Monday, May 18, 2009

'Big Benn' Puts Kelowna in Final

The Kelowna Rockets have advanced to Sunday's Memorial Cup Final after a 5-point performance from forward Jamie Benn.

Kudos to Sportsnet voice Peter Loubardias for the title of this blog entry but it sure is fitting - 4 goals and an assist for Dallas Stars prospect Jamie Benn were more than Drummondville could handle on Monday night. It's incredible to think that Benn was a 5th round draft pick considering the growth in his development over the last two years since joining the Rockets in the WHL.

Kelowna also received a 2-goal performance from Cody Almond which means the Rockets scored six times but only had two goal scorers... that's something you don't see everyday.

Benn got things going in the first period when he broke up a play in the neutral zone, went in alone and tucked the puck beneath Drummondville goalie Marco Cousineau (ANH) just before his own momentum knocked the net off its moorings. The goal was a double whammy for the Voltigeurs who had carried most of the play to that point but more so because they were on the power play.

For the next several minutes the Rockets took over the game as the goal seemed to deflate Drummondville. However, the deadliest of the Voltigeurs got going after being held off the score sheet again st Windsor on Saturday. Yannick Riendeau scored at 14:27 with a harmless looking shot from a ridiculously bad angle catching Kelowna goalie Mark Guggenberger by surprise.

Riendeau, recently signed by Boston, picked up an assist on a late goal by Marc-Olivier Vachon and the Q-league champs carried a 2-1 lead into the second period.

Almond scored his first of the game to tie the game but the Voltigeurs answered back right away and re-established their lead. Benn went back to work and scored with just over a minute left in the period which set up a great third period with both teams knotted up at 3 goals apiece. It was one of the prettiest goals on the tournament so far with Tyler Myers (BUF) starting a tic-tac-toe play as he feathered a pass to the front of the net for Colin Long (PHX) who chose not to shoot as expected but passed to Benn who snapped it in from a sharp angle.

Drummondville took the lead again for the third and final time as Vachon netted his second of the night, it was Riendeau's 4th point of the contest and 33 in his last 15 games.

Kelowna would reply on the power play with Benn picking up the hat trick. Two minutes later Benn would score a rather weak goal that put Kelowna ahead to stay. The red-hot Rocket eluded a pair of defenders then sent a hope and a prayer towards Cousineau who somehow let it slip under his left pad and into the net.

Drummondville put up a good fight at the end but even with the extra pressure Cody Almond was able to snipe another goal through a defenceman and Cousineau's legs making the final score 6-4.

Benn nearly equaled a Memorial Cup record of 5-goals in a single game when he fired the puck from his own end in the dying second only to see it clank off the iron of Drummondville's empty net.

The players of the game were pretty obvious tonight; Benn's 5 points and Riendeau's goal and three helpers in the loss showed that each team's best players were on their game. Kelowna defenceman Tyson Barrie continued his strong tournament with a 3-assist game and captain Colin Long also had 3 assists on the night.

Neither goalie was tremendously impressive to me as both allowed an absolute stinker of a goal. In the end, Kelowna outshot Drummondville 23-22, much closer than it appeared in my opinion. The Voltigeurs were better than Rimouski was on opening night, it would have been hard to have been worse, but I also didn't think Kelowna played as well either. (Outside of Benn who was obviously Jame Bond - could do nothing wrong.)

Kelowna's win vaults them directly into the Memorial Cup title game on Sunday even though they'll still play 0-2 Windsor tomorrow night.

Drummondville and Rimouski now sit a 1-1 with a head-to-head match on Wednesday.

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