Monday, November 24, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

    I spoke to NJ Devils David Conte about Damon Severson
  • What did Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert have to say when asked if some fans across the WHL will be surprised that his team lost back-to-back games to the Portland Winterhawks on the weekend? "They are defending champs of the Western Conference", Lambert said dead panned on the AM 1150 post game show Saturday night. "I don't know how you can be underrated when...(pause) are the champ until somebody beats you. In my books, we were the underdogs in this series and they showed us why".      
  • I have received a number of compliments, and thankfully no complaints after my emotional call at the conclusion of the Rockets/Royals game Wednesday night. I went into 'Regan's Rant' mode and shared my opinion about what I saw on the ice when Victoria forward Brandon Magee went after Rockets forward Cole Linaker. I was careful not to go overboard, but if you read this blog regularly, I speak my mind and am not under the thumb of anyone to mind my p's and q's. I don't trade Kelowna Rockets team secrets, but that is because God gave me a brain to use and you don't cut off the hand that feeds you. What I hope to accomplish on this blog is some honesty about the way I feel, but I also want to be fair towards the opposition. I have spoken to Brandon Magee before and off the ice he is a good guy. He is personable. I don't hate him despite his stick work the other night that got me upset on the air. Will I talk to him again? You bet I will. I don't hold grudges unless you treat me a certain way. If you disrespect me, like one WHL coach who was recently fired did, I am done with you. If you portray that I am wasting your time during a pre-game interview, our interactions are over. You don't need me and I don't need you.          
  • An interesting discussion last week with a WHL executive on small crowds at WHL games so far this season. It was suggested the regression in fighting, while great in making steps towards eliminating concussions in hockey, is hurting the number of people who are sitting in the stands. The game is so "vanilla" and "predictable" said the executive. It is hard to argue with that. In the 80's/90's, you didn't know if a fight or line brawl would break out. Fans hated one another as much as the players did on the ice. You paid a ticket to watch the great goals but you also didn't mind dishing out your hard earned dough if you saw a great fight or two. The fact is players have friends on opposing teams and despite the statement that friendships are put aside when the puck drops it isn't the case anymore. The animosity or hatred between players is no where near what it used to be. It is a kinder, gentler game and some of the raw emotion is lost.       
  • The best interview last week came from the Director of Officiating for the Western Hockey League Kevin Muench. I asked him several questions about officiating including embellishment. "I think embellishment is a concern at all levels of hockey. There is a difference about embellishment or going down soft. Sometimes a player will go down easily when he is hit. That is not embellishment. Embellishment is when you are trying to trick officials", Muench added.
  • How about fighting? Are we headed towards a day when fighting is eliminated at the WHL level? "There was a time when there were multiple fights. There were times where there were staged fights. Do we see less fighting? Yes, I think so. Right now fighting has been minimized and I don't doubt it will continue that it will be gradually less", Muench added. 
  • Have you noticed that name bars on NHL, AHL, OHL and QMJHL referee's and linesman are absent? Did you also noticed every WHL official has his name tag (bar) on the back of his jersey? In the other league's fans have to yell out, "Hey 24, your a bum". In the WHL you can says his last name before throwing out a verbal barb.    
  • Have you noticed that fighting isn't the automatic reaction when a player throws a good body check on an opponent? I am not saying it doesn't happen, but it isn't happening as much this season in the games I've witnessed. "I think players have to feel comfortable that they don't have to fight if they don't want too", Kevin Muench told me. "The dangers now are as a result of a good hit they have to fight. We don't need younger players coming into our league who are tentative to throw body checks thinking that they may have to fight as a result". 
  • It is a crowded Kelowna Rockets crease with three goaltenders attempting to earn playing time. It is clearly the battle of the back ups with rookies Jake Morrissey fending off 18 year-old Michael Herringer. Herringer, who opened the season as a possible back up with the Victoria Royals, says all three, including starter Jackson Whistle are getting along famously. "I was part of three goalies in Victoria and Saskatoon so it doesn't bother me. Your job is to stop the puck and help the team. We are all trying to do that. We are all on the same team so we have to be friends, right?"  
