Sunday, February 19, 2017

Moving up the standings

Calvin Thurkauf - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • Have you been questioning the Kelowna Rockets character? Question it no more. For the second time in three games the Rockets saw the opposition open up the scoring only to bounce back and cruise to victory. Monday afternoon, the Rockets rallied with three-third period goals in a 6-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Last night at Prospera Place, despite trailing 1-0, the Rockets scored four unanswered goals on their way to a 5-2 home ice win. Nick Merkley had a goal and an assist and Calvin Thurkauf scored his team leading 30th goal of the season in the victory. The Rockets are now 3 points back of second place Kamloops and only 7 shy of first place Prince George heading into a home game Wednesday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
  • We talked about it on last night's broadcast. Colour Analyst Kent Simpson pointed it out that it has taken Nick Merkley, essentially, a full year to recover from knee surgery. While the knee was completely healed prior to that point, our general belief is Merkley had some mental healing to do before he could tell himself that the knee is strong, will hold up and he can play as hard and be as effective as he was when he earned 90 points as a 16 year-old rookie. Merkley has 8 goals in his last 10 games and is noticeable every time he is on the ice. That couldn't be said earlier on this season. Outside of Calvin Thurkauf, Merkley is the teams most consistent forward. I should mention, Merkley has 7+8=15 in the month of February.
  • Speaking of Thurkauf, his 30th goal came into an empty net to seal the win. But the 19 year-old was making a huge contribution throughout the game despite being held off the score-sheet to that point. Why is Thurkauf  elevating his play? My belief is his ability to avoid the penalty box is a huge factor. Thurkauf has taken two minor penalties in his last 15 games. TWO!! Is it any reason why he has scored goals in 4 straight games and has 8+5=13 points this month? Thurkauf isn't focusing on frustration. Instead he is frustrating others with his bullish play.
  • It was nice to see the defensive core score a few goals last night. Devante Stephens had a three point game (1+2=3) and James Hilsendager found the back of the net with a squeaker from the blue-line that found a lane between the pads of Cougars goaltender Nick McBride. No shot is a bad shot. What's that? No shot is a bad shot.
  • I thought Michael Herringer had a strong performance in goal after being yanked against Spokane on Friday night. Herringer has had three straight solid starts against the Cougars and now owns a 2.34 goals against average vs. his BC Division rival. The only thing he needs to figure out is Colby McCauley. McCauley has 5 goals in 7 games in the seasonal series.
  • The first period featured 33 whistles. It was as sluggish a period as I've seen from these two teams this season. The opening period looked like two teams that will miss the playoffs. The Rockets surrendered the opening goal by gifting the Cougars. The puck was given up no less than three times before it found the back of the net. The Cougars were equally as fractured and the two teams went into the dressing room in a 1-1 tie. 
  • Brad Morrison was invisible two weeks ago in Prince George when these two teams met for back-to-back games at CN Centre. That said, I thought he was one of the best players on the ice. The 19 year-old was quick to pucks and showed a lot of urgency in his game. The only problem was his linemates, Radovan Bondra and Nikita Popugaev. Both are very underwhelming. Popugaev has 3 goals in 19 games with his new team. For a so called 'scorer;' that is an ugly stat line. It should be mentioned that 15 players last night had more ice time on the Cougars roster than Popugaev and Bondra, so head coach Richard Matvichuk doesn't overuse those two players. 
  • According to Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier, the Rockets hit 5 goal posts. If even three of those go in, what is the final score at the end of the night? Higher mathematics= an 8-2 final.  Reid Gardiner hit the pipe twice.  
  • While the Rockets earned a 5-2 win, I have seen them play considerably better this season. So, what does that say about the Cougars effort then? 
  • These two teams meet for the final time this season in March 1st. 
  • The Rockets have points in 8 of their last 9 games.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Scary situation for hard nosed coach


