Monday, November 19, 2012

Notes and quotes from the weekend

  • Stellar goaltending was the common theme in two games involving the Kelowna Rockets and Tri City Americans this weekend. Americans netminder Eric Comrie was a significant reason why the Americans were able to escape with two home ice wins. The 17 year-old made 83 of 87 stops over two games helping his team to identical 3-2 victories. The California resident was especially good Friday night and was equally as solid 24 hours later as the Americans officially celebrated their 25th Anniversary in the WHL. Comrie follows a long list of solid goalies to wear an Americans uniform. Carey Price, Tyler Weiman, Chet Pickard, Drew Owsley, Brian Boucher and Olaf Kolzig are just some of the great names you will find in the Americans record books. The second common theme in both games was the Rockets tremendous work ethic. Despite Comrie's heroics, the Rockets just wouldn't let off the gas and created tremendous scoring chances. I thought the teams work ethic both nights was solid and as good as we've seen this season. This is how Rockets leading scorer Myles Bell put it. "I think we can play with anyone. What we have is we work hard every night. We don't rely solely on the goal scoring. We rather win the lower scoring games than the high scoring ones." While they failed to come away with any points this weekend, this teams never say die attitude will serve them well as the season goes on.
  • As mentioned, the Americans officially celebrated 25 years in the WHL this weekend. I understand the exact date of the first game played at the Toyota Center was November 20th.  It only seemed fitting on the anniversary weekend that I receive my updated version (picture on the right) of the American media guide, which was staring me in the face as I entered the broadcast booth Friday night. This 174 page 'labor of love' tells you everything you need to know about this years team and how the franchise was built. Past players, team records and some great photos make this guide a must read.   
  • It looks like 20 year-old veteran J.T Barnett is ready to return to the line up. The Arizona resident has been missing in action since he was injured on opening night in Kamloops. Now 21 games later, Barnett is ready for game action and told me he is excited to rejoin the team. "I will do anything", Barnett said emphatically. "Where ever they want to put me, whatever they want to do with me, I will do it as long as I am wearing that (Rockets) jersey".
  • I noticed a different Myles Bell on the weekend. Sure the 19 year-old has consistently put up points this weekend, but Bell showed me a consistent work ethic in back-to-back games. Often skilled players are interested when they have the puck, but often times don't have an urgency in getting it back. Bell showed this weekend that he is really developing into a tremendous player and made significant strides in his overall battle level and ability to back check. Bell has the ability to self diagnose his shortcomings and then makes the proper adjustments to correct them. More times than not, players figure that out when they are 19 or 20. Bell admits though,  he can be his own worst critic. "I rather be hard on myself than let other people be hard on me." 
  • Few likely noticed it after the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, but 20 year-old forward Dylan McKinlay slammed his stick in disgust as his team failed to score the tying goal with the goaltender pulled and time ticking down. What it showed me was McKinlay cares and wants to compete. I like that raw emotion, especially after witnessing in the past some older players that appeared to accept losing and were indifferent whether the team succeeded or failed.
  • It has been a good problem to have for the Rockets coaching staff. Who plays and who is a health scratch? Last season the coaches were pulling their hair out trying to ice a healthy line up, but this season with more healthy bodies, healthy scratches are the norm. "It is hard, especially when you have a group that is playing well. If you have guys that aren't playing to their capability or working as hard as they should be then your decision is easy", head coach Ryan Huska told me. "When you are having to take guys out that maybe shouldn't be coming out, that is difficult because then you are concerned about how you are going to affect the chemistry of the group and how you are going to affect the dressing room".  The Rockets have four extra forwards, with Cole Linaker, Tyrell Goulbourne, Austin Glover and Carter Rigby as the most recent scratches.    
  • We saw a significant improvement in the teams power play on the weekend. Despite going 1 for 7, head coach Ryan Huska says things are looking up. "There are chances now on the power play. We are getting good looks on the net. Now it is a matter of our guys really finding that confidence away from the puck and finding that little bit of open ice. Right now we tend to stand behind checks and almost take that advantage away."       
  • Ryan Olsen now has 10 goals, five shy of his career high of 15 set last season in Saskatoon. You have to know the 18 year-old will be looking forward to Saturday's game when the Blades make their one and only stop at Prospera Place.
  • Rockets forward Rourke Chartier is 10th in league rookie scoring. His 7 goals and 5 assists in 22 games is also the third best total of any 16 year-old in the WHL this season.  
  • Myles Bell isn't only turning heads on the ice but off it with his mustache. The 19 year-old is leading the way when it comes to money raised for the Movember campaign. Bell leads all players/coaches in raising money for prostate awareness. Bell often likes to joke around, even in interview, but takes this opportunity to raise money and awareness seriously. "I have a good friend, Brandon Davidson, who is battling cancer right now so a lot of us from Regina (ex Pats teammates) are doing it for him, so everything is going great".    

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