  • Remember at the start of the season when we were all concerned that Jackson Whistle may not be capable of being a starter in the WHL? Any doubts now? N-O!  
  • The Victoria Royals do a nice job of using interns who are responsible for doing many of the stats the team has in its game day packages. It is a nice use of that resource and I am sure they (interns) glean something from the experience too. The interns, I believe, are responsible for counting the shot totals of every player on the ice and they are featured prominently on the WHL website. I think the only other WHL team that counts shots per player, and then releases them period by period to the media, are the Calgary Hitmen. Those two organizations receive a high five from me.     
  • Remember a few weeks back it was suggested that a new rule should be put into place where 19 year-old players who had spent a minimum of three years in the CHL and are deemed too good to go back to junior hockey could play in the American Hockey League? If that were the case, Portland's Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand would no longer wear Winterhawks colours. Those two are heads and shoulders above the competition and are two of the best 19 year-old's you will find on the planet. Petan specifically passes like a pro. I haven't seen that skill level for years at the WHL level.  
  • Rourke Chartier has the most goals of any player in the CHL, yet he probably won't get an invite to the Canadian World Junior camp next month.Yes he is 18, but shouldn't the best players - regardless of age - with the hottest sticks get a look-see? 
  • I heard on an Edmonton radio station the other day where the hockey host couldn't believe that Damon Severson failed to make the Canadian World Junior team. Of the players invited to the World Junior main camp last year, six have spent time in the NHL this season with Severson being one of them. The others are Aaron Ekblad (Florida), Bo Horvat (Canucks), Jonathon Drouin (Tampa), Curtis Lazar (Senators) and Sam Reinhart (Buffalo).   
  • Am I the only one who thinks LinkedIn is useless? I signed up for it last year and haven't used it once.
  • I ran into New Jersey Devils Director of Scouting David Conte at Saturday night's game at Prospera Place. I had to grab him for a couple of minutes for an interview where he spoke about former Rockets d-man Damon Severson. "He has been excellent. He is playing more minutes than anyone else". Conte likes his low panic threshold. "It is a strength and a weakness sometimes. Complacency at some points but I like everything about him. He is a modest individual. He is a team oriented guy. The sky is the limit.", Conte added. The greatest adjustment for Severson is off the ice where he is a 20 year-old player who's teammates are significantly older than him with wives and kids. Look no further than 42 year-old Jaromir Jagr. I will have the entire David Conte interview Wednesday from Tri City.        
  • What does Conte think of Nick Merkley who is rated as an 'A' prospect by NHL Central Scouting? "Obviously through Damon I have seen him over the years. It is the first time I have seen him this year though. It is quite clear he is an impact level player and that was to be expected again. I equate it this way. A lot of times scouting is a lot like going into the 9th grade and saying, who is going to be the doctor? The ones that have the best grades, work the hardest and have the highest aptitude usually have the best chance but they have to do it from there. Nick is probably the guy that could be the doctor but he has to take the other courses too", Conte added.
  • It looks like Dillon Dube is the closest to returning to the line up. The 16 year-old, who has played in just two games this season, could be back Saturday against visiting Regina. The Cochrane Alberta product broke a bone in his foot in practice and missed the first 8 games of the regular season and then was hurt in his second game back after a kneeing incident in Spokane on October 17th. Dube has missed 16 games since. I miss his smile and positive demeanor on the bus.    
  • Were you holding your breath when Nick Merkley and Nic Petan dropped the gloves Saturday night in an unexpected fight? I did, for both players. I didn't want either to hurt themselves with an unfortunate incident of either hurting a shoulder or having a finger broken. Fortunately, no one was hurt.     
  • I received a message this weekend from a WHL executive wondering why I didn't update my blog following a home ice loss to the Portland Winterhawks Friday night. In joking, the executive said he reads my blog with his morning coffee and failing to supply a posting the following morning was b.s. I chuckled and wrote back that I appreciate him spending a small portion of his day reading my b.s. ;). 
  • By the way, this blog is intended for Kelowna Rockets fans. It is linked on the teams official website. If you don't like it, or it leans too heavily towards the Rockets, don't read it. That's the intention.   