  • I knew Don Nachbaur was a hard nosed coach. What I didn't know was the Spokane Chiefs head skipper has a hard head. No seriously, he does, with a high pain tolerance to match. In what can only be described as a scary incident in the second period of Friday's 5-4 overtime win over the the Kelowna Rockets, Nachbaur was struck in the head by a puck that came rocketing off the stick of defenceman Cal Foote. I've seen coaches or players struck, unexpectedly, on the bench by a puck before, but with no-where near that much velocity. Foote, essentially at his own blue line and arguably less than 12 feet from the Chiefs bench, ripped a slap shot at the right boards in an attempt to send the puck all the way down the ice. The puck did not strike the boards though. The galvanized piece of rubber went straight for the Chiefs head coach, who had little, if no time to react. Fortunately, and if you are a religious man - by the grace of God - he wasn't more seriously hurt as the puck struck Nachbaur. Expectantly, Nachbaur went down quickly only to rise to his feet with a trainer holding a towel in an effort to slow the bleeding. With everyone amazed that the 58 year-old was walking towards the trainers table for stitches and not being carried off on a stretcher after what they just saw, it came as an even a greater surprise that Nachbaur returned to the bench for the start of the third period. While the coach was as tough as nails as a player (watch the video) when he was with the Flyers, I am still amazed that, outside of some blood and a puck sized lump on his head, the coach was able to walk away from a scary situation with a story both he, I and those that watched in horror will not soon forget. Thankfully, Don Nachbaur, one of the winningest coaches in the WHL is ok. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rockets preview vs. Chiefs

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets play game two of a four game home stand tonight against the visiting Spokane Chiefs. This is the third of four meetings between these two teams. The Rockets are 0-0-2-0 in the seasonal series after back-to-back overtime losses by scores of 2-1 (December 2nd) and 3-2 (January 4th). The two teams meet one more time in Spokane on February 26th. The Rockets are 8-2-3-1 against the Chiefs in the last 14 regular season games. The Rockets are 4-1-1-1 in their last 7 home games against Spokane. The Rockets are coming off a 6-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds Monday afternoon (BC Family Day). Following tonight’s game, the Rockets host Prince George tomorrow and the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday February 22nd.  The Rockets close out February with three games in three nights in Kamloops (Feb 24th), Seattle (Feb 25th) and Spokane (Feb 26th). Overall, the team has won 3 straight and have 6 wins in their last 7 games. The only loss over that stretch was a 6-0 loss in Kamloops February 8th.

What just happened? Calvin Thurkauf scored twice Monday in a 6-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Rockets rallied in this one. Trailing 3-2 after 40 minutes, the Rockets struck for four-third unanswered goals in their 33rd win of the season. The game changed when Thurkauf and Reid Gardiner scored back-to-back goals :24 seconds apart in the third period before Carsen Twarynski and Nick Merkley closed out the scoring. Michael Herringer made 31 saves in the win. .

That’s a Fact Jack: Brodan Salmond was named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week ending February 12th after back-to-back shutouts against the Vancouver Giants. Salmond’s back-to-back shutouts are the first for a Rockets goalie since Jackson Whistle had two in a row in the 2015 WHL playoffs vs. Tri City.  Adam Brown had back-to-back shutouts during the regular season against the Chlliwack Bruins in October of 2008…Nolan Foote became the youngest player in franchise history to score three goals in a game. Foote accomplished the feat February 10th against the Vancouver Giants, scoring those three goals at the tender age of 16 years, 2 months and 12 days. The old mark was set by Shane McColgan who scored a hat trick at 16 years, 11 months and 9 days… The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Giants February 10th were a season high. The previous season high was 47 in a 5-1 loss in Kamloops on December 28th…The Rockets have lost the same number of games (20) as they did all of last seasonReid Gardiner has 16 points (7+9=16) in 13 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets.…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 17 of their last 18 gamesThe Rockets have been shorthanded the most times in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The team has been shorthanded 299 times…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 11 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-10-1-0…Tomas Soustal turned 20 on Wednesday…Soustal has missed 7 games with an injury. The Rockets are 6-1-0-0 without the Czech Republic resident.

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 13 of his last 15 games. Thurkauf has 10+10=20 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 9 of his last 11 with 6+12=18 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 7 of his last 9 games with 6+10=16 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 7 of his last 10 games with 1+7=8. Reid Gardiner has points in 7 of his last 8 games with 5+6=11 over that stretch.

Broadcasters Bits: Kole Lind was the WHL Player of the Week ending February 9th. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games to earn the honour…In the Rockets last 11 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring…The Rockets are 9-5-1-0 since the trade deadline….The Rockets have scored 10 shorthanded goals this season, the same number as all of last season…..GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 13-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 36 of the last 47 games…The Rockets are 9-2-2-0 against U.S Division teams this season.

