|Photo courtesy CFJC|
- It was old. It was cramped. It was hot. It was wonderful. The Kelowna Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers turned back time Tuesday night at Memorial Arena. Justin Kirkland scored the game winning goal and Michael Herringer was a wall, making 40 saves for the shut-out, in the Rockets 1-0 win. The defending champions now own a two games to one lead in the best of seven opening round playoff series. Game four is tonight at Sandman Centre. The two teams were forced to play in the antiquated arena (built in 1948) after the Blazers home was being used for the Women's World Hockey Championships. It marked the first time since 1992 that a WHL game was played there. The two teams didn't only turn back the clock but the Rockets turned the tables on the Blazers in the one goal win.
- You knew it was going to be a night to remember when Blazers season ticket holders began lining up down the street at 5:30 pm in an effort to get the best possible seat when the doors opened at 5:45 pm. There was no assigned seating. First come, first serve. You snooze, you loose.
- You knew it would be a magical night when the Rockets took the ice for the pre-game warm up. With essentially the building full at that point with the fear of losing ones seat to late-comers, the sell-out crowd of close to 34 hundred booed the visitors onto the ice and applauded the Blazers every time they stepped on it from their makeshift dressing room. When the fans started chanting, 'Go Blazers Go, Go Blazers Go', it felt like 60 thousand people were urging their team on. The low ceiling and tight quarters was the reason why home ice used to be such an advantage years ago. Now, with state of the art facilities that we know and love, the crowd doesn't play the same factor and the cookie cutter arena's don't have the same odd bounces that older buildings like Memorial Arena once provided.
- I embraced the experience. How can you not? It was a once in a life-time experience to broadcast a game in that building. Up until Tuesday, I had never set foot in Memorial Arena. The 'old girl' had one concession, a score-clock in the corner that we as broadcasters couldn't see, and honestly, the sight lines were terrible. But the old wooden floors on the concourse and the old beams of wood and steel that held up the roof were put into place, in its day, with a lot of sweat equity. I am not sure where the smell of Creosote soaked railroad ties came from around the perimeter of the building, but it only added to its glory. Would I want to call 35 more games in that building? Honestly, no. But for that one night it was awfully cool to be apart of something special.
- As for the game itself, neither team had much room to work with. It was a dump and chase all night long. Picture perfect passing wasn't part of the game as the ice surface, both in terms of size and quality, didn't lend itself to enabling either team to play that style. I honestly thought it would work against the Rockets and aid the Blazers. Fact is, the visiting team made great adjustments and had no less than five golden scoring chances. In typical Connor Ingram fashion, the veteran Blazers goaltender kept his team in the game and gave them a chance.
- Michael Herringer was as calm and cool as we've seen him in the WHL playoffs. He was in a zone. Herringer didn't over extend himself, made hard saves look easy and played with a boat load of confidence. It may be the most in control game I have seen him play. Herringer made 40 saves in the road shut-out, becoming the first Rockets goaltender to accomplish that feat since Jordon Cooke made 25 saves in a road shut-out in Seattle in the 2013 post season.
- The only real concern heading into game four is the power play. If the power play finally lets loose for a goal, these one goal games will be history. The Rockets are 0 for 15 in this series. In 11 games between the Rockets and Blazers this season (regular season and playoffs) ten of them have been decided by a single goal.