The Okanagan Rockets were turned aside time and time again by Kelowna Rockets draft pick Matteo Paler-Chow on Saturday night at the Capital News Centre. In the end, Paler-Chow made 43 saves as the Greater Vancouver Canadians eliminated the defending BCMML champions with a 2-0 win, sweeping the best of three opening round series.
Paler-Chow was simply outstanding on Saturday as the Rockets pressed hard looking to get back into the series. The Rockets out shot GVC 15-4 in the 1st period, and try as they might, the Rockets simply couldn't beat Paler-Chow who made highlight reel save after another.
The contest was deadlocked 0-0 through 40 minutes, but it was the GVC captain Ryan Wilkinson who finally broke through with 8:12 remaining in regulation with a power play goal on a very questionable too many men on the ice bench minor assessed to the Rockets.
A turn over less than a minute later led to a 2-0 lead for GVC and they never looked back.
Paler-Chow finished the series stopping 92 of 94 shots faced in the series. The result was eerily similar to 2012 when Chris Tai stopped 93 of 95 shots in a GVC sweep at the CNC that year.
For the Rockets, their season comes to it's earliest end since 2012. With 19 new players, and a new head coach, it was tough to gauge what the expectations as "defending champs" should be.
"Its always tough to see your season come to an end" said general manager David Michaud. "That final buzzers goes and its just over. Its disappointing because I thought we deserved better fate, especially tonight in game two, but you have to give credit where it is due, and the Canadians rode their hot goaltending and capitalized on their chances, but there is no question this one stings."
On paper, the Rockets are eligible to return as many as 13 members of this years squad. That is something Michaud feels bodes well for the organization moving forward. "The one thing about last year's group, was the fact that we had a core group that had lost together. Nothing quite brings a group together like loosing. There were and awful lot of wet eyes in the dressing room after the game, so I'm hopeful we have forged a core group that can push us back to the top next season."
For now, the sting of what could have been will linger for a while.