Sunday, March 22, 2009

Blazers-Rockets series notes

Daily News Sports Editor
KELOWNA — The Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets have faced each other 11
times this season.
The Rockets have won all 11 games, outscoring the Blazers 58-21 in the
“If you had told me that before the season, I would have laughed at you,”
Kamloops defenceman Kurt Torbohm said Saturday night after the latest
Rockets’ victory, this one by a 5-1 count in Game 2 of their best-of-seven
first round playoff series. The Rockets won the opener, 4-2, on Friday.
Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday at Interior Savings
Centre. Both games will begin at 7 p.m.
Asked after Game 2 what he and his mates have to do, Kamloops defenceman
Kurt Torbohm said: “Win.”
“It’s a must win now,” the Chase native, who turned 19 on Jan. 10, said.
“Going down 0-3 (is not an option) now . . . not at this point.”
Like so many others, Torbohm can’t explain why it is that his side has
played so well in recent games against the likes of the Calgary Hitmen,
Vancouver Giants and Spokane Chiefs, but has laid so many eggs when facing
the Rockets.
“We just haven’t played our best against these guys and it’s really
showing,” he said. “They are capitalizing on every little mistake we make.
We have to be ready to compete and take the hits to make the plays and play
playoff hockey.”
p p p
The Rockets, whose average attendance this season was more than 6,000, drew
5,123 and 5,204 fans to Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday nights.
A year ago, the Rockets, who have sold out 174 straight regular-season
games, opened the playoffs in Seattle and returned home to crowds of 5,108
and 5,186.
The difference between regular-season and playoff crowds, according to
Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton, is that about 1,000
regular-season tickets that are held by local businesses aren’t purchased
for the playoffs.
Next season, Hamilton said, the Rockets will do what the majority of WHL
teams do and include the first two playoff games as part of the
season-ticket package.
p p p
Last season, the Blazers were swept from the first round by the Tri-City
Americans. After losing 6-1 and 4-1 in Kennewick, Wash., the Blazers drew
crowds of 2,895 and 2,570 for Games 3 and 4 at Interior Savings Centre.
For this season, ownership added the first two playoff games to the
season-ticket package.
p p p
The Rockets held Swedish F Mikael Backlund, 19, out of the first two games
with what is being described as an upper body injury. He was injured in a
6-4 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops on March 13 when he took a check
from D Zak Stebner.
It’s believed that Backlund, who had 30 points in 28 games with Kelowna, has
a concussion. He skated Saturday morning for the the first time since being
Backlund, who has signed with the Calgary Flames, joined the Rockets after
playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
p p p
Kelowna D Tyler Myers, who is the width of a skate blade shy of 6-foot-8,
was a force in the first two games of this series. In fact, one NHL scout
said, Myers has been something to behold for the last two months.
“If he was in the draft this year,” the scout said, “he would be in the top
Myers was selected 12th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL draft.
p p p
JUST NOTES: The Daily News’ three stars from Saturday’s game were: 1. D
Tyler Myers, Kelowna; 2. F Ryley Grantham, Kelowna; 3. D Brandon McMillan,
Kelowna. . . . The last time Kelowna and Kamloops met in the playoffs was in
the spring of 2002. The Rockets swept the Blazers. . . . Kelowna LW Jamie
Benn, who has a goal and four assists in the two games, has played nine WHL
playoff games and has at least a point in each of them. . . . F Kyle Beach
of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and D Jyri Niemi of the Saskatoon Blades served
one-game suspensions on Saturday. Beach was disciplined for a cross-checking
major he took Friday in hitting Niemi, who was punished for flipping off the
Lethbridge bench. The Hurricanes won Saturday’s game 6-2 to even the series
at 1-1. . . . The WHL has decided to share some of its functions with cities
other than Calgary. The league’s awards luncheon will be held in Edmonton on
April 29 with the bantam draft there the next day. And the annual meeting
will be held in Vancouver in June. All three events traditionally have been
held in Calgary, where the WHL office is located.

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