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Make it three

Shoot the Breeze Photo
  • The Kelowna Rockets haven't often rallied from a third period deficit to win. On BC Family Day, Monday afternoon, they accomplished the feat against the hottest team in the Western Conference. Facing a 3-2 deficit heading into the third period, Calvin Thurkauf and Reid Gardiner scored goals 24 seconds apart as the Rockets beat the T-Birds for a third consecutive time in a 6-3 win. Don't let the score fool you. This was a tight game and the T-Birds were in the drivers seat after a solid second period and a strong opening frame. But, with only 4 wins this season when trailing after two periods, the Rockets top line of Calvin Thurkauf, Nick Merkley and Reid Gardiner took over in the comeback bid. Should we expect it from that trio? Darn right we should. Thurkauf was the best player on the ice from start to finish and Merkley seemed to accelerate his play in the second period when he became an agitating force while hunting down pucks. Even Carsen Twarynski, riding a 12 game goalless skid, found the back of the net for his first with his new team in the third period rally. The win moved the Rockets back into the race for 2nd place in the BC Division with the Kamloops Blazers. Now four points back with two games in hand, the Rockets are in control of their own destiny with 15 games left in the regular season.
  • Calvin Thurkauf had two goals in the game and now has 27 on the season. That is 9 more than he had all of last season. The most consistent forward, in my opinion, night in and night out, Thurkauf also threw a thunderous hit that sent T-Birds forward Ryan Gropp into the Rockets bench in the second period. Thurkauf is playing a big man's game and is tough to contain. What I like most about his effort lately is his ability to stay OUT of the penalty box. In his last 13 games, outside of a fighting major that he really didn't want any part of, the 19 year-old has taken only two minor penalties. That's a significant change in mindset after taking 9 trips to the penalty box in 12 games from late November to mid January.
  • How good has Thurkauf been? In his last 22 games, dating back to December 3rd against Brandon, the Swiss forward has been held off the score-sheet four times.   
  • What is with the increased physicality? In the last four games specifically, I can count numerous solid hits by a Rockets team that, up until two weeks ago, would rarely step in the way of an opponent and lay a hand on a defender. And if contact was applied, it resulted in a penalty. The d-core, lead by James Hilsendager, is getting involved physically and are doing so without a trip to the penalty box. Cal Foote exploded on a unsuspecting Giants forward Friday in a lopsided 6-0 win. That uptake in the physical play should be applauded.    
  • No less than three of the Rockets six goals Monday afternoon came from the lip of the crease. Love it. Thurkauf's two goals were scored from that area as was Reid Gardiner's. Call them greasy goals, it is that area that needs to be exploited more often. Teams are too good at blocking shots and collapsing in front of their own net to score many goals from the perimeter.
  • Reid Gardiner impresses me with his ability to shoot the puck. It isn't selfish, it's smart. In a game where scoring chances were significantly lower than against the Vancouver Giants. Gardiner, like he always does, had a team high 5 shots on goal.  
  • It is interesting to watch the battle for playing time on the Rockets 4th line. Leif Mattson is playing so well, I can't take him out and make him a healthy scratch. For my money, Mattson is out-dueling Connor Bruggen-Cate, who has been a healthy scratch for three straight games. Mattson is riding a three game point streak and is trying to make an impact any way he can despite a team low 6 minutes of ice time. I also can't take Jack Cowell out of the line-up either. Cowell's confidence has skyrocketed and he is evolving into a nice player. Often weaker than his older, bigger opponents, Cowell battles and is again noticeable in his limited time on the ice.   
  • The Rockets played the game without 5th leading scorer Tomas Soustal. The Rockets are 6-1-0-0 without him. 
  • Could Ethan Bear score 30 goals this season? The Seattle d-man, for my money, is the best blue liner in the Western Conference. Who's better? Portland's Caleb Jones and Prince George's Brendan Guhle are in the mix, but Bear is more calculated in his approach in joining the rush and makes pin-point outlet passes to awaiting forwards that make you simply go, 'wow'.  He often stays back and rarely carries the puck up ice in an attempt to generate offense. Bear's shot is as good as you will find in the 22 team circuit. Bear was Seattle's best player in the three goal loss.
  • With three straight wins, and having played 4 games in 6 nights, the Rockets now get set for Spokane (Friday) and Prince George (Saturday). 
  • Before the game, Brodan Salmond was name the WHL Goaltender of the Week for his back-to-back shutouts against the Vancouver Giants on Friday and Saturday night. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Rockets vs.T-Birds preview

Shoot the Breeze Photo
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open a four game home stand this afternoon against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. This is the third of four meetings this season. The Rockets are 2-0-0-0 in the seasonal series after a 5-1 win in Seattle (October 22nd) and a 6-1 victory (December 7th) at Prospera Place. The two teams close out the four game series February 25th at ShoWare Center. The Rockets host Spokane Friday night and the Prince George Cougars on Saturday. The home stand ends Wednesday February 22nd against the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Rockets have won 5 or their last 6 games and are coming off back-to-back shutouts Friday and Saturday night over the Vancouver Giants.

