Calgary Herald article (Rockets launch Hitmen, propel themselves to Memorial Cup berth)May 11 2009 at 7:23 AM
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Response to Calgary Herald article (Game Story)
Rockets launch Hitmen, propel themselves to Memorial Cup berth
By John Down, Calgary Herald
May 10, 2009
They dared to dream, but the hole was too deep.
The Calgary Hitmen's season is over after 90 games, their bid to put another little piece of history in an already bulging folder and earn a berth in the Memorial Cup for just the second time snuffed Saturday at Prospera Place.
A team that swept through the first three rounds of the playoffs now cast aside by the Kelowna Rockets in what will rank as one of the most stunning results in recent Western Hockey League times.
The Rockets, who jumped out to a 3-0 series lead in this chase for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, came off the ropes to post a 3-2 overtime decision over the No. 1-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League.
Defenceman Tyson Barrie joined the rush for an open-side one-timer on a power play to end it at 8:13 on the Rockets' 50th shot of the game and sixth in overtime.
Ranked sixth overall at season's end, the Rockets clinch their third league title since 2003 and a fourth appearance in the Memorial Cup. They won it in 2004 as the tournament host team.
All hands, healthy or maybe not-so-healthy, were on deck for this Game 6 showdown in front of 6,383 fans, and the home side responded with a huge effort that was the complete opposite of Thursday's embarrassing 6-1 loss to Calgary.
The one and only reason the Hitmen even had a chance in this game was due to the spectacular and often mind-boggling goaltending of Martin Jones. The 18-year-old faced lengthy offensive storms throughout and turned aside all but a screened shot by Colin Long and a deflection off the skate of Lucas Bloodoff in the second period.
The Los Angeles Kings-signed prospect was especially hard on
Calgary Flames-signed prospect Mikael Backlund during a 42-save performance through regulation. He denied the swift Swede on a point-blank one-timer in the first period and then stopped two clean breakaways in the third period.
That bit of heroism allowed Joel Broda's power-play goal at 12:57 of the third to send the game into overtime. Bostjan Golicic opened scoring in the first period.
Mark Guggenberger was often razor sharp in the Kelowna net, too. He faced 25 shots in regulation time and was at his best against the Hitmen power-play, held to the one goal on six chances.
With Kelowna treating it as its Game 7 and Calgary facing a third straight win-or-out proposition, both teams came out loaded for bear and pumped for action in an incredibly fast-paced first period.
If you liked that first 20 minutes, you had to love the second period as it went from quick to hit.
The bodycheck of the season was a full-frontal by Calgary defenceman Michael Stone on Backlund as the Rockets forward took a pass and turned up ice at the Kelowna blue-line.
The impact thundered throughout the building.
It also prompted leading playoff scorer Jamie Benn, back in the lineup for the first time since Game 2, to jump Stone and, more importantly, trigger a relentless reply by the Rockets that spearheaded an all-out offensive assault for the better part of 10 minutes.
The sustained pressure led to Long's equalizer just six seconds into the club's fourth power play and, less than two minutes later, Bloodoff had the Rockets up 2-1 after a Benn shot deflected off Bloodoff's skate and past Jones.
The Rockets also generated most of the golden scoring chances during the first seven minutes of the game but Jones was brilliant. The 18-year-old first stopped a fully screened shot by Collin Bowman 30 seconds in, then a short-handed break by Ian Duval and finally the save of the series when he gloved a wicked, one-time snap shot by Backlund from the low slot during a Kelowna power-play.
Kelowna was up 10-3 on the shotclock and the Hitmen were faced with another penalty kill during the seventh minute when Kyle Bortis spotted Golicic leaving the penalty box, fed him the perfect pass behind the Rockets defence and the 19-year-old Slovenian made no mistake on the clear breakaway by beating Guggenberger stick side with a waist-high wrist shot.
Kelowna appeared to get the equalizer just 46 seconds later but a review showed the Calgary goal was off it's mooring.
And the tide turned until that gung-ho reply to the Stone hit early in the second period.
Canwest News Service
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