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rockets' are human in back-to-back home ice losses

  • Dan Lambert didn't call it adversity after a pair of one goal losses against the Portland Winterhawks this weekend. The Kelowna Rockets head coach called it "a reality check". Can't argue with that. The Rockets, as good as their record may be, need to play a certain way in order to have success. Deviate off that template and the team finds itself riding a two game losing streak (0-1-1-0). Myles Koules scored game winner Saturday night in a 4-3 win for the Winterhawks, who also won the night before in overtime by the same score. The Rockets rallied with three-third period goals but came up short in their first regulation loss on home ice this season.
  • A decent start for the Rockets in this one. In fact, if you compare it to Friday's game, it was a significantly better opening 20 minutes. The second period saw the Winterhawks score twice for a 3-0 lead. The killer goal to give up was a Dominic Turgeon centering attempt that went off Rockets rookie Tomas Soustal and into the back of the net. It was a gift goal for the visitors, who need no help in manufacturing offense.
  • Whatever was said in the second intermission paid off as the Rockets had the most jump we've seen this weekend. They were hitting, playing significant minutes in the offensive zone and finding the back of the net three times. Rourke Chartier scored his league leading 25th and 26th goals of the season. 
  • The power play was the story of the weekend. The Winterhawks was deadly and the Rockets were below average. The Winterhawks were 4 for 11 with the extra man, or 50% of their 8 goals scored came with the extra man. The Rockets were 1 for 9, which means five of the six goals they scored were either even strength (4 of them) with one coming shorthanded.   
  • Why isn't Adin Hill the Winterhawks #1 goaltender? I would say five solid periods by the Calgary resident. 
  • Oliver Bjorkstrand was the best skater on the ice Saturday. Works hard. Battle levels is high. Always around pucks. The 19 year-old made a beautiful move to score his lone goal of the game by cutting around Riley Stadel before depositing the puck on the fore-hand past Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle.
  • The Rockets again played this game with 17 skaters, which was one under the league limit. The Winterhawks played the game without Paul Bitttner, who was hurt in Friday's opening game.
  • Nice scrap between the Nic's! Nic Petan dropped the gloves with Nick Merkley. The good news? No one broke a hand. I counted two punches throw. One that missed from Merkley with a hay-maker right and a Petan punch when Merkley fell to the ice after the attempted knock out punch.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fatigue without a doubt a factor

    Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets coaches never make excuses after a loss. Never have, never will. So with that said, let me do it for them. If the Rockets were going to run out of gas, which they did last night in a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Portland Winterhawks, it was bound to happen this weekend in an anticipated doubleheader been the two teams'. Unfortunately, it isn't a level playing field when you really look at what has happened over the last week and a half. The Rockets played 5 straight road games over 9 days and traveled a total of 2708 kilometers over that stretch. They traveled back and forth to Spokane, then made the long hike up to Prince George before immediately heading back south to Victoria for back-to-back games against the Royals on Tuesday and Wednesday night. The Rockets didn't travel back from Victoria until Thursday, arriving at Prospera Place at 2 pm that afternoon. Shaking away the cob webs, the players had to quickly prepare for a fired up Winterhawks team that is no weak sister despite what the haters will say. Making things worse is the injuries the Rockets have sustained over the last month. They were able to dress just 16 skaters Friday night, two under the league limit. Without Austin Glover, Dalton Yorke, Mitch Wheaton and Justin Kirkland and a suspension to Rodney Southam, like my hairline, the line up was awfully thin. Add up all those factors against a skilled team like Portland, are we really surprised the Rockets relinquished a 3-0 lead?   
  • For Winterhawks fans that think I am making excuses, remember when the Rockets beat your team 5-0 in the first game of the seasonal series? Were the Winterhawks not in Saskatoon on a Saturday and had bus troubles coming back home for a Friday night home date with the Rockets? The Portland players must have been tired and the 5-0 result was part in parcel of the fatigue the home team must have been feeling. Again, that game is another example of an unlevel playing field.     
  • "We got a point in a game we really had no business, so we can thank Jackson Whistle for that", head coach Dan Lambert told us on the post game show. Without a doubt Whistle was the reason why the game was as close as it was. It could have been a blow out. Whistle faced 52 shots, many of the high quality variety. If Whistle would have been mediocre, the score may have hit double digits.
  • I thought a perfect example of how mentally tired the team looked was on the Winterhawks third goal. Watch it on video on the Rockets website if you don't believe me. Jackson Whistle stops the puck behind the net and promptly slides it, gingerly, towards defenceman Madison Bowey who can't handle it. It is turned over in the corner where Portland overager Myles Koules sends it into the high slot where Winterhawks leading scorer Chase De Leo is at high speed and fires a low shot past a startled Whistle. For me that goal was the back breaker. Bowey, who is world junior potential, is unable to handle a soft pass from Whistle, which showed me and the 55 hundred fans and a national TV audience exactly where the mental fatigue level was of the home team Friday night. 
  • The Rockets may have had a 3-0 lead, but they capitalizing on the few chances they had in the opening period. Portland came out hard, but the home team opened the scoring on its first shot on net. Winterhawks goaltender Brendan Burke was fighting the puck and was quickly replaced by Adin Hill to start the second. Hill had an easy night. Steady when called upon, the Calgary resident made just 14 saves the rest of the way.  
  • Oddly enough, the Rockets had a chance to win the game when the Winterhawks took a delay of game penalty with 2:06 left in the game. My fear, considering how the Rockets were playing and how hungry the Winterhawks looked, was surrendering a shorthanded goal. The best look the Rockets had on the power play was when leading goal getter Rourke Chartier missed the corner of the net on an in-tight chance. 
  • Nic Petan doesn't get a point, but he was one of the best players on the ice. Petan controls the play and often is seen stick handling with the puck like it is on a string. I think he is the best player in the WHL. I really do. 
  • Chase De Leo did so many things right last night. Take away his two goals and watch how hard he works in his own zone. A great skater, De Leo does not give up on plays. He tracked back hard throughout the game and appeared to care as much about his d-coverage as he did about finding good chances to score in the offensive zone. De Leo also received rave reviews for his interviewing skills after the game from the local media. Act like a like a pro. De Leo is that guy.
  • This game was broadcasted on Rogers Sportnet for all to see. Nationally televised, meant the game took a whopping 2 hours and 52 minutes to play. Sportsnet, by all reports, did a terrific job and even brought in the heavy hitters of John Shorthouse and John Garrett to call the game. The Canucks duo did a solid job, which really shouldn't come as a surprise. I was especially impressed with Garrett,  who is as personable as they come. Gord McGarva and I had a nice conversation with him prior to puck drop. 
  • As for Shorthouse, I thought it was admirable of him to inform us that the Winterhawks were making a goaltending change heading into the second period.  He motioned to use of the change while Gord and I were doing the out-of-town scoreboard and were concentrating on other matters. Again, small gesture by Shorthouse but one that was appreciated and shouldn't be overlooked.
  • What happens tonight in the rematch? Rodney Southam is back in the line up after serving a one game suspension so that gives the Rockets another body to work with.  Is Justin Kirkland healthy enough to play tonight after being injured in Prince George? That would give the team 18 skaters. Who starts in goal? Whistle must have lost 10 pounds after his exploits last night. Talk to you on the radio at 6:30. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Game notes vs. Winterhawks

