As the decided underdogs, Bruce Hamilton knows some extraordinary performances will have to come into play if his Kelowna Rockets are to knock off the Portland Winterhawks in the opening round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
And who is the Rockets’ GM counting on to provide that post-season magic ?
“Our success in the playoffs will sit on the shoulders of two players in particular, Brett Bumler and Adam Brown,” said Hamilton, whose club visits Portland Friday in Game 1 of their opening round series.
“This time of year a hot goalie, and somebody up front doing some special things can change a series. That’s what we’re looking for from Adam and Brett.”
Bulmer led the Rockets in goals this season scoring 34 times in 53 games. When playing at his best, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Minnesota Wild draft pick proves hard to contain and often showed a penchant for dominating games.
Now Bulmer is looking to raise his level of play one more notch in the playoffs.
“Playoffs is a whole new season, a whole new mindset, everyone’s gotta show up,” said Bulmer, who had 62 points this season. “For me, I’m always trying to build my game, I know I can be better. Playoffs is where the special players step up, so that’s what I’m looking to do.”
In Brown’s case, the California-born goaltender didn’t put up the numbers in 2011-12 he’s become accustomed to, but was still a steadying presence for a young and relatively inexperienced Rockets defensive corps.
“Adam is capable of winning games on his own, he did that a few times this season,” Hamilton said of the 20-year-old Brown.
Still, Hamilton assures it won’t simply be two players alone that will make the difference against Portland, the WHL’s highest-scoring club.
The Kelowna GM insists the Rockets will also have to play a physical, yet disciplined style to contend with their highly-skilled opponents.
Kelowna was unable to beat the Winterhawks during the regular season, but all four games were reasonably close: Portland won 6-5 and 3-1 in Kelowna, and was victorious 4-2 and 2-1.
Still, regardless of Kelowna’s roller coaster of a regular season (31-31-4-6) and their underdog billing, centre Shane McColgan said the Rockets can begin the playoffs with a clean slate.
“It’s a brand new season,” said McColgan who led the Rockets in scoring this season with 64 points. “In this league anything can happen in the playoffs, you see teams get upset just about every year. It doesn’t really matter what happened before.
“With the injuries and all the adversity we’ve faced this year, it’s been hard for us,” McColgan added. “But we can put it all behind us, just go out and play hard and see if we can take these guys out.”
Added Hamilton: “Nothing’s impossible. That’s the way we have to look at it. We’re washing the season away and getting started with a new one.”
Games 1 and 2 are set for Friday and Saturday in Portland. Games 3 and 4 will go next Tuesday and Thursday at Prospera Place in Kelowna.