Monday, April 27, 2009

Stepping Up When it Counts the Most

In our eyes the biggest problem with the New York Rangers is that when they have needed someone to step and provide the biggest of plays nobody has.

The good news for Ranger fans is that during this playoff season we have gotten to watch Michael Del Zotto step up, we have seen Evgeny Grachev step up and now we add Tysen Dowzak to that list after he elevated his game like we have never ever seen to help his Kelowna Rockets eliminate the Vancouver Giants and advance to the WHL Finals in 6 games.

Dowzak for all purposes scored what was the overtime game winning series ending goal for his Kelowna Rockets as they came back from down 4-2 late in the 3rd period to win at 4:00 of the first overtime 5-4. Now the goal was awarded to Dowzak's teammate Mikael Backlund but he gets credit because the puck went in off his body not his shot.

However what really stood out for us was not the game winning play but rather how Dowzak stepped up his play when the Rockets needed a spark especially in overtime. The Rockets were playing in overtime without their best defenseman Tyler Myers who had been ejected at 7:51 of the 3rd period on a checking from behind major penalty.

At the time of the major the Rockets were trailing 3-2 and were facing that 5 minute penalty. It even was looking worse for the Rockets as the Giants scored just 10 seconds into the penalty to make the score 4-2. From that point on this became the Rocket's game as Dowzak and company killed the rest of the power play.

Someone flipped a switch on Dowzak as all of a sudden there he was hitting, making defensive plays, carrying the puck out of defensive zone and actually going on the offensive attack. This was the player who Jeff Finley told us could become with some work. If this is any idea of what Dowzak can develop into then the Rangers will have gotten a monster sized steal.

In the overtime, it was the Dowzak show, Dowzak forcing the puck into the corner away from his goalie, Dowzak hitting people and then he brought the puck up ice, entered the zone and fired a shot that almost sneaked in. That was just the first minute of the overtime.

Someone commented about how it is always the last person you would expect who steals the show and before anyone knew it, there was Dowzak firing another shot on goal only this one went in sending the Rocket fans into a combination of shock and joy.

The first thought was that Dowzak had scored, then the goal was reviewed by the video replay where it was determined that Backlund had scored (it went in off his body) but as we believe it was Dowzak's goal even with our acknowledged bias.

Dowzak has been saying for the last couple of months how much he wants a WHL championship and now because of his efforts in overtime he is about to get a chance at one. The Rockets are going to play in their first WHL final since they won the WHL title in 2005.

Even better is that now instead of just one Ranger prospect playing for his league championship we have 2. The Rangers may be down to their last game but the prospects are alive and kicking.

For the WHL championship, the Rockets will be facing the Calgary Hitmen who's GM is former Ranger captain Kelly Kisio. The Hitmen have yet to lose a single game during their playoff run and will be heavy favorites to defeat the Rockets.

Odds are that other than the Kelowna fans, their media and their players almost nobody is going to give the Rockets a chance to win this series.

Except us because we have to go back to February 28th when Kelowna traveled to Calgary and beat them 2-1. It was part of a string of wins for Kelowna where they were facing the best the WHL had to offer and winning.

The Rockets do have a chance here not because Dowzak plays for them but because over the last 4 months we have watched this team come together. They have done everything that a championship team is supposed to do like having production from the supporting cast as well as the stars.

We will break down this upcoming series on Thursday as tomorrow we get ready for Evgeny Grachev and his Brampton Battalion as they get ready for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL Championship.

(Dowzak courtesy of Regan Bartel)

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