Tonight’s Preview: It is a rematch of last season’s Western Conference championship series as the Kelowna Rockets host the Portland Winterhawks. This is the Winterhawks first game back at Prospera Place after winning two of three games in the WCF on the road. After the Rockets won game one 5-4, the Winterhawks would win game two (5-3) and game five (7-3). These two teams have met twice this season – in Portland – with the Rockets earning a 5-0 win (Oct 30th) before falling 3-2 in overtime (Nov 1st). These two teams meet again tomorrow night. The Rockets completed a five game road trip Wednesday in Victoria with a 5-3 win. The Rockets picked up 9 out of a possible 10 points on the trip, outscoring the opposition 24-15. Following these two games against the Winterhawks, the Rockets travel to Tri City to face the Americans this Wednesday. This is the teams 5th game in 8 nights. Overall, the Rockets have points in 13 straight games (11-0-2-0).   

The Big Three: Leading point producers Nick Merkley, Rourke Chartier and Tyson Baillie have combined for 114 points. Merkley, Chartier and Baillie have also combined to score 50 of the teams’ 118 goals this season. Merkley is rated as an ‘A’ prospect by NHL Central Scouting for this summer’s draft. Teammate Joe Gatenby and Tomas Soustal are ‘C’ prospect in the November rankings.     

Who’s Hot: Jesse Lees is riding a five game point streak. Lees has 3+7=10 over that period…Tyson Baillie has five goals in his last four games and is riding a four game point streak (5+5=10) ...Rourke Chartier has as many goals (24) as he did all of last season. Chartier has goals in 11 of his last 12 games….Nick Merkley has 4+12=16 in his last nine games and is riding a nine game point streak…Madison Bowey has been held off the score-sheet just five times this season (@Tri City/vs. SC/vs. Giants/@PG/@Vic).   

League Leaders: Nick Merkley leads the WHL in points with 42…Nick Merkley has 19 power play assists, the most in the WHL…Merkley leads the league in assists with 34…Rourke Chartier leads the WHL with 24 goals scored…Rourke Chartier leads the WHL with a +22...Chartier leads the WHL in game winning goals with 7…Jackson Whistle leads the WHL in wins with 16.  

This and That: The Rockets were officially inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony Thursday morning. The 2004 Memorial Cup winning team was honored for winning major junior hockey’s top prize...Did you know the Rockets allowed just three goals in four games at the 2004 Memorial Cup? The Rockets won by scores of 1-0, 4-1, 2-1 and in the tournament final by a 2-1 score…Eight members of the 2004 M.C winning team played at least one game in the NHL….The Rockets are 17-1-0-0 in their last 18 regular season home games dating back to last season….Last season the Rockets beat the Winterhawks in both regular season games at Prospera Place by scores of 6-2 and 6-3….Rodney Southam has five fighting majors in 8 games with the Rockets this season. Southam has four tilts in his last five games…The Rockets have just completed a stretch of playing 11 of their last 16 games on the road….Tonight the Rockets are entering a portion of their schedule playing 6 of their next 7 games on home ice….The Rockets and the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs are the only teams’ in the CHL without a regulation loss on home ice this season. The Sea Dogs are 8-0-0-2…Austin Glover has missed 5 straight games with an injury….Tuesday’s overtime loss in Victoria was the first time the Rockets have suffered a setback after leading after 40 minutes…The Rockets have the most points in the CHL (44) and have scored the most goals (118)….The Rockets have been held to three goals or less only four times this season…. The Rockets have scored 5 or more goals on the road in 10 of their 15 road games this season. Last year they score 5 or more goals 15 times on opposition ice….Nick Merkley hit the 100 point plateau with an empty net goal Wednesday night in Victoria…Merkley has 13 multiple point games…The Rockets are rated as the best team according to this week’s CHL Top10 junior rankings….Rourke Chartier tied the longest goal scoring streak in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. With goals in ten straight games, Chartier tied Jesse Schultz, who originally set the mark in the 2002-2003 season.…Rourke Chartier had his 13 game point streak on the road snapped Tuesday night in Victoria. The 18 year-old has 18 of his 24 goals on opposition ice….Chartier has been held off the score-sheet four times this season…The Rockets are an incredible 131-28-5-5 in their last 169 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 season….In case you are wondering, the Rockets have not been shutout in 101 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops…Tyrell Goulbourne hit the 400 penalty minute mark in his career with a fight against Victoria’s Taylor Crunk Wednesday night. Goulbourne has 6 goals in his last 6 games. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Character win takes back seat to Magee incident

