tyson baillie

Rockets Showing Glimpses of Memorial Cup Run

When this series started, I had the Royals winning in 7 games. As good as Kelowna has been this year, Victoria just seemed to have the IT factor, especially to close out the season. As the Rockets enter Game 6 on home ice, they have a chance to close it all out and prove to the CHL powers that be that rankings are nothing more than a number on paper.

They may not have the Tyrell Goulbournes, Madison Boweys, Nick Merkleys or even Jackson Whistle but the veterans have stepped it up a notch this series and are getting results.

Tyson Baillie hasn’t been the hot hand this post season but when you need a big goal, he’s your man.

So maybe Baillie hasn’t been the guy but Justin Kirkland has brought his game to another level against the Royals. His big shot and offensive awareness have been game changers in the last 3 tilts. With 3 goals and an assist in the series, he’s getting the looks and making the most of his chances.

His goal in Game 5 to make it 3-1 was a PP marker and at that point there was no turning back. Speaking of the power play, the Rockets sure waited to get this going but boy oh boy does it shine now.

As Game 6 approaches, all eyes will once again be on Michael Herringer. He’s been as the kids say, “SICK”, and when he doesn’t make the called save, he seems to be having a bit of the puck luck as well. When you’re on your game, things just seem to go your way. Herringer gives the Rockets the ability to press a little harder at the other end knowing their goaltender can bail them out.

Even when Herringer doesn’t make every save, he has Joe Gatenby to back him up. Gatenby has been a defensive gem in this series and keeping Joe Hicketts, Jack Walker and Logan Fisher off the score sheet has been a chore but he’s up to it. Yes, he’s been out there for a few but his overall game has built confidence in the Rockets end.

The one line that might just take Kelowna all the way again has a familiar face and a few welcome additions. Rourke Chartier, Tomas Soustal and Calvin Thurkauf have been a delight. These guys love to score and Rockets fans are sure glad they do. A combined 5 goals and 10 assists in 6 games, the top line is surging and it won’t surprise anyone if they get the ball rolling again on Sunday.

Its not just pucks going in the net, these 3 are making it look fun.

Thank you WHL gifs!

The series isn’t over just yet but after Game 5, its tough to see the Rockets regressing in the series. After back to back wins on back to back nights, Kelowna found another gear and are making the Royals pay for any mistakes they make. Herringer is stopping everything in sight and the Rockets power play is starting to click.

Victoria will need a perfect game from their goaltender, whoever that may be, and they need to stay disciplined. Sure, I’m saying this on the Kelowna side but watching them take mindless penalties makes it that much easier for the Rockets to put this away.

Cole Linaker finally got his game going and I expect a big Game 6 from him. Every Rocket player looks poised to head to the next round and I thought the Royals would be the team to beat, but they’re looking a lot like Brandon did a year ago.

We all know what happened after that….but lets not bring up the Final just yet.

Not going to the game, check it out the WHL on Shaw, Ch 304

Photo – Marissa Baecker Shoot the Breeze

#thismomentweownit

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

Rockets Looking To Overthrow the Royals Throne

The Kelowna Rockets go into Game 3 against the Victoria Royals with something to prove. Narrowly missing overtime on a disallowed “kicked in” goal, the series has been closer than the series shows. Sure, its 2-0 Victoria, but does it look that way on the ice? Depends on who you ask. The Royals took the season series 5-4 and in the goals category it wasn’t close. The Rockets will need to get back to a full on team game to make this a series.

Michael Herringer hasn’t been lights out this playoffs and its a shame that #1 Jackson Whistle isn’t there to spell him when things get out of hand; of course if Whistle was there, it would be Herringer doing the relief work.

Stating the obvious but Kelowna’s top players will need to be at their best Tuesday night. Rourke Chartier is doing everything that’s asked of him and Tyson Baillie’s efforts are finally being rewarded. He has been the glue for the Rockets in the good times and the bad and unfortunately he’ll need to be a star in the first game back in Kelowna.

Even with a disallowed goal, Baillie had a goal and an assist and is doing “Baillie Things”. Remember his hat trick against Seattle to clinch Game 7 in OT a few years ago? He’s Mr. Playoffs for the Rockets. I have a feeling his work isn’t done yet.

The defense for the Rockets has been suspect IMO; too much time making decisions, not shooting the puck and creating rebounds and holding the line hasn’t been the greatest either. In his draft year, Lucas Johansen needs to prove he’s worthy of a 28th overall ranking. I personally don’t think he has earned that right yet but in a series like this, he can turn a lot of heads.

Joe Gatenby also has a chance to step back up. He has usually been a rock on the back end as has Cal Foote but this defense just doesn’t impress this year and you start to notice these things when there isn’t a guy that steps up and leads that group. This team has prided itself, well the media and fans anyways, on stellar defense and there has never been questions there. I’ve had a few this season. Where is that booming shot from the point, this among others.

Up front it’s Dillon Dube and his theatrics every time he drives the net. This kid has moves, speed and during the regular season some pretty fancy finishes. Solving Coleman Vollrath will make things easier but it took Kelowna seven games to ultimately solve Connor Ingram. Big man Justin Kirkland has looked good this playoffs and driving to the net with his size can pull Victoria off their game. Kirkland has really looked like a leader this year, not an easy thing to do.

Kirkland, Riley Stadel and Rodney Southam will all need to be front and center against the Royals in Game 3. The Rockets thrive when they get their energy levels boosted, sounds like something every team does but Kelowna is a team that when they put the pedal to the medal and hold it there, it’s pretty tough to bring them down.

If the Rockets want to pull off a regicide, they’ll have to remember why they challenged for the top spot in the WHL. The Victoria Royals are no joke and quite frankly can down Kelowna a lot quicker than some will give them credit for. It’s still a seven game series and Kelowna is far from out of this.

It wouldn’t hurt the local crowd to hand over their library cards for the series and show who’s boss.

It shouldn’t be fun to play the Rockets, home or away; it should be painful going back to Victoria knowing it’s a best of 3.

Get that first goal.

#thismomentweownit

 

photo – zimbio.com