rourke chartier

Rockets Game For A 7th Showdown

You saw Game 6 and even if you didn’t, the Kelowna Rockets would prefer you not see it. Penalty troubles plagued the Kelowna crew and a less than attentive start in the first period had the Rockets playing catchup all game. Heading back to Victoria for the illustrious GAME 7 is all the motivation the Rockets need.

Get the job done and move on to Seattle.

The Rockets have done quite well in the conference semis this year with every game being a tight knit one. Neither team is giving up much so the errors are front and centre when they happen. Stellar goaltending on both ends has forced everyone to bury their chances because there won’t be many opportunities to take a lead.

Kelowna is 2-2 in Game 7’s going ALLLLL the way back to 2008. They don’t play very many of them but have seen a number of Game 6’s though. As you no doubt have heard, if Jack Walker scores for Victoria in this series, the Royals have won. Not a fun stat but he’s pretty good. It wouldn’t surprise me if he did indeed score but the Rockets have plenty of fight left and can put this away just as much as the Royals.

Here are your KEYS TO THE GAME:

  • STAY OUT OF THE PENALTY BOX!!! The Rockets have been shorthanded the MOST of any team in the WHL this post season, 60 times if you really wanna know. No doubt Brad Ralph has preached discipline but I mean, at this point, you just hope they outscore their problems. Maybe change it up and think about drawing penalties instead of taking them. On that same note, Victoria is finding it tough to score as Kelowna’s 85% PK is impressive.
  • Lack of Power…play – The Royals have a 17% PP success rate which isn’t all that high but Kelowna isn’t really any better at 14.6%. Whoever wins this battle, probably wins the game and thus, the series.
  • Rourke is off the Charts! – Rourke Chartier and Tomas Soustal lead the Rockets with 11 points; each with 5 goals and 6 assists. Charts has been an integral part of the Rockets success the last two seasons and without star Nick Merkley this time, he’s upped his game as have others and they’ve enjoyed energy bursts that usually result in scoring chances and more than not, goals.
  • Another brick in the wall – Michael Herringer just doesn’t quit. He’s bit early on a few goals this series but other than that, nobody can beat this guy. He’s so cool in the net, he just doesn’t panic under any circumstance. His 2.38 GAA is tops among active goalies in the playoffs, his two shutouts, ditto. Herry’s .928 SA% is no slouch either and we shouldn’t be surprised. Herringer has been the Rockets MVP this playoff run because without him, they probably don’t even get passed Kamloops. Another big game should be in the cards for him.
  • Win Game 7 – we all dream of winning it all in Game 7, scoring the big goal and the team carries you off. Tyson Baillie had a pretty impressive one against Seattle to finalize a hat trick so he knows the importance of bringing everything you have. Play the game that got you there and it should be just fine….well not Game 6.

Brad Ralph might be interested in getting Riley Stadel a few more minutes for this one. His energy and versatility are almost unmatched and a big hit early could help steer the course in the Rockets favour; combine that with a Chartier/Kirkland goal and Kelowna is on to Round 3!

We are very fortunate to have this series on Shaw so we can enjoy the tight knit hockey one more time I’d assume the East gets the next round so the Rockets will have to climb one more mountain to get their names in lights once again.

But first, the Victoria Royals. It will be nail biting, it will be stressful and it will most definitely be must see TV.

As Regan Bartel sets us up each game on AM 1150, he leaves us with this “Pitter Patter Lets Get At Er”

Photo – Times Colonist

Rockets In For Long Series Versus Royals

After losing two straight in Victoria, the Rockets went from effort to results. Game 3 wasn’t flawless for Kelowna but their compete level was noticeable and the difference was the final score. Game 4 is going to be a war and if the Rockets are wanting to go back to the island tied up, they’ll need every bit of game they had from Tuesday.

Michael Herringer started Game 3 quietly stealing the show, by the end, he was the #1 star. The defining moment of that game for me was his sprawling save in the first period that led to an end to end rush followed by Rourke Chartier banging home the tic tac toe goal. Had Herringer allowed that goal, it would have been 1-1 and who knows where that game goes.

Speaking of Chartier, he could not be stopped. Thursday night will be another chance for him to show why he has been a leader all year even with the loss of Nick Merkley. Charts is currently tied with Tomas Soustal at 8 points for the team lead. Both have been integral goal scorers and against Coleman Vollrath they’ll need to be again.

Chartier hooked Soustal up for the game winning goal in the 3rd and the effort continued until the end.

Tyson Baillie was held in check for the most part as the series shifted to Kelowna but believe you me, this is where he shines. Baillie is all kinds of clutch in the playoffs and nothing would surprise me if Game 4 went to OT and Baillie was the hero.

The Rockets employed a new look PP and I wonder if we’ll see that same bold strategy again. Coach Brad Ralph sent out 5 forwards on the 5 on 3 and it paid off. Kelowna needs to keep getting creative with the man advantage and get their blue line more involved. Those shots are coming and it seems like Lucas Johansen is getting time and space enough that he can unload his quick shot.

