Banner night as Rockets burn Blazers
Sep 21, 2013 / 10:15 pm
On a night when the Kelowna Rockets raised their 14th banner to the rafters of Prospera Place, Tyson Baillie had a banner night of his own leading the home side to a convincing 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers.
Baillie led the Rockets attack with two goals and two assists sending an opening night of nearly 5,400 fans home happy.
"I was pretty lucky especially the one at the end," Baillie said of the first four point night of his career.
"I thought the team battled hard, especially yesterday (Friday in Kamloops) in the first period and we kept the momentum throughout the games."
Neither team was able to muster much in the way of offence over the opening 20 minutes. The best chance for either team came six minutes in when Jordon Cooke stoned Tim Bozon twice on a breakaway.
Rockets head coach Ryan Huska says the first game is always tough without the added excitement of a banner raising ceremony.
"It's hard. The first one on the road is always a tough one and the first one at home is too because the players want to do so well and perform so well," says Huska.
"Sometimes they get themselves so fired up and so excited that they look slow and they freeze on the ice. It's nice to get this weekend over with so now we can look forward to moving on and trying to get better as the week progresses."
After a scoreless opening period the Blazers, as they did the night before, opened the scoring when Joe Kornelson picked up his own rebound and backhanded a shot over a prone Jordon Cooke.
The Rockets got that one back six minutes later when rookie Nick Merkley pounced on a loose puck in a maze of legs just outside the crease and banged home his first Western Hockey League goal.
Cole Linaker tipped home his first of the season five minutes later when a sharp angle shot from Jesse Lees hit Kamloops goaltender Bolton Pouliot on the shoulder and landed behind him inches from the goal line.
The Rockets squandered a chance to put the game away with a late second period power-play but did not make the same mistake in the third.
Baillie with his first of two and Madison Bowey with his first of the season scored power-play goals 32 seconds apart early in the third to put it away.
"We regrouped in between periods, Dan (Lambert) made a couple of adjustments and I thought the guys did a good job," says Huska who agreed those goals were the turning point of the game.
"I thought as soon as we got the second one right away, even though they came back quickly to score the second goal, I thought that was it."
The Rockets, who outshot Kamloops 42-26, opened the season scoring 10 goals while winning their opening two games.
They accomplished all that without their top scorer from a year ago (Myles Bell - 93 points) and their top scoring defenceman (Damon Severson - 52 points).
Severson, still in New Jersey with the NHL's Devils, is expected to return to Kelowna soon while Bell was in Kelowna in time for the game after being sent back by the Devils.
Huska says the coaching staff decided against inserting their big winger into the line-up after a long day of travel from the east coast.
"We had a long conversation about it and I think it came down to us feeling it was better for him and maybe better for our team if he didn't play," says Huska.
"He left New Jersey about 5:30 this morning so he was up about 1:30 or 2 o'clock. We felt it would be better that he was out of the line-up and he could get a full week to get his feet under him and ready to go."
Huska adds adding a player of Bell's stature into the line-up suddenly can also have an adverse affect on the rest of the roster.
"Everybody is expected to contribute but that was some of our thinking with a guy coming back into the line-up. Sometimes there is a letdown and people think Myles can do everything and that is not the case," says Huska.
"It will never be that way. We need everybody to feel like they can contribute."
The Rockets will get a full week of practice in before they hit the ice again next Saturday when the Victoria Royals make their first trip into Prospera Place.
Kelowna Rockets raise their 2012-2013 BC Division Champions banner
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