“That escalated quickly”, was one of the many comical lines from the movie Anchorman.
The same phrase could describe the antics at the end of the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 win over the Victoria Royals last night, but the WHL league office in Calgary won’t be chuckling.
Brandon Magee, the Victoria Royals player who was suspended for the first 12 games of this season after a vicious cross check to Portland’s Nic Petan in last year’s playoffs, was up to his old tricks last night.   
With the game no longer in question after a Nick Merkley empty net goal to make the score 5-3, the 20 year-old high sticked Rockets forward Cole Linaker on the ensuing  face-off.  No penalty is called on the play, but you can clearly see on video that Magee uses his stick, almost like a pitch fork, thrusting it up towards Linaker’s face.
Oh, it gets worse folks.  
With 3.3 seconds left in the game, with a face-off to the left of Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer, Magee again takes the draw with Linaker. This time the Edmonton product makes no attempt to win the face-off but appears to be more concerned with inflicting pain on the 19 year-old by spearing Linaker, which starts a donnybrook in the corner. As several players come together to protect teammates, two fights break out involving Rockets forward Rodney Southam and Victoria’s Austin Carroll and Rockets rookie defenceman Devante Stephens and Royals d-man Chaz Reddekopp. 
Magee is seen firing right hands at Linaker as the two are at the bottom of a pile of bodies.  
The damage could have been a whole lot worse. There could have been more fights and significant injury could have been inflicted.  But this isn’t about the carnage that is left; it is more about the act. There is winning with class and losing with class. Magee doesn’t get it. He showed it against Portland in last year’s playoffs and his uncontrolled anger reached a boiling point again last night.  If Magee can’t control his dislike for losing, does his coach bare any responsibility for putting Magee in that situation?
I think Dave Lowry does.
I thought Rockets assistant coach Travis Crickard said it best on our post game show. “This is the team that I fear for our player’s safety”. Crickard isn't exaggerating. The Royals, when provoked, play a below the belt game and someone is going to get hurt.  
Oh, did I mention that the Rockets beat the Royals and won for the 21st time this season?
The score on this night is secondary. The focal point was the thuggery that hockey executives want to eliminate from the game.
On this night, it was a black eye for the WHL.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Few show up in OT loss

