almond has 5+4=9 in his last eight games. Almond is playing in his 190th career game tonight. Lucas Bloodoff’s goal last Saturday was his first in 7 games. Mitchell Callahan has 4 goals in his last six games. Brandon McMillan has goals in two of his last three games.

If You’re Wondering? Rockets forward Kyle St. Denis is missing his 17th straight game tonight with a broken wrist. The wrist was broken October 24th against the Chilliwack Bruins. The Rockets are 10-6-0-0 with St. Denis out of the lineup.

Broadcaster Tidbits: The Rockets are 3-2-0-0 in five games against Central Division teams this season. The Rockets three wins came against Lethbridge, Edmonton and Kootenay and the two losses were to Lethbridge and Medicine Hat…Mitchell Callahan leads the Rockets in fighting majors with six. Tyler Myers has 5 fighting majors….The Rockets have scored 6 or more goals – eight times this season. The Rockets have managed to score 6 or more goals three times against the Cougars, with single game outbursts against Kamloops, Kootenay, Everett, Chilliwack and Seattle. Last season the Rockets scored 6 or more goals 12 times… The Rockets are 19-3-0-0 when they score 3 or more goals. The only three games where they’ve scored three or more goals and lost were 5-3 to Vancouver, 8-6 to Everett and 7-3 to Lethbridge. The Rockets are 9-5-0-0 in games where they’ve allowed 3 or more goals.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tough Love Needed

This is the back of the Rockets bus as we arrived at the hotel this morning. The Rockets logo and license plate are covered by snow.
The Rockets practiced at the Saddledome this afternoon. This is the video scoreboard high above the ice surface. This is one of the higher end scoreboards, but still can't match the new one that fans enjoy at Toronto Maple Leaf home games.
How cold is it in Calgary? The masked man is Stepan Novotny pictured here with Lukas Matejka. video
A quick video from this afternoon's workout in Calgary.

Notes:
  • Sometimes tough love is need from the coaching staff towards the players. At practice this afternoon coach Huska had the players skating briskly to put it nicely. Let's just say the players will sleep well tonight after getting a good workout.
  • Both Tyson Barrie and Kyle St. Denis did not practice with the team today. Barrie is out with what could be a mild concussion after receiving an elbow in the head in Friday night's game. St. Denis had his cast taken off his wrist Friday but told me he will be getting another MRI as the break hasn't healed properly. That means St. Denis will get a new cast meaning we won't see him until late January at the earliest.
  • I had a chance this afternoon to take a peak inside the Calgary Flames dressing room. Why no pictures? I just didn't think it was right to snap a couple of pics without getting permission. Did I leave the dressing room going wow? Not really. In fact I was kinda unimpressed.
  • The Saddledome is buzzing as the Rockets and Chilliwack Bruins are both using dressing rooms there. The Bruins face the Hitmen tonight while the Rockets face Calgary tomorrow afternoon. The Bruins are situated a few doors down from the Rockets in the WHL visitors dressing room. The Rockets are the big winners, as they are using the NHL dressing room for the visiting teams. What's the difference you ask. Size. The Rockets dressing room is huge.

Welcome to Calgary

Minus 21.5...good morning! It took 7 and a half hours to reach our destination. How did I sleep? Don't ask.

A Lump Of Coal As A Pre-Christmas Gift

  • The Kelowna Rockets were hoping to give their fans an early gift with a win in their final home game before the Christmas break, but instead of a victory they were handed a lump of coal instead. The Swift Current Broncos scored three times in the second period and then clamped down defensively in the third (they were out-shot 14-2) in a 3-1 win.
  • The Broncos are just the fourth team to beat the Rockets at Prospera Place this season. They join the likes of Saskatoon, Brandon and Vancouver in that elite group. It's interesting that three of those losses have come to the hands of Eastern Division team.
  • Rockets head coach Ryan Huska didn’t mince words on the AM-1150 post-game show when he said many of his players showed that they “didn’t give a rats ass” in evaluating the effort put forth Friday night. Huska pointed out that Colin Long and Brandon McMillan were two bright spots in a disappointing effort.
  • If the Rockets were looking at using the ‘No Benn-No Myers Card’ they played it on the first night with those two key players out of the lineup. The Rockets had no jump, no jam, and looked like a team that was playing their third road game in four nights with a great degree of travel along the way.
    One problem though.
    It was the visitors that were in that predicament. It was the home team that should have been fresh and ready to expend some energy in an effort to win their 20th game of the season.
  • Broncos goaltender Travis Yonkman is quoted as saying on the Broncos website that he enjoys playing games in Kelowna because he likes performing in front of a big crowd. Yonkman’s love affair for Prospera Place showed, as the veteran netminder made some terrific saves including taking what appeared to be two goals away from Brandon McMillan. If Yonkman can play like that consistently the Broncos may want to think twice about moving the Saskatoon resident at the deadline. I am not saying they will, but with four overage players on their roster something has to give.
  • While Yonkman was arguably the best player on the ice for both teams, you can’t take away the solid effort put in by Rockets goaltender Kris Lazaruk. I thought Lazarak made some nice saves and had no chance on a laser beam wrist shot that Matt Tassone took to open up the scoring.
  • Tyson Barrie was hurt in the 3rd period of last nights game after cutting towards the net and getting a shot away before getting what appeared to be elbowed in the head. Barrie was helped off the ice by his teammates and will likely be a game time decision Sunday against Calgary.
  • Stepan Novotny played on a line Colin Long and Mitchell Callahan. Novotny will play Sunday in Calgary before leaving for Brampton Ontario, the site of the Czech Republics world junior evaluation camp. Close to 40 players will be battling for a spot on the team.
  • I often like to point out two players from the opposition that I liked, as I believe more than just Rockets fans gravitate to this blog site. The two Broncos outside of those you’ll find on the score sheet last night that caught my eye were 17 year-olds Joel Rogers and forward Taylor Vause. Don’t crucify me Bronco fans if these two have been disappointments this season, but Rogers made two significant hits including sending Rockets forward Evan Bloodoff flying with a well executed hip check in the first period. I just loved Vause’s willingness to complete. For a kid that weighs just 158 pounds, he worked his tail off at both ends of the ice.
  • The Rockets traveled to Calgary after the game for the start of three games in four nights prior to the Christmas break. You can’t blame rookies Curt Gogol and Aaron Borejko for being excited to board the bus. The two defenseman are Calgary residents. Even veteran goaltender Kris Lazaruk gets to play in his hometown when the Rockets close out the road trip Wednesday in Edmonton.