The Okanagan Rockets will enter the final day of the Round Robin portion of the Telus Cup with their season very much on the brink.
Leading 4-1 through 40 minutes versus the Halifax Macs, the Rockets allowed four straight markers in the 3rd period to fall 5-4. The loss left the Rockets winless at 0-1-3 for the tournament.
The post-game story line revolved around the decision of the Rockets coaching staff to make a goaltending change after 40 minutes of play. Up until that point, Barry had played all 11 periods at the Telus Cup and had stopped 17 of 18 shots through 2 periods on Thursday.
Enter Reid Kilburn for the 3rd period. Kilburn had played just 9 minutes of post-season action, coming in relief of Barry in game 2 of the Pacific Regional in Red Deer.
General Manager David Michaud on the decision. "Brendan had been experiencing some stiffness and pain after a goal mouth collision the night before. Mack O'Rourke and his staff decided that the 3rd period would be a chance to get Brendan some rest as he has had a tremendous workload in the post-season. The move back fired, and the staff takes responsibility about that decision."
Michaud however sympathized with his staff on the decision. "As a team, I don't think our guy's played well at all in the 3rd period, if they had closed out the game as the coaches expected them to, nobody would be talking about this. I'm not sure anyone knows how difficult playing 7 games in 7 days is for a goaltender, especially one who has played as many minutes as Brendan has. I feel for all involved, Brendan certainly didn't want to come out, Reid was put in a tough spot, and all the coaches were trying to do was find Brendan a little rest in a long week.”
There is no question that Halifax came out as an inspired group and pushed the pace. Kilburn could hardly be blamed, and in fact he made several quality saves. "Reid Kilburn has been a tremendous solider for us in this playoffs" said Michaud. "The coaching staff have rode Brendan Barry exclusively, and that's tough for a 17 year old netminder to sit back and watch. Reid has practiced very hard, and this loss doesn't fall on his shoulders."
At 0-1-3,the math is simple for the Rockets heading into their 5th and final round robin game. Earn a win, and keep their chances alive. The Rockets will still require some help to sneak into the 4th and final semi-final spot.
"We talked a lot as a group after the game today and quite honestly, I really like our head space" said Michaud. " The players are excited to go and handle things on our end, and then we can sit back and hope we get the help we need, hopefully the hockey gods are smiling on us tomorrow."
The Rockets and Toronto Young Nationals will play at 8:30 am PST.