By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Something had to give Friday night at Interior Savings Centre.
It turned out to be the Prince Albert Raiders.
The Kamloops Blazers, who hadn’t won a WHL game since opening night, ended a four-game losing streak, beating the Raiders 4-3 before an announced crowd of 4,003.
The Raiders, who opened the season with three losses, came in riding a three-game winning streak.
The visitors (3-4-0-0) got off to a solid start, too, as they had three quality scoring chances in the game’s first five minutes. But goaltender Jeff Bosch, who was making his first home start, had the answers to Prince Albert’s questions.
Jon Groenheyde had started four of Kamloops’ first five games, but head coach Guy Charron switched to Bosch in the hopes of finding some timely saves. That is exactly what he got from Bosch, who was acquired from the Moose Jaw Warriors on Sept. 17.
“We got (key saves) tonight. There’s no doubt,” Charron said. “You’re not going to start on all cylinders every night. He made the saves when we needed them in the first five minutes.”
Those early saves were especially important, Charron said, because “with our lack of scoring, if we put ourselves behind, how much of a mountain is it to climb?”
Sparked by those saves — Bosch stopped Todd Fiddler off a 2-on-1, got a glove on a Justin Maylan shot after a Blazers turnover, and stood his ground when Sebastian Svendsen broke in off the right side — and some undisciplined play by the visitors, the Blazers (2-3-0-1) began to take over near the midway mark of the first period.
“I really wanted to bounce back after my first game,” Bosch said, referring to a 6-1 loss to the Bruins in Chilliwack a week ago, “and I thought I did that tonight. . . . I was happy with my effort and with the whole team’s effort.”
After Bosch’s early saves, the Blazers owned this game for much of the next 40 minutes.
The home team’s power play, which was just 2-for-30 when the night started, counted three times on eight opportunities, with the Raiders going 1-for-3.
The key to the Blazers’ power play was simple — starting with defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer, they got pucks to the net. And there were forwards there causing problems for goaltender Eric Williams, a 17-year-old from Langley who was making his second WHL start.
“When we’re in a slump, we just want to get it on net and try to crash the night,” said Maschmeyer, who had two assists and would have had a third if they awarded that many on goals. “They’re not always going to be nice. We tried to just get some dirty goals and it seemed to work. Before, we weren’t necessarily getting guys to the net and creating havoc.”
In earlier games, the Blazers found they were having a lot of attempts blocked because they were trying to be too fine.
“Sometimes when you try to really line up the shot it takes that extra second and (opposing players) were getting in the lane,” Maschmeyer explained. “Against Chilliwack and Prince George, we were getting a lot of shots blocked.
“Tonight, whenever I saw an opening, I just tried a wrist shot and just tried to get it on net.”
Right-winger JT Barnett opened the scoring on the Kamloops PP at 8:42 of the first period, scoring off a Maschmeyer shot that got through, and defenceman Tyler Hansen made it 2-0 just five minutes later.
Prince Albert got a PP goal from right-winger Brandon Herrod 32 seconds into the second period, but Kamloops centre Chase Schaber restored the two-goal lead at 13:29 and left-winger Brendan Ranford made it 4-1 at 19:02.
The Blazers looked to be home and cooled out, only to have the Raiders mount a comeback on goals from centre Mike Winther — it was the first WHL goal for the sixth overall pick in the 2009 bantam draft — at 9:52.
And after centre Jonathan Parker got the Raiders to within 4-3 at 13:01, the crowd got a bit antsy.
But the Blazers weathered the storm.
“We can’t have those kind of breakdowns,” Charron said, alluding to poor defensive coverage on the Raiders’ second goal and a failure to box out, thus allowing a tap-in off a rebound, on the third score.
“Hopefully we learn from those things and get better,” he said.
This was Game 1 in a six-game road swing for the Raiders, who will visit each B.C. Division — they meet the Rockets in Kelowna tonight — and wrap it up a week from tonight against the Rebels in Red Deer.
The Blazers are in Vancouver tonight with the Giants playing here Monday. Faceoff at the ISC is scheduled for 2 p.m.
JUST NOTES: Referees Ryan Bonnett and Sean Raphael gave the Raiders 13 of 21 minors. . . . Bosch finished with 29 saves. Williams stopped 41 shots. . . . Kamloops RW Dylan Willick was unsuccessful on a second-period penalty shot attempt, deking to the backhand and putting the puck over the net. . . . If you were wondering, the Raiders left Prince Albert on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. PT. They arrived in Kamloops around midnight. . . . The Raiders last were in Kamloops on Oct. 13, 2008, when they beat the Blazers, 3-2. Last season, the Blazers lost 5-2 in Prince Albert. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Ranford: heart-and-soul guy; 2. Maschmeyer: got the PP going; 3. Bosch: made the timely saves. . . . Ranford’s goal was his 100th WHL point. It came in his 147th game.
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