Tonight’s Preview: It is game five of the Kelowna Rockets second round playoff series with the Portland Winterhawks. The Rockets lead the series 3 games to 1. If a game 6 is necessary, it will be played Sunday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. These two teams are meeting for the 6th time in post season play. In the 2015 Western Conference final, the Rockets won in six games. The Winterhawks have ended the Rockets season in 2014, 2012 and again in 2011. That’s why this rivalry is so alive and well between two teams that met only four times this season. In those four games, the Rockets were 3-1-0-0. The only loss came January 28th, at Prospera Place, when the Winterhawks stormed back and scored the game winning goal with 4 second left in regulation time in a 5-4 victory. The Rockets advanced to the second round with a game 6 series victory over the Kamloops Blazers. The Winterhawks also advanced with a 6 game series win over the Prince George Cougars.
WHL hands down discipline: Cal Foote will again miss tonight’s game after being slapped with a three game suspension for an elbow to the head of Winterhawks forward Skyler McKenzie in game three. Foote sat out game four. Forward Carsen Twarynski also won’t play tonight after being suspended after receiving a 5 minute major penalty and game misconduct for boarding in game four.
Game 1 Recap: Calvin Thurkauf scored once and added two assists in a 4-2 win. The Rockets exploded for four straight second period goals in the win. The Winterhawks scored back-to-back goals in the third period to make it interesting, despite being out-shot 54-29. In fact, the Winterhawks generated more shots in the third period (17) than the first-two periods combined (12). Dillon Dube, Kole Lind and Reid Gardiner also scored in the victory, while going 1 for 4 on the power play. The Winterhawks were 1 for 5.
Game 2 Recap: Nick Merkley scored twice and added an assist in the Rockets 5-2 win. Kole Lind, Tomas Soustal and James Hilsendager also scored in the three goal win. It was Hilsendager’s first career playoff goal and first playoff game winning goal. The Rockets were 1/7 on the power play and were 3 for 3 on the penalty kill. The Rockets out-shot the Winterhawks 43-25.
Game 3 Recap: Calvin Thurkauf scored twice, both on the power play, in a 4-2 loss. The Winterhawks erupted for three-second period goals in the win. The Rockets were 2 for 4 on the power play while the Winterhawks were 1 for 5. The shots were tied at 30 apiece.
Game 4 Recap: Reid Gardiner scored twice and added two assists in the Rockets 7-2 win. Calvin Thurkauf had three points (2+1=3) along with Nick Merkley (1+2=3). Rodney Southam and Carsen Twarynski also scored. The Rockets were 2 for 3 on the power play and killed off 3 of 5 Winterhawks power plays.
Round One Review: The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Kamloops Blazers 4 games to 2 in the opening round of the WHL playoffs. The Rockets won games one, two, four and six. Reid Gardiner led the way with 5 goals in the series, including a three goal game in a game 6 4-2 win. Dillon Dube was arguably the most consistent with 4 goals and 6 points in the 6 games. The Rockets out-shot the Blazers in 5 of the 6 games, with the shots tied in one game. The Rockets opened the scoring in 5 of the 6 games.
Season in Review: The Rockets finished in 2nd place in the BC Division with 95 points this season. The team was 45-22-5-0, which was good for 6th place in the overall WHL standings. The team scored the third most goals in the WHL (283) and tied with Seattle for the 4th fewest goals against. The team scored 14 more goals and allowed 12 fewer against than in 2015-2016. The Rockets had the third best power play in the WHL and the 9th best penalty killing unit. Cal Thurkauf led the team in goals with 33. Kole Lind had a team high 57 assists while Lind was the scoring leader with 87 points. Nick Merkley led the team with 12 power play goals. Cal Foote had a team high +39 rating. Rodney Southam had a team leading 121 penalty minutes. Forward Kole Lind was named a Western Conference 2nd team all-star. At the teams annual year end awards, Calvin Thurkauf was the MVP, Cal Foote was the Top Defenceman and Nolan Foote was the Rookie of the Year.
That’s a fact Jack: The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 38 of their last 42 games….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 15 losses in the last 60 (playoffs included) games…The Rockets are 27-10-2-0 since the trade deadline.
Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150