What just happened? Brodan Salmond made 19 saves for his second consecutive shutout in a 5-0 win Saturday night against the Vancouver Giants. Dillon Dube was named the first star with three assists while Erik Gardiner, Kole Lind, Calvin Thurkauf, Lucas Johansen and James Hilsendager scored in the teams’ 32nd win of the season. The Rockets were 2 for 4 on the power play and failed to surrender a power play goal against in both games against the G-Men.

That’s a Fact Jack: Brodan Salmond’s back-to-back shutouts are the first for a Rockets goalie since Jackson Whistle had two in a row in the 2015 WHL playoffs vs. Tri City.  Adam Brown had back-to-back shutouts during the regular season against the Chlliwack Bruins in October of 2008…Nolan Foote became the youngest player in franchise history to score three goals in a game. Foote accomplished the feat Friday against the Giants, scoring those three goals at the tender age of 16 years, 2 months and 12 days. The old mark was set by Shane McColgan who scored a hat trick at 16 years, 11 months and 9 days… The 56 shots the Rockets put up against the Giants Friday night were a season high. The previous season high was 47 in a 5-1 loss in Kamloops on December 28th…The Rockets have lost the same number of games (20) as they did all of last seasonReid Gardiner has 14 points (6+8=14) in 12 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets...The Kelowna Rockets have 16 games left in the regular season. Of those 16, 9 of them are against BC Division rivals. The Rockets have three more games against Vancouver, two more vs. Prince George and one more against the Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals. The team has two more each against US Division Everett, Seattle and Spokane and a single against Tri City. Edmonton is the only Central Division team they face down the stretch…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 16 of their last 17 gamesThe Rockets have been shorthanded the most times in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The team has been shorthanded 297 times…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 11 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-10-1-0.

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 12 of his last 14 games. Thurkauf has 8+10=18 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 8 of his last 10 with 6+11=17 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 6 of his last 8 games with 5+8=13 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 7 of his last 9 games with 1+7=8. Reid Gardiner has points in 6 of his last 7 games with 4+5=9 over that stretch….Erik Gardiner has goals in back-to-back games…..

Broadcasters Bits: Rookie defenceman Conrad Belcourt earned his first career point, an assist, on Leif Mattson’s third period goal Friday night….Nolan Foote’s three goal game isn’t the first by a Rockets rookie this season. Kyle Topping had three goals in a game in Seattle October 22nd …Calvin Thurkauf and Devante Stephens also have three goal games this season….Kole Lind was the WHL Player of the Week ending February 9th. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games to earn the honour…In the Rockets last 11 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring….The Rockets are 8-5-1-0 since the trade deadline….The Rockets have scored 10 shorthanded goals this season, the same number as all of last season…..GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 13-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 35 of the last 46 games…The Rockets are 8-2-2-0 against U.S Division teams this season.

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150


Friday, February 10, 2017

Rockets vs. G-Men


Reid Gardiner - Shoot the Breeze
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets welcome the Vancouver Giants tonight to Prospera Place in a weekend home and home series between the two BC Division rivals. The Rockets are in Langley tomorrow night. This is the 4th meeting of the season between these two teams. The Rockets are 2-1-0-0 and are coming off a 5-4 loss to the G-Men back on January 20th. The Rockets have won by scores of 5-3 and 6-4. Following these two games, the teams close out the seasonal series March 10th, 17th and 18th. The Rockets are coming off a 6-0 loss in Kamloops Wednesday night. It was the third time this season the team has been shut out on the road, with a 3-0 loss in Prince George and a 5-0 setback in Red Deer. In the big picture, the Rockets have won 21 straight home games against the Giants. The Rockets host Seattle on Family Day Monday (2 pm).

What just happened? The Rockets failed to find the back of the net in a 6-0 loss in Kamloops Wednesday night. Connor Ingram made 33 saves for his third shutout of the season. The Rockets had a 12-1 shot advantage 10 minutes into the game but it was the Blazers that opened the scoring. The Blazers had a 1-0 lead after 1 period and a 3-0 lead after 40 minutes. The Rockets are 0-4-0-0 in Kamloops this season and have been out-scored 23-4.

