Monday, October 18, 2010

Cougars take bite out of Blazers

Daily News Sports Editor
The only things missing were the blindfold and the cigarette.
Guy Charron, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, emerged from the WHL team’s dressing room Saturday night at Interior Savings Centre and prepared to face his inquisitors.
The Blazers, with the WHL’s poorest defensive record, had just surrendered eight goals for a second straight night and lost 8-1 to the Prince George Cougars. On Friday night, the Blazers had been beaten, 8-6, by the visiting Portland Winterhawks.
On Saturday, however, it wasn’t that the home side lost -- it was the incredibly amazing way in which it went up in flames. The Cougars turned a 1-0 deficit into a 5-1 lead in a matter of five shots in five minutes 11 seconds of the first period.
Charron didn’t disagree when it was suggested that his team’s game has fallen apart since a 5-4 victory over the Rockets in Kelowna on Wednesday.
“Absolutely,” he said. “And, to be honest with you, I’m out of answers. I’m really out of answers.”
Blazers captain Chase Schaber added: “We’re trying to establish a team identity of working hard every night and playing defence first. We have to have everyone on the same page . . . that’s the biggest thing.
“Our defensive game wasn’t close to what we wanted. It’s unacceptable to have that. We have to show up at the rink ready to work.”
Even Prince George head coach Dean Clark had a tough time believing what he had seen.
“We had that first power play and it wasn’t very good . . . I didn’t like it,” Clark said. “And then they came back and scored right after it and I was thinking, ‘OK, this isn’t the way we wanted to start.’ ”
Left-winger Brendan Ranford gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead just 17 seconds after that power play ended. But then Kamloops, which leads the WHL in penalty minutes and also has the league’s poorest penalty-killing record, ran into, yes, penalty trouble.
First came a penalty for having too many men on the ice -- and it wasn’t on a poor line change; rather, the Blazers had six skaters involved in the play.
Cougars defenceman Sena Acolatse scored on that power-play and 14 seconds later Schaber took a roughing penalty. That was followed by an incident that may have been game-changing.
With play in the Blazers’ zone, referee Matt Kirk, who got himself out of position, didn’t see Kamloops centre Colin Smith’s stick hit Prince George’s Greg Fraser in the mouth.
On his way to the bench, an incensed Fraser threw a glove in Kirk’s direction; the referee apparently didn‘t see that, either. Play continued until Kirk whistled Cougars left-winger Taylor Stefishen for