|www.shootthebreeze.ca (Marissa Baecker photo)|
- A few nervous moments for the Kelowna Rockets in last night's 4-3 win over the visiting Victoria Royals. Controlling the game for the opening two periods and eventually building up a 4-0 lead, the Royals struck for three, quick, third period goals in an effort to dash the Rockets hopes of finishing first in the BC Division. Instead, the home team earned their 41st win of the season and moved within two points of the Prince George Cougars with 5 games left in the regular season. To think, the Rockets were already two points off the pace after an opening night loss in Kamloops. That deficit widened and widened and widened further as the Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 games while the Cougars started the season 8-0-0-0. I guess it is true. It's not how you start, but how you finish.
- Nolan Foote opened the scoring with his 17th goal of the season. I've been asked what the Rockets franchise record is for goals by a 16 year-old forward. The answer is 25. Both Nick Merkley and Shane McColgan accomplished the feat in their first seasons in the WHL.
- Colour Analyst Kent Simpson got it right on our AM 1150 broadcast when evaluating why Royals head coach Dave Lowry elected to yank starting goaltender Griffen Outhouse after surrendering Calvin Thurkauf's goal to make the score 3-0. Lowry made the change, not to show his disapproval of Outhouse's play, but that of the team in front of him. The goaltending change seemed to spark the Royals, who had little in the way of anything going on, specifically in the first period when they were out-shot 18-8. To that point, Royals forwards Matthew Phillips, Jack Walker and Dante Hannoun had created little in the way of scoring chances.
- You have to hand it to both Rodney Southam and Carter Folk for a spirited fight early in the second period. It was a solid slugfest as the two swung wildly in as good a middle weight tilt as we've seen at Prospera Place this season. It was Southam's 11th fighting major of the season, which matches his total from 2014-2015, Is Southam not the teams 'Unsung Hero'? Having a career year offensively, Southam stands up for his teammates and would have played in every game this season if not for a family matter. Southam is very durable and his shot blocking is an inspiration to his teammates.
- I really liked the fourth line. Comprised of Leif Mattson, Eric Gardiner and rookie Jack Cowell, those three had significant zone time and had an absolutely excellent shift in the second period when they were buzzing and hemming the Royals in their own end. It would be Leif Mattson's third period goal which stood up as the game winner. For my money, Mattson should be a permanent fixture of that fourth line...unless I am missing something about his play that makes him a liability? I just notice him making a positive contribution when he is out there. I can take a mistake if I see effort...and I see effort. The dude has 4 goals in his last 7 games.
- The Rockets penalty killing unit came up large - again! Shutting out the Royals on 4 chances is impressive considering the visitors had scored a whopping 12 goals in their last 23 chances with the extra man.
- As always, a good conversation with Dave Lowry before the game. I enjoy my chats with him. It would be nice to sit down with him sometime over an adult beverage, but something tells me he isn't into that.
- The Rockets continue a 6 game home stand Friday night hosting the Vancouver Giants before hosting the Royals, again, on Saturday night. Let the scoreboard watching continue tonight as the Cougars visit the Winterhawks while the Blazers host the Royals.