Lind is WHLPOW: Forward Kole Lind is the WHL Player of the Week. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games this past week.

Scoreboard watching: The Rockets trail the Kamloops Blazers by 7 points for second place in the BC Division. The Rockets have 18 games left while the Blazers have 16 remaining. They are on a collision course to meet in the opening round of the playoffs. Ten of the Rockets final 18 games are against teams in the BC Division while 12 of the Blazers final 16 games are against teams within the division.  

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf has points in 11 of his last 12 games. Thurkauf had 7+10=17 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 6 of his last 8 with 5+9=14 over that period. Nick Merkley has points in 5 of his last 6 games with 5+7=12 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 6 of his last 7 games with 1+6=7. Reid Gardiner has points in 4 of his last 5 games with 4+3=7 over that stretch.

That’s a Fact Jack: The Rockets have lost the same number of games (20) as they did all of last seasonReid Gardiner has 12 points (6+6=12) in 10 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets...The Kelowna Rockets have 18 games left in the regular season. Of those 18, 11 of them are against BC Division rivals. The Rockets have five more games against Vancouver, two more vs. Prince George and one more against the Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals. The team has two more each against US Division Everett, Seattle and Spokane and a single against Tri City. Edmonton is the only Central Division team they face down the stretch…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 14 of their last 15 gamesThe Rockets have been shorthanded the most times in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The team has been shorthanded 288 times…NHL Central Scouting has released its mid-term rankings. Cal Foote is dated 12th among North American skaters while Kole Lind is ranked 21s…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 11 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-10-1-0….12 of the teams last 19 games have been decided by a goal.

Broadcasters Bits: In the Rockets last 11 losses (regulation or overtime loss) the opposition has opened the scoring….The Rockets are 6-5-1-0 since the trade deadline….Reid Gardiner has been a star in four of the 10 games he has played this season….The Rockets have scored 10 shorthanded goals this season, the same number as all of last season…..GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 11-12-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 35 of the last 44 games…The Rockets are 8-2-2-0 against U.S Division teams this season.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Rockets vs. Blazers Wednesday

Shoot the Breeze Photography
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets wrap up a three game road trip tonight in Kamloops. This is the 9th of 10 meetings between these two teams this season. The Rockets are 3-5-0-0 but are 0-3-0-0 at the Sandman Centre, having scored only four goals in three games. The Rockets have lost by scores of 9-2, 5-1 and 3-1. The home team has won 6 of the 8 games in the seasonal series. The Rockets have lost four straight games in Kamloops dating back to last season. The last win was December 27/2015 in a 2-1 victory at Sandman. The team teams wrap up 10 game series February 24th at Prospera Place.

What just happened? The Kelowna Rockets are coming off back-to-back wins in Prince George on the weekend. It marked only the second time this season a team has swept the Cougars on home ice. Everett did it earlier this season. The Rockets were a 3-2 winner Friday and earned a 5-1 win Saturday night on the heels of 2+1=3 from Reid Gardiner and 1+2=3 from Kole Lind. Nick Merkley had two goals as the team won for a third consecutive game. The Rockets were 8 for 8 on the penalty kill and out-shot and scored the opening goal in both games.

Lind is WHLPOW: Forward Kole Lind is the WHL Player of the Week. Lind had 3+5=8 in three games this past week.

Scoreboard watching: The Rockets trail the Blazers by 5 points for second place in the BC Division. Both teams have 19 games remaining in the regular season and are on a collision course to meet in the opening round of the playoffs. Eleven of the Rockets final 19 games are against teams in the BC Division while 13 of the Blazers final 19 games are against teams within the division. These two teams have scored the exact same number of goals this season (186).  

Hot as a pistol: Calvin Thurkauf is riding an 11 game point streak, the longest of his career. Thurkauf has 7+10=17 over that stretch. Kole Lind has points in 6 of his last 7 with 5+9=14 over that period. Nick Merkley has a five game point streak with 5+7=12 over that span. Cal Foote has points in 5 of his last 6 games with 1+6=7. Reid Gardiner has a four game point streak with 4+3=7 over that stretch.