Courtesy of Victoria Royals
  • The Victoria Royals coaching staff were pleased with the effort in a 4-3 overtime win last night at Memorial Centre. The Rockets coaching staff? Not so much. Alex Blomqvist scored the game winning goal in extra time in the one goal victory, snapping the Rockets 7 game winning streak. Tyson Baillie scored twice while Kris Schmidli added his fourth of the season as the Rockets were held to three goals or less for only the fourth time. The same two teams' meet again tonight in Victoria in the rematch.
  • As poorly at times as the Rockets played, they were 1:57 seconds away from recording their 21st win of the season. The tying goal was pure luck as the puck went off Rockets defenceman Joe Gatenby and swiftly made its way between the legs of goaltender Jackson Whistle. Royals sharp shooter Brandon Magee was credited with the goal, likely his ugliest of the season. I don't know if that took the air out of the Rockets balloon, but they looked flat in overtime. The Royals had the majority of the play inside the offensive zone. While overtime features 4 on 4, it honestly looked like the Rockets were playing a man short. Was it fatigue? Maybe? All I know is the visitors had no killer instinct in overtime and it looked like they wanted the shootout in the worst way.
  • A tough start for the Rockets in this one. At one point the shots were 10-1 Victoria halfway through the first period. Amazingly, the Rockets had a 2-0 lead after back-to-back goals from Tyson Baillie and Kris Schmidli. 
  • Baillie, Schmidli and Jesse Lees were the visitors top three players. Those three accounted for 19 of the Rockets 31 shots on net.  Schmidli had an amazing 8 shots on goal. Lees had 6 and Baillie had 5 shots. Thanks to the interns at Victoria Royals home games, those stats are available. Well done!!
  • I tweeted it last night but it is worth mentioning again on this blog. The Rockets three 20 year-old players registered 0 points in last night's game. The Royals three 20 year-old's combined for 6 points. Brandon Magee had 1+1=2, Austin Carroll had 1+1=2 and Travis Brown had 0+2=2. To be fair, two of the three 20 year-old players on the Rockets roster are 'defensive' players, not goal scorers. But if you are 'defensive', you are still required to make a contribution through playing hard along the wall and winning pucks for your line-mates.
  • Speaking of Brown, he was the most physical player against a much smaller Nick Merkley. It was clearly the game plan to hit Merkley at every turn. The hits on Merkley appear more aggressive than normal though. I may be overly sensitive here, but with my rose coloured Rockets glasses on my face, it appears the Royals are hitting to hurt, rather than simply separating the man from the puck. It is something I will be watching closely tonight to see if the Royals indeed take physical liberties on one of the most skill players in the league. If they indeed do, isn't it funny how the Western Hockey League wants to change the way the game is played by promoting a more skilled game, yet its most skilled players are allowed to be used and abused?
  • While the Royals were keying on Merkley, line-mate Rourke Chartier had a uncharacteristically quiet night. Chartier manufactured just three shots on goal, with none of them overly dangerous. Chartier, who has scored at will this season, didn't have one really good look on net. The 18 year-old appeared sluggish or tired as his 10 game goal scoring streak came to an end.
  • Both goaltenders had interesting night's. Royals d-man Joe Hicketts made a nice save on Tyson Baillie with a wide open net staring the 19 year-old in the face when Victoria goalie Coleman Vollrath over committed by sliding belly first during a goal mouth scramble in the first period. Then in the third, Jackson Whistle got a piece of a shot that then trickled dangerously towards the goal line before being swept away by captain Madison Bowey.
  • Again, as poorly as the Rockets played with 6 regulars out of the line-up, they lost in overtime. Ya, SIX regulars didn't play and the Royals still needed overtime to beat them. Yank six players out of anyone's line up and see what impact that makes. The Rockets have enough top end players to win games like this, but when injuries mount, you need to have more than three players performing at their optimum level.
  • I hate the delay of game penalty when a player shoots the puck over the glass in their own zone. I hate the penalty even more after Royals d-man Travis Brown had the puck go off his shin pad and over the glass. Yes, Brown attempted to kick at the puck while it was in mid air, but he had no intention of sending it into the crowd. Maybe the rule needs to be altered or the referee should have some latitude in making a discretionary call in a situation like that.
  • Attendance. In Victoria on a Tuesday night, only 35 hundred fans took in the game featuring a visiting team with the best record in the WHL. The building was half full. It didn't look like Prince George, but darn close. The Memorial Arena seats just over 7 thousand. It could have been worse. On a Tuesday night against Brandon earlier this season, the best team in the Eastern Conference - Brandon Wheat Kings - drew only 32 hundred fans in Victoria. The theory that better teams' attract larger crowds is such a crock.  
  • Talk to you on the radio at 6:30. Enjoy your day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rockets game notes vs. Royals

Tonight’s Preview: The Kelowna Rockets are 3-0-0-0 as they play game four of a five game road trip tonight against the Victoria Royals. This is the first of two trips to the Island this season. These two teams’ play tomorrow night too. The Rockets make a return to Memorial Centre on February 20th and 21st. For what it’s worth, the Rockets were 3-1-0-0 in Victoria last season.  These two teams met back on November 5th with the Rockets earning a 5-1 win. Rourke Chartier, Nick Merkley and Madison Bowey each had a goal and two assists in the win. Jackson Whistle was named the games 1st star with a 27 save performance. Following these two games, they won’t meet again until February 13th.  The Rockets are coming off wins against Spokane (4-3) and back-to-back victories up in Prince George this past weekend (6-3 and 6-2). Overall, the Rockets are riding a seven game winning streak having out-scored the opposition 35-14. The Rockets host Portland this Friday and Saturday night in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference final. 

