|Chris Mast Photo|
- It was a game that was gettable. Does that make sense? As the Kelowna Rockets bus left Xfinity Arena last night after a 5-4 road loss to the Everett Silvertips, the visitors could take solace in the fact that they were good enough to compete against the elite. Yes, the Silvertips, if you haven't noticed, have lost only 5 times in regulation and are considered one of the teams out there to challenge for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. The Rockets showed Monday afternoon that they have more than enough fire power to beat the defensive minded Tips, who average only 1.78 goals per game against on home ice. The Rockets scored twice as many goals than the seasonal average, but the problem was they surrendered five goals against. The reason behind the loss? Two things. Penalties would be one and less than average goaltending would be the other. Michael Herringer, who I am a big supporter, did not have a good night in net. It pains me to state it here, but I can't hide the fact he wasn't very good. The 20 year-old allowed 4 goals on 11 shots with three of them that Herringer would normally stop in his sleep. Two, I swear, were on the ice. As a 20 year-old on a very good team, he just need to be solid, not spectacular. It is a role he is going to have to accept where he won't be forced into making as many five alarm saves.
- In the loss to the Tips, the Rockets were on there game. While Herringer struggled, his teammates battled back three times to tie the score at 3. The Rockets out-shot the Tips 12-8 in the opening 20 minutes and were not making glaring defensive mistakes. The visitors were in this game and were attempting to be only the fourth team to beat Everett in regulation time on home ice this season. When Tips overager Dominic Zwerger scored a power play goal from the left face-off circle to make the score 4-3, the coaching staff finally pulled Herringer in favour of Brodan Salmond. Honestly, I was surprised the hook didn't come earlier, but to the credit of the coaching staff, despite early struggles, they allowed Herringer the ability to find his game. Unfortunately that didn't happen.
- If I am going to be honest about goaltending, let me point out that Tips goaltender Carter Hart was no shining light out there either. I thought the 18 year-old was also average at best and appeared to be fighting the puck early when defenceman Lucas Johansen's shot from the blue-line beat him to tie the score at 1. That's what makes this loss tough to handle. Hart did not steal it away from the Rockets with a goaltending display of epic proportions. The Philadelphia Flyers draft pick looked human which made a win at Xfinity Arena even more attainable.
- The Silvertips scored three power play goals in the win. That shouldn't come as a surprise considering the teams power play unit is top 5 in the WHL. You just need to be smart as a team and stay out of the penalty box. Control your emotions and have control of your stick. At the end of the day, The Tips had 7 power play chances. That number needs to be reduced to three - maximum. The good teams are able to fight through adversity, whether it is a none-call or surrendering a bad goal. The championship teams don't get rattled. Let's see if in the final 26 games of the regular season if the Rockets can improve in that area. Do they have the horses to compete against the best? Without question, but smart hockey must be the order of the day.
- The Rockets not only lost the game, but 20 year-old forward Reid Gardiner. Gardiner collided at a high rate of speed with teammate Calvin Thurkauf between the benches in the second period and went down hard, likely hitting his head on the ice. Gardiner, after laying on the ice for about a minute, got up but appeared to be weak in his knees as Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer helped him to the bench. Up to that point, Gardiner was having a solid game with 2 assists and was a difference maker every time he was out on the ice.
- Dillon Dube hit two goal posts and had a breakaway in the third period that Hart appeared to get his glove hand on, steering the puck wide. While Dube didn't have the glorious scoring chances he did against Victoria in back-to-back games, the 18 year-old still had no less than three opportunities to find the back of the net.
- The game ended with the Rockets getting one real good look in the dying seconds when Nick Merkely set up Tomas Soustal for a quick shot at the left face-off circle that Carter Hart came across to kick out his right bad. When the buzzer sounded, Rockets head coach Jason Smith and Tips assistant coach Mitch Love were seen jawing at one another in a heated discussion. I love the passion of both coaches, who I know both personally as good men, who are competitors that will defend their teams honour. I look forward to the next match-up between these two teams March 3rd.
- A quick mention about a conversation I had with Tips GM Gary Davidson before the game. I find Gary extremely approachable and his insight and honesty made for great radio. I like the fact that he shared with me the Tips interest in Carsen Twarynski and his overall view of the trades that were made by other teams in the Western Conference. Victoria Royals GM Camerson Hope was also terrific when I interviewed him prior to Friday night's game against the Royals.