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Rockets & Ice Tied

The Kootenay Ice beat the Calgary Hitman 5-0 last night putting them back into a division tie for first with the Kelowna Rockets.

The first and only visit of the season to Kelowna for the Calgary Hitmen will occur this Wednesday night. Given the many Calgary transplants living in the Okanagan, a visit by the Hitmen is always a much-anticipated affair.

Prior to the Kelowna date, Calgary will stop in Cranbrook for a meeting with the Kootenay Ice on Tuesday evening. Strangely enough, the Rockets will be rooting hard for a Calgary win on Tuesday while hoping to upend the same team on Wednesday. Kootenay is presently 2 points behind the Rockets for first in both the BC Division and the overall WHL standings.

At the trade deadline in January, Calgary was very active and secured the services of goaltender Justin Pogge in their biggest transaction. Pogge, a Kaleden, BC native, was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 3rd round of the 2004 NHL Draft. He was acquired from the Prince George Cougars in a deal that saw 6'6" defenseman Andy Rogers head to Northern BC. The change of scenery has been good to Pogge so far. In 23 games he has a 13-8-2 record to go along with a solid 2.17 G.A.A. and .921 save percentage. With the Cougars, Pogge struggled in posting a 2.80 G.A.A. and .890 save percentage.

Calgary's forward unit is led by two 2005 gold medal winning members of Team Canada's World Junior team - Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd. Both Ladd and Getzlaf were key contributors to Canada's triumph in North Dakota and are both former first round NHL draft choices. Getzlaf leads the Hitmen in scoring with 48 points, including 26 goals in just 45 games. Ladd is third in team scoring while Russian rookie Konstantin Pushkarev is second on both the team and the WHL rookie scoring race with 48 points of his own.

Rockets' leading scorer Tyler Spurgeon looms as a key weapon with the playoffs looming in the near future. In addition to his scoring prowess, Spurgeon is one of team's most responsible defensive forwards. If asked to play against the opposition's top pivot in the post season, Spurgeon would be right at home while also liable to chip in some valuable offense. However, he is quick to deflect any praise of his points output.

"We have a great team here, so I get lots of help," he says. "My linemates, Troy Bodie and Justin Keller, do a great job of getting me the puck and putting it away when I get to them. I've just been trying to do the little things well and it's been working out for me."

After the Calgary match-up, the Rockets will take on Kamloops in a home and home weekend set that ends Saturday at Prospera Place.


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