Saturday, May 2, 2009

When the Dust Clears

If last night was a major upset win then what do you call winning a second straight game on enemy ice? Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets are calling it a 2-0 series lead over the Calgary Hitmen.

Last night was not the Rocket's best effort but in game 2 from the second period on; this was a Rocket team that took the game away from the Calgary Hitmen and won going away 5-2.

We have talked about the offensive play from Michael Del Zotto and Evgeny Grachev but Tysen Dowzak's defensive play is a major factor as to why the Rockets are 2 wins away from a WHL championship.

In the first period it was Dowzak who was blocking shots, protecting his goalie by clearing out the crease cleanly and legally, and getting the puck up ice out of danger. This is not the same Tysen Dowzak who we first interviewed back in Portland.

In the second period, Dowzak and company gave up the first goal but that did not faze the Rockets at all despite the Hitmen out shooting them 16-6; if anything you could see that this Rocket team knew they could come back and win this game. The Rockets got the tying goal in the middle of the period but the rest of the second period was marred by some highly suspect officiating.

In the 3rd period, it was the Rockets who took the attack to the Hitmen as the leaders of "Big Bang Hockey" gave way to their offensive attack. The Rockets even after losing the services of leading playoff scorer Jamie Benn showed they were more than just heavy hitters out shooting the Hitmen 15-7.

The Bloodoff brothers Evan and Lucas combined for 5 points in this game and Mikael Backlund added 2 goals as the Rockets broke open the game with 3 goals for a 4-1 lead. The Hitmen added a goal to cut the score to 4-2 but then the Rockets played their "Big Bang Hockey" and shut the Hitmen down.

Dowzak was out on every other shift during the last 5 minutes as the Rockets shortened their bench and helped to put the "nails in the coffin" by clearing the zone and feeding Lucas Bloodoff up the ice who found Rocket captain Colin Long for the empty net goal and final score at 19:58.

Dowzak had 6 blocks, 4 clears, 3 rushes for clear, 6 hits (including a very nice crease clearing in the 2nd period where he took out one player while screening a second) no shots, his assist and a +1 for the night. As we said this is nothing like the Dowzak we interviewed in February.

Give the credit to former Ranger defenseman Jeff Finley for his work with Dowzak and to Dowzak himself for going out and putting those teachings to great use. Dowzak is now on the ice whenever the Rockets have a penalty to kill or a last minute stop when protecting the lead.

When we watch the Rockets then boy Ranger fans have to feel glad that other than Tyler Myers (who is a 6'7 monster) that the other 7 Rockets who's rights belong to NHL teams are all out in the western conference.

This series is far from over as Rocket coach Ryan Huska is trying to tell anyone who will listen. It is hard to argue with him but after 2 wins on the road against the team that finished the WHL with the best record during the regular season; it is hard not to think that the Rockets are in the driver's seat.

The series now shifts to Kelowna for game 3 on Monday in what is expected to be a very loud and rowdy Prospera Place.

(Tysen Dowzak courtesy of Regan Bartel)

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