That’s a Fact Jack: Reid Gardiner is on pace, had he played a full 72 regular season games, for a 96 point season. Gardiner has 12 points (6+6=12) in 9 games as a member of the Kelowna Rockets...The Kelowna Rockets have 19 games left in the regular season. Of those 19, 11 of them are against BC Division rivals. The Rockets have five more games against Vancouver, two more vs. Prince George and two more against the Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals. The team has two more each against US Division Everett, Seattle and Spokane and a single against Tri City. Edmonton is the only Central Division team they face down the stretch…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 13 of their last 14 gamesThe Rockets have been shorthanded the most times in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The team has been shorthanded 283 times…NHL Central Scouting has released its mid-term rankings. Cal Foote is dated 12th among North American skaters while Kole Lind is ranked 21s…The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 10 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-9-1-0….12 of the teams last 18 games have been decided by a goal.

Broadcasters Bits: The Rockets are 6-4-1-0 since the trade deadline….Reid Gardiner has been a star in four of the 9 games he has played this season….The Rockets have scored 10 shorthanded goals this season, the same number as all of last season…..Calvin Thurkauf played in his 100th career game last Wednesday against the Calgary Hitmen…Michael Herringer played in his 100th career Friday night in Prince George…..GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 11-11-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 34 of the last 43 games…The Rockets are 8-2-2-0 against U.S Division teams this season.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Rockets are for real. Just ask the Cougars

Brett Cullen Photo
  • Was it a statement weekend for the Kelowna Rocket? The coaches were non-committal in saying yes, but back-to-back wins against the best team in the Western Conference likely caught the attention of others, and more importantly, proved to themselves that they are a legitimate threat in the final 6 weeks of the regular season. When it was time to show up, the players did just that in back-to-back wins at CN Centre. Saturday night's 5-1 win was even more impressive as the entire roster were making huge contributions in teams 30th win of the season. Reid Gardiner had two goals and an assist while Kole Lind had a goal and two helpers. Nick Merkley had a two goal game and continues to thrive with line-mates Calvin Thurkauf and the aforementioned Reid Gardiner. How about goaltender Micheal Herringer? Yikes, was he good. More on him later.
  • After earning a 3-2 win Friday night over the Cougars, could the Rockets have a repeat performance and knock off the first place team in the Western Conference again? Could they play better than the night before? They sure did. The Rockets best players were indeed at their best and literally overshadowed the Cougars top end talent. It wasn't even close. Kole Lind had 3+2=5 in the two games. Nick Merkley had 2+1=3 in the two games and is now riding a 5 game point streak (5+7=12). Reid Gardiner had three goals in the two games and is riding a four game point streak. Even Dillon Dube, who had 0+3=3, was a threat every time he was on the ice and looked like a world class player. Calvin Thurkauf made an impact despite what would be considered a quiet weekend with two assists. The 19 year-old was a horse and is riding a 11 game point streak after picking up an assist on Reid Gardiner's power play goal Saturday night to make the score 5-1. Quick outlet passes by the d-core and blocking shots were common place in what can only be described as two solid outings on the road.
  • Michael Herringer. Wow. What a great weekend. The 21 year-old was dialed in and made 57 of 60 saves, with the most spectacular coming Saturday night when he robbed Cougars forward Nikita Popugaev of a sure goal. The Russian had the entire net at the right side of Herringer to shoot at. Popugaev fired the puck on his forehand towards the goal only to see Herringer, in complete and utter desperation, use the blade of his stick to knock the puck out of mid-air for what is the save of the season by any Rockets goalie. This will be on the WHL Players of the Week. It is simply spectacular. That save just summed up Herringer's weekend. He was seeing the puck well, was quick with both his blocker and glove hand and was the goalie we witnessed in last years playoffs when he helped his team to the Western Conference finals.
  • The Rockets power play was really good in Saturday's 5-1 win. It struck for two goals on four chances and a picture perfect four way passing play had Reid Gardiner finished things off by scoring his second of the game. The power play was out dueled though by the penalty killing unit, which went 8 for 8 in the two games. 
  • The teams discipline in both games was much better. Particularly Saturday night as the game unraveled for the Cougars, who jawed with the Rockets top players in an effort to get them off their game. It didn't work. Prince George captain Sam Ruopp was leading the charge as he attempted to goat both Reid Gardiner and Kole Lind into fights. Thankfully both players didn't give Ruopp the time of day.
  • The Rockets and the Everett Silvertips are the only teams to beat the Cougars in back-to-back games in Prince George this season.
  • The Rockets hit the 30 win mark for the 10th consecutive season. Now riding a three game winning streak, the team closes out a three game road trip Wednesday in Kamloops.  
  • I thought both crowds were solid at CN Centre on the weekend. Friday saw just over 3 thousand while Saturday's game had 43 hundred take in the game. Unlike previous years where everyone seemed to huddle in the same area of seats in the arena, it appears the fans are more spread out so you don't see massive gaps of empty green seats. Visually it looks better.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Rockets deliver third period knockout punch

