Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blazers coach bemoans missed opportunities

Daily News Sports Editor
Guy Charron was singing the same old tune on Wednesday night.
“I can guarantee you that I’ll watch the video and . . . we will have outchanced this team by a fair margin,” the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers said moments after his club had dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Spokane Chiefs.
The game was played in front of 3,656 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
the eighth-smallest crowd to attend a regular-season game in the facility since it opened for the 1992-93 season.
The Blazers (1-3-0-1) now have lost four straight games since opening with a 5-2 home-ice victory over the Prince George Cougars on Sept. 24. Kamloops will play three games over the long weekend. The Blazes are at home to the Prince Albert Raiders on Friday, meet the Giants in Vancouver on Saturday and then play host to a rematch on Monday afternoon.
“It’s like deja vu,” Charron continued. “You outplay the opposition . . . we bounced back, we worked through adversity, we put on the pressure when we needed to.
“We’re not scoring at opportune times. We had ample opportunities and they’re not going in the net right now.”
The Blazers finished with a 46-32 edge in shots on goal, including 7-2 in the five-minute overtime period, in which teams play 4-on-4. But Spokane goaltender James Reid stood tall.
In the shootout, the Blazers sent out forwards Chase Schaber and Brendan Ranford, and defenceman Austin Madaisky. Each had scored a goal in regulation but they weren’t able to get even one puck behind Reid.
The Chiefs (2-3-0-0) won this one with right-winger Mitch Holmberg, a 17-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., scored the only goal of the shootout. Spokane’s first-round pick in the 2008 bantam draft, he deked Kamloops goaltender Jon Groenheyde and beat him high with a perfectly placed backhander.
Holmberg was responsible for Spokane’s other victory this season, too. His overtime goal beat the visiting Tri-City Americans 6-5 on Saturday night.
Forwards Reid Gow, the Chiefs’ first-round pick in the 2009 draft, Matt Marantz and Darren Kramer scored for Spokane in regulation time. Kramer was playing his first WHL game after joining the Chiefs from the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm for whom he had 311 penalty minutes last season.
The Chiefs led 2-0 early in the second period and it wasn’t until late in the frame that the Blazers, who struggled to cope with Spokane’s speed in their defensive zone, showed some life. Madaisky cut into the lead with a shot through traffic that beat Reid.
Kamloops then tied it with goals 3:08 apart early in the third.
However, Kramer, who had 19 goals in 58 games with Grande Prairie last season, got to a rebound and beat Groenheyde at 11:41 of the third.
In the overtime, the Blazers easily were the better team. And they opened on the power play after Spokane forward Blake Gal took a checking-from-behind minor for a hit on Ranford at 18:50 of the third period.
The Blazers got three shots on Reid during the power play but the goaltender had the answers. The home side’s best chance may have come when winger JT Barnett wasn’t able to get his stick on a loose puck at the top of the crease.
“The work ethic was there. We were doing the things we wanted to do,” said Charron, who said pretty much the same thing after a 5-2 loss to the Chilliwack Bruins on Sept. 25 and a 4-2 loss to the Silvertips in Everett on Friday. “We want to keep the opposing team at less than 15 chances. We gave up 12 . . . and we lose the game.”
Charron said all his club can do is keep plugging away.
“If we keep outchancing them, eventually things will go in,” he reasoned. “For us to have 10 chances and win a game, no. I still want 18 or 20 chances for our team. Eventually they will go in.”
Spokane had a chance to take a 3-2 lead early in the third period when it had a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:23. The Kamloops penalty killers — Tyler Hansen, Colin Smith and Dylan Willick — kept the Chiefs on the outside for the most part.
That seemed to get the small crowd into the game and 12 seconds later the Blazers had their only lead of the night as Ranford took a long pass from Schaber and then was able to put his own rebound past Reid.
“Any time you kill a 5-on-3 it’s going to give your team momentum,” Charron said. “Whether that was game-changing . . . I don’t know . . . I thought we did an excellent job. That could have changed it in their favour, too, if they score.”
He paused, looked to the ceiling and added: “I just look at the opportunities that we missed.”
JUST NOTES: Referee Steve Papp gave each team six minors and two majors. . . . Each team was 0-for-5 on the power play. . . . The Blazers’ power play has two goals in 30 opportunities through five games. . . . Before the game, the Chiefs returned the captain’s ‘C’ to D Jared Cowen, 19. It had been thought that Cowen, who was the Chiefs’ captain last season, would open with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, so the Chiefs had named C Tyler Johnson as captain. Now,  he will wear an ‘A’. . . . Prior to the game, the Blazers and Radio NL honoured Kirk Fraser, who had called Blazers games for the last 11 seasons. He stepped down over the summer and now is with Shaw TV.
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