Rockets' red flash fizzles

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Normally, the guys in red always get their man.

The Kelowna Rockets were hoping something like that would happen when they donned their lucky red sweaters to take on the Rimouski Oceanic in a must-win Memorial Cup game last night.

In the end, the Rockets were dead in red.

They're going home.

There would be no RCMP-like intervention for them.

The Oceanic doused the last wick on the Rockets with a 4-3 win at the John Labatt Centre.

The red sweaters are the Rockets' third set. They were wearing them last year when they defeated the Medicine Hat Tigers to win the Memorial Cup tournament in Kelowna. They were wearing them the night they won the Western Hockey League title this year against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

One too many laundry cycles and the magic was gone.

The Rockets had the pride of defending champions. And they wanted to perform like defending champions. They tried to work hard. They tried to kick it up a level. They didn't want to go out with a whimper.

But while they had the pride of defending champions, they didn't show the talent of defending champs.

It didn't seem like they had 14 returning players from the championship team.

They played like a championship team in the third period when Rimouski had a foot on their throat. The Rockets were down 4-1 going into that period.

Suddenly their survival instinct kicked in and they started to play like champions.

The Oceanic opted to help them by taking unnecessary penalties.

Oh, yeah, then there's that Oceanic defence. It seems if they give up fewer than 40 shots, it's an accomplishment.

The discussion going into this tournament was all about Sidney Crosby.

The talk now is all about goaltender Cedrick Desjardins. He had a 44-save performance to go with a 48-save performance Tuesday. If Desjardins didn't shine for the Oceanic, there might not have been any more Oceanic in the tournament.

This exciting game turned into yet another in what's been a collection of exciting games in this tournament.

At the end of the night, a line of Rockets players, red-eyed and stunned, stood before the hordes of media. Not one of them expected to go out of the tournament without a win.

"We just weren't consistent," said Tyler Mosienko. "We played well a lot of the time, but not enough. Offensively, we couldn't get the job done. Defensively, we weren't as sound as we usually are."

That pretty much tells the tale.

There was a shopping list of things the Rockets didn't do well.

It began with their offence. Only two Rocket players appeared in the top-50 scorers in the WHL this year. They got plenty of chances but couldn't put the puck into the Thames River.

Next on the list was penalties. They took some dumb ones, and it hurt.

Next we go to the power-play aisle. Oops, all out of power plays. No luck in the penalty-killing section either.

The Rockets had already gone shopping for a goalie, picking up Mike Wall from Everett as an emergency backup when Derek Yeomans got hurt. While Kristofer Westblom played well to get them here, he gave up some weak goals. Wall could be used only if Westblom got hurt. He stayed on the shelf.

"This is hard right now," said Shea Weber, one of the top prospects on defence in this country. He didn't have a good tournament. "There's no excuses. We didn't play well enough. I thought we had a chance at the end. We had chances we couldn't score on. It's so disappointing."

The Oceanic's survival fulfils the desires of just about everyone -- the fans, tournament organizers, the television broadcaster. Impartial observers want to see a Rimouski-London final, Crosby against Corey Perry, No. 1-ranked team against No. 2-ranked team.

The Oceanic have taken one more step toward that goal.

The Knights will have their turn when they play the 67's tonight.

And the 67's plan to have a big say in what happens.


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