Brett Cullen Photo
  • I am not sure how the Prince George Cougars viewed Friday night's game against the Kelowna Rockets. I know one team was hoping it would be a measuring stick to see if indeed they have what it takes to play against the best in the WHL. The belief was there before puck drop, but at games end, it clearly showed the Rockets do indeed have the horses to win the race. On paper, the skill, determination and goaltending is there. But that's all talk right? The names on paper are worth nothing if they can't preform together. You have to prove it with your performance on the ice, and the visitors did that in a 3-2 win at CN Centre. While not without its warts, the Rockets used two goals from Kole Lind and a snipe from Reid Gardiner in the teams first win over the Cougars this season. Now 1-4-0-0 against PG, the Rockets are tied with Victoria for third place in the BC Division.
  • I thought Michael Herringer's play early in the game allowed his team to find their groove. With the Cougars creating more scoring chances in the opening period, Herringer stood tall and got puck luck no less than once, as he kept the Cougars off the board with a 13 save effort. The Rockets were the more opportunistic in the opening frame when Dillon Dube's hustle along the end boards, while shorthanded, allowed the slick skating 18 year-old to send the puck to the slot where an awaiting Kole Lind was able to pump it home for the teams 10th shorthanded goal of the season. Nick Merkley's quick pass to Reid Gardiner, who fired a high shot over Cougars goaltender Ty Edmonds, allowed the Rockets to go into the dressing room up by a deuce. 
  • The second period couldn't have started any worse when Rockets defenceman Braydyn Chizen gave up the puck to Colby McAuley with what can only be described as a 'gift goal'. Chizen had the puck awkwardly go off his stick as he attempted to push it outside the blue line. As fate would have it, the puck went on McAuley's stick, who skated in on a breakaway, beating Herringer high to the glove hand side. The Cougars held the territorial advantage for the remainder of the period thanks to three straight trips the Rockets took to the penalty box. I thought getting out of the period 2-2 was a good result all things considered.
  • It was down to one period. Would the Rockets hold on for dear life or would they show that they are a different team after the trade deadline that plays to win and pushes the pace? Instead of being passive, the Rockets seemed to play harder and smarter. They were crazy good on the fore check and had quick shifts and played the game about as tactically sound as I've seen this season. Plus, they were shooting pucks by recording 14 in the final frame while surrendering only five against. Eventually, Cal Foote (not Gordie Ballhorn despite what the score sheet says) would send a pass to an awaiting Kole Lind, who was alone at the side of the Cougars net. Lind waited for Edmonds to commit, and then fired a shot high to give the Rockets a 3-2 lead.     
  • In any game a few individuals stood out. I thought Calvin Thurkauf was money with the game on the line. The 19 year-old was a bull along the boards and no one could handle him. He chewed up massive amounts of time off the clock and the puck often looked like it was stuck on his stick. Thurkauf has rounded into such a good player and is one of the best power forwards we've seen in these parts since....do I dare say......Jamie Benn? Ok, don't get too excited with that statement. Benn was a special player and Thurkauf has much work ahead...but....but...Thurkauf possesses a great shot, plays with a burr under his saddle and is like a bowling ball crashing through everything, or anyone that stands in his way. He plays the power game to perfection. Thurkauf is riding a 10 game point streak, and right now, is the teams best forward.
  • I still thought the Rockets didn't have everyone rolling last night. Without naming names, several players have me wanting more. While defenceman James Hilsendager was on the ice for both goals, at least he is noticeable out there by carrying the puck up ice or making a hit on the blue line. The fact is, the 19 year-old is doing something for the greater good of the team. That is needed from a few veteran players that just stood idly by. 
  • Two other players I thought were contributing were Rodney Southam and Devante Stephens. As an example, Southam was involved in a second period fight with Cougars Josh Anderson. Good for him for answering the bell. Stephens, like his team, got better as the game went along. I thought his back check in the second period to catch and strip the puck from Cougars forward Jansen Harkins on a quick developing two-on-one was a nice play. Again, another example of making a big play in an effort to help his team win.  You don't have to make 10 outstanding plays to make an impact...but make one!! 
  • Michael Herringer celebrated his 100th appearance in the WHL with a win while Cougars Ty Edmonds had to put on the brakes in an effort to become the teams franchise leader in wins. The Rockets and Cougars meet again tonight at CN Centre in what will again feel like the playoffs, yet it is only early February. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Rockets vs. Cougars preview