It all circles back to goaltender Michael Herringer. He was tested and saw a good chunk of the shots he faced. There were some semi-desperation saves, a few game changers and his battle level was tops.

What I love about Herringer is that he’s stone cold in net. No matter the stage, he doesn’t flinch or get flustered. He treats every save like a transaction – square up, see the shot, save the shot. Repeat. I made a comment when the season started that he’s like the hero that slo-mo walks away from the building exploding in the background.

Guy just doesn’t looked startled at all. Down the stretch he will be the Rockets difference maker when the scoring dries up.

Thursday night’s game can bring the Rockets back to square one with the Royals and make it a best of 3. You want that, I want that, they want that.

So go and do it.

 

photo – timescolumnist.com

Kelowna Rockets Gamble About To Pay Off

The Kelowna Rockets can advance to the Mastercard Memorial Cup with a win against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday night. The two top teams in the Dub found each other at the end of a pretty straightforward playoff run.

Kelowna gambled big after coming up short last year and essentially bet the farm to make the Memorial Cup this year. Bruce Hamilton, Rockets Owner/GM, made some shrewd moves and those moves are about to pay out large dividends for the franchise.

With surging forwards Rourke Chartier, Nick Merkley and Tyson Baillie already in the fold, the Rockets still needed that final piece up front that would take them over the top. When the Edmonton Oilers sent Leon Draisaitl back to junior, there was some talk it was on the basis he would go to a contender so he could mature his game a bit more.

The Rockets were the lucky recipients of his talents, but not before making an equally important trade with the same Prince Albert Raiders that Draisaitl played for prior to his NHL debut; local boy Josh Morrissey was dealt to Kelowna from PA to give the Rockets another star on the blue line.

After the World Junior Championships, which Madison Bowey and Morrissey both came home with gold, they began their assault on the WHL. It took some time to mesh and along with the eventual Leon Draisaitl came Gage Quinney, which many thought was a throw in. Quinney has been as important as Draisaitl and Morrissey and has given the Rockets yet another talent to flaunt game after game.

When Draisaitl came back to the WHL, Kelowna did what they haven’t done in 24 years: they dealt their 2015 1st round pick and two other picks in the 4th round to Prince Albert along with Kris Schmidli and Dalton Yorke.
If you lived in Kelowna when that happened it was a head turner. Bruce Hamilton is all about building from within but with a realistic chance to go all the way, he put his money where his mouth is. What resulted was next to perfection really.

In addition to their team success, the new look Rockets have pretty much run the table in the playoffs and racked up the personal stats for its stars both regular season and playoffs. 2014 WHL Rookie of the Year Nick Merkley has adjusted his game this year and has become more of a playmaker.

20 goals and a whopping 70 assists, not to mention a +29 has made Merkley a dual threat when he’s on the ice. His 4 goals and 22 assists in this year’s playoffs are further proof of this. Sadly, my dream of Merks getting drafted in this year’s NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks fades every game he plays; he won’t be there when they pick.

Merkley’s linemate and centre, Rourke Chartier is no slouch either. Even with an injury in both the regular season and playoffs, Chartier has blasted the stat sheet. 48 goals, 34 assists in the regular season and 12 goals, plus a huge 6 assists in the playoffs only authenticize why Kelowna has been dangerous all year.

Now, I could stop there and that would be enough.

The final nail in the coffin for the rest of the WHL was future NHL superstar Leon Draisaitl. It didn’t take more than a period for Leon to show off his stuff when he arrived in the Okanagan. That was all we needed to see.

Draisaitl found early success with clutch perfromer Tyson Baillie and only recently was added to the line of Chartier and Merkley. Before Game 4 of the WHL Championship, Leon had 9 goals and 17 helpers in 18 games. His presence is scary good and he takes over every shift.

Even though coach Dan Lambert loaded up his top line with those three, he has solid depth up and down the roster to get results early and often, Gage Quinney and Dillon Dube to name a few. A sound defense with Bowey, Morrissey, Cole Martin and Joe Gatenby keeps the puck away from the Rockets net and closer to their opponents.

The Kelowna Rockets haven’t played very many games to get to this possible Mem Cup berth and no one is really surprised. A first round sweep of the Tri City Americans, 5 games to beat the Victoria Royals, 6 to FINALLY beat the Portland Winterhawks and the 3 games they have owned Brandon.

Its tough to say if the Rockets have truly been tested thus far but they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. 

Bruce Hamilton has been the architect of many great teams over the years with many NHL stars now in its alumnus; but this year’s team might be his best yet. Never looked like a gambler to me, just a smart man with a great scout.

One win left til poutine, Quebec City here we come! Also, did you NOTICE the beef jerky ad at the top? Man I love beef jerky.

#thismomentweownit GO ROCKETS GO!

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Main photo credit – infotel.ca