WHL Western Conference – Rockets/Thunderbirds game 5 Friday night

in playoffs

April 28, 2017

by Regan Bartel

Tonight’s Preview:

Welcome to game five of the Western Conference final.

The Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds are tied at two wins apiece. Nick Merkley scored the game winner early in the second period leading the Rockets to a 4-2 win in game four Wednesday night.

Nolan Foote and Kole Lind also had a goal and an assist in the two goal win. The Rockets were 1 for 5 on the power play and out-shot the T-Birds 35-29.

The Thunderbirds won game one after a 5-4 victory before the Rockets earned an overtime win (4-3) in game two.

In game three, the T-Birds earned a 2-1 victory. It is the 4thconsecutive year that the Kelowna Rockets are appearing in the final four.

The team made appearances in 2014 (Lost in 5 games to Portland), in 2015 (Won in 6 games vs. Portland), and in 2016 (Lost to Seattle in 4 straight.) In last season’s WCF, the Rockets lost game one (2-1), game two (3-2), game three (3-1) and game 4 (5-4 in double overtime).

During the regular season, the Rockets were 3-1-0-0 against Seattle, out-scoring them 20-10. The Rockets have met the T-Birds in the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 years.

Reid in the record books:

Reid Gardiner set a new Kelowna Rockets franchise record Saturday night. Gardiner’s shorthanded goal in game two was his 14th of the playoffs. That sets a new franchise mark set originally by Jamie Benn, when the power forward scored 13 times in the 2009 post season.

Rourke Chartier was able to duplicate the feat with 13 goals in the 2015 playoffs. Justin Keller and Jesse Schultz scored 12 goals in a playoff season when the team won WHL titles in 2003 and 2005 respectively.

Benn is still the franchise leader for playoff points in one season with 33.

What’s Happened? 

The team that opens the scoring has won three of the four games…These two teams have carried a two goal lead – three times – only to see the opposition fight back to tie it…A goal has been scored with under 30 seconds left in 6 of the 12 periods in regulation time…In 13 of the last 19 playoff meetings between these two teams, the game has been decided by a single goal.

Dare to Compare: 

The Rockets and T-Birds were separated by only 3 points in the Western Conference standings during the regular season. The Rockets had 95 points while Seattle had 98.

The Rockets won 45 games while the T-Birds won 46 times. The Rockets scored the third most goals in the WHL, while Seattle scored 20 fewer times. Both teams surrendered 206 goals against, which were tied for fourth best in the WHL.

Hot as a Pistol: 

Reid Gardiner had his 9 game point streak snapped in game three. The 21 year-old had 14+11=25 over that period….Nick Merkley has points in 9 of his last 10 games.

Merkley has 5+11=16 over that period…Dillon Dube has points in 9 of his last 10 games. The 18 year-old has 3+13=16 during that span…Calvin Thurkauf has points in 8 of his last 9 games (7+11=18)…Kole Lind has points in 8 of his last 10 games (5+5=10).

Refreshed Memory: The Rockets advanced to the third round of the WHL playoffs with a 5 game series win over Portland. Reid Gardiner had 7+9=16 points in the series.

The Rockets advanced to the second round with a 6 game series victory over the Kamloops Blazers. Dillon Dube (4+2=6) and Reid Gardiner (5+1=6) were the offensive spark plugs against the Blazers. 

Broadcasters Note Book: 

Reid Gardiner had 2+1=3 in two games against the T-Birds this season….The Rockets are playing in their 88th game of the season tonight….Nick Merkley has 64 career WHL playoff points and is now the franchise leader in career playoff points. Merkley surpassed Tyson Baillie, who had 63 career playoff points in 64 playoff games…

The Rockets are 5-4 in their last 9 playoff appearances at ShoWare Center dating back to the 2013 playoffs…Reid Gardiner is the WHL Player of the Week for a second straight week. Gardiner had 5 points (2+3=5) in games one and two against the T-Birds.

Gardiner was also named the CHL and WHL Player of the Week ending April 16th. Gardiner recorded 12 points including 6 goals and 6 assists in three games with a plus rating of +2.

That’s a fact Jack:

 The Rockets have generated 30 or more shots in 43 of their last 47 games….The Kelowna Rockets lost 10 of their first 21 regular season games. Since then, the team has 17 losses in the last 65 (playoffs included) games…The Rockets are 30-12-2-0 since the trade deadline (playoffs included)…The Rockets have opened the scoring in 10 of the 14 games in this year’s playoffs.

Game Notes Compiled by Regan Bartel of AM 1150

Photo by Brian Liesse.


Series Schedule

Game Visitor Home Date Time
1 Kelowna 4 @ Seattle 5 Friday, April 21 7:35
2 Kelowna 4 OT @ Seattle 3 Saturday, April 22 7:05
3 Seattle 2 @ Kelowna 1 Tuesday, April 25 7:05
4 Seattle 2 @ Kelowna 4 Wednesday, April 26 7:05
5 * Kelowna @ Seattle Friday, April 28 7:35
6 * Seattle @ Kelowna Sunday, April 30 5:05
7 * Kelowna @ Seattle Tuesday, May 2 7:05

* If necessary


Tickets are available for Rockets home games through selectyourtickets.com, at the Prospera Place box office or by phone at 250-762-5050.