Saturday, April 1, 2017

She ain't over yet!!

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  • Three. 3! The Kelowna Rockets have scored three goals in the last three games in their opening round playoff series with the Kamloops Blazers. Hard to believe with that lack of production that the team has a 3-2 series lead in the best of 7 affair. While earning a 1-0 win Wednesday in Kamloops, one goal was not enough Friday night in a 4-1 loss in a pivotal game five. Connor Ingram, celebrating his 20th birthday, made 32 saves and was named the 1st star before a crowd of 55 hundred. The Blazers, facing playoff elimination, scored four unanswered goals in the win. Reid Gardiner opened the scoring but the Blazers seemed to be more opportunistic by rallying from behind to send the series to a game 6. While the Rockets were looking for the picture perfect play, the Blazers scored two goals from almost the goal line, on sharp angle shots. Ugly? Yes. Worth as much as high-lite reel goal? Bingo. While the Rockets had some gorgeous chances to score, they passed up way too many opportunities to rifle a puck on net. Kole Lind in the second period and Tomas Soustal in the third were prime examples. Both players stick handled away from one player, then another and when a prime shooting area existed, they again made another move only to see the puck swatted off their stick. The Rockets tried hard, but didn't play a smart game.
  • While the Blazers erupted for 4 straight goals in the win, the start for the Rockets was reasonably good. I thought they were physical and Carsen Twarynski was very noticeable right off the puck drop. While opening the scoring, you could see that something wasn't right in the Rockets game. They were sloppy with the puck in their own zone and turned it over on a number of occasions. I knew it was a rough night when dependable Cal Foote turned over the puck in his own zone late in the second period and Rudolfs Bulcers almost scored. When Foote is caught with a weak clearing attempt, which never happens, the stars are not aligning for the home team.
  • Michael Herringer? I had no problems with his game. I thought he was perfectly fine. The opening goal goes off defenceman Devante Stephens' stick and deflects in. The two-goal line goals were courtesy of goal mouth scrambles. The shorthanded goal from Collin Shirley was likely the most questionable, but overall, he was good enough to lead his team to a win. 
  • While the Rockets scoring has dried up, so has the power play. The unit is 0 for 9 in the last three games and haven't scored on it since Dillon Dube found the back of the net in a game two - 3-2 home ice win.  The power play is struggling to the point that it surrendered a shorthanded goal in Friday's loss. It is the first shorthanded goal the team has given up in 77 games this season.
  • Despite the lack of goals, the scoring opportunities are indeed there. That's the good news. It would be scary if nothing was being created, but the chances are abundant. While firing 33 shots on net in game five, the total number that actually missed wide must be extremely high. 
  • With a lack of scoring comes frustration. We saw the team unravel, specifically in the third period when Dillon Dube elbowed Blazers defenceman Luke Zazula. After taking no penalties in the second period, the home team took nine in the third period. The Blazers ended the game going 0 for 8 as the Rockets shorthanded unit kept things respectable. How about Eric Gardiner's block on the PK late in the game? Wow. For a player to sacrifice when his team is down by three goals is inspiring. 
  • For the first time in this series, the team that opened the scoring did not win. What remained
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    unchanged was the team that held the lead after 40 minutes ended up coming out on top when the final buzzer sounded. 
  • The Rockets made one roster change in game five, inserting Leif Mattson for rookie forward Kyle Topping. The Blazers added forward Luc Smith. Smith was noticeable and used his size to his advantage. While lacking significant skill, a big body is always, always better than a smaller body. Smith was a handful as he played well along the boards in an attempt to win loose pucks.  
  • After the home team had won the first three games, the road team has now won back-to-back in games four and five. What does game six hold in store Sunday night? What a thrill to be at the Sandman Centre as the Rockets have yet another chance to eliminate the Blazers. See you in the 'Loops'. 

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