Ty Edmonds - Shoot the Breeze
Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets open a three game road trip tonight against the Prince George Cougars. This is the 5th of 8 meetings between these two teams this season. The Rockets are 0-4-0-0 against their BC Division rivals, having been out-scored 13-4 in the four games. The Rockets are coming off an 8-2 win Wednesday night over the Calgary Hitmen. Nick Merkley, Dillon Dube and Calvin Thurkauf each had 2+2=4 in the win while Devante Stephens and Nolan Foote added singles. The Rockets were 3 for 4 on the power play and fired 41 shots at the Hitmen net. The Rockets have 21 games left in the regular season and will play those games over the next 48 days. The Rockets play back-to-back games in Prince George this weekend before traveling to Kamloops to face the Blazers on Wednesday night. In the big picture, the Rockets are 5-7-2-0 in their last 14 games.     

January’s Top Performers: Kole Lind led the team with 10 points (2+8=10) in January. Calvin Thurkauf (5+4=9), Tomas Soustal/Nick Merkley (3+6=9) and Lucas Johansen (2+7=9) all had 9 points during the month. The Rockets were 4-5-2-0 in the month, which earned them 10 of an available 22 points in January.   

February Fever: The Rockets play 13 games in February. Those 13 games will be played over 26 night’s. Seven of those 13 will be played on the road. Also, seven of those 13 will be against teams in the BC Division. Four will be played against teams in the U.S Division. The Rockets play three games in three night’s February 24th (Kamloops), February 25th (Seattle), February 26th (Spokane).

Counting Down: The Kelowna Rockets have 21 games left in the regular season. Of those 21, 13 of them are against BC Division rivals. The Rockets have five more games against Vancouver, four more vs. Prince George and two more against the Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals. The team has two more each against US Division Everett, Seattle and Spokane and a single against Tri City. Edmonton is the only Central Division team they face down the stretch.

Dare to Compare: The Rockets had a record of 35-13-3-0 (28-19-4-0 this season) after 51 games last season. The team was 20-3-2-0 (13-9-2-0 this season) on home ice. A season ago the team scored 182 (178 goals scored this season) goals and allowed 142 (156 goals against last season) against. Michael Herringer had played in just 27 games at the 51 game mark last season. Tyson Baillie was the leading scorer with 70 points.

That’s a Fact Jack: Nick Merkley has 9 (3+6=9) points in his last three games…The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 11 of their last 12 gamesCalvin Thurkauf has points in 8 of his last 9 games (7+6=13) over that periodThe Rockets have been shorthanded the most times in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The team has been shorthanded 275 times…NHL Central Scouting has released its mid-term rankings. Cal Foote is dated 12th among North American skaters while Kole Lind is ranked 21st…Jack Cowell has 2+4=6 in his last 7 games. It took him 26 games to score his first-two goals of his WHL career……The Rockets have surrendered 5 or more goals 10 times this season. The teams’ record, not surprisingly, is 0-9-1-0 …Calvin Thurkauf has points in 12 of his last 15 games ….11 of the teams last 16 games have been decided by a goal …The Rockets are 17-9-4-0 in their last 30 games and have points in 19 of their last 27 (15-7-4-0).

Broadcasters Bits: Calvin Thurkauf played in his 100th career game Wednesday night against the Hitmen…Michael Herringer’s next start will be the 100th of his career….GM Bruce Hamilton has traded/released six players from the teams opening day roster…Kole Lind had his 13 game point streak snapped December 18th against the Edmonton Oil Kings. It is the longest point streak by a Rockets player this season …Calvin Thurkauf was named the WHL Player of the Week December 7th to 11th …The Rockets were 8-3-2-0 in December...The Rockets were 6-4-0-0 in 10 games in November after going 8-4-0-0 in 12 games in October…The Rockets are the only team in the WHL that has failed to surrender a shorthanded goal against this season…The Rockets are 9-11-0-0 against BC based teams this seasonMichael Herringer has started in 32 of the last 41 games…The Rockets are 8-2-2-0 against U.S Division teams this season.


Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150