Rourke=Torque: Rourke Chartier has 20 points in 8 games this month. That includes four-two goal games and five-three point games. Seven of his eight multi-goal games have come on the road. Chartier had just two goals in November 2013. Chartier has 27 of his 40 points (68%) on the road. Chartier is also one goal shy of his career high 24 goals set last season.     

Who’s Hot – Who’s Not: Rourke Chartier is riding a league high 10 game goal scoring streak (15 goals over that span) and a 10 game point streak. The 18 year-old has 15+9=24 over that period…Nick Merkley has 3+11=14 in his last seven games and is riding a seven game assist/point streak…Madison Bowey has been held off the score-sheet just four times this season (@Tri City/vs. SC/vs. Giants and @PG)...Riley Stadel has gone 12 games without a goal…Colton Heffley has gone 19 games without a goal. Last goal was Oct 26th in Prince George when he scored twice.   

League Leaders: Nick Merkley and Rourke Chartier are tied for the WHL lead in points with 40. No Rockets player has ever won a WHL scoring title…Nick Merkley has 18 power play assists, the most in the WHL…Merkley leads the league in assists with 33…Rourke Chartier leads the WHL with 23 goals scored…Rourke Chartier leads the WHL with a +22...Chartier leads the WHL in game winning goals with 7. Myles Bell lead the team in GWG last season with 9…Jackson Whistle leads the WHL in wins with 16.  

This and That: The Rockets have scored 5 or more goals on the road in 9 of their 13 road games this season. Last year they score 5 or more goals 15 times on opposition ice….The Rockets will play their 14th road game of the season tonight against the Royals. That will tie them for the league lead for most road games played. With tomorrow night’s road game behind them, the Rockets will have played the most games on opposition ice in the WHL…Nick Merkley is 2 assists shy of 100 for his career….Merkley has 15 assists in his last 7 games….Merkley has 13 multiple point games..Merkley had three goals against the Royals last season including two in Victoria…..Last season the Rockets won their 20th game in game 25 of the regular season…Rourke Chartier is tied for the longest goal scoring streak in Kelowna Rockets franchise history. With goals in ten straight games, Chartier is tied with Jesse Schultz, who originally set the mark in the 2002-2003 season. In those 10 games, Schultz scored 13 times…Justin Kirkland played in his 100th career game Saturday night in Prince George…Tyson Baillie and Lucas Johansen celebrate birthdays Sunday. Baillie turned 19 while Johansen turned 17…The Rockets have scored 48 goals in the last 10 games with Chartier earning 24 points….Rourke Chartier is riding an 13 game point streak on the road. The 18 year-old has 17 of his 23 goals on opposition ice….Chartier has been held off the score-sheet three times this season, all on home ice…The Rockets are an incredible 130-28-4-5 in their last 167 regular season games dating back to the start of the 2012-2013 season….In case you are wondering, the Rockets have not been shutout in 99 consecutive games. The last time the Rockets were held without a goal was March 3, 2013 in a 3-0 loss in Kamloops… The Rockets have called up forward Alex Uryga. Originally listed by Spokane, Uryga is playing midget hockey and suiting up for a team in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League…Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer is from Comox, BC and played his minor hockey on the Island including with the VIJHL franchises in Nanaimo and Kerry Park. Herringer also suited up for the Victoria Royals, playing in two regular season games with them in 2012-2013. Herringer was a 9th round bantam pick of the Royals from 2011…Rookie Tate Coughlin is also from Victoria. The 17 year-old was named the VIJHL Rookie of the Year with the Peninsula Panthers, scoring 25 goals and collecting 51 points in 43 games in 2013-2014…Tyrell Goulbourne is one penalty minute shy of 400 for his career. Goulbourne has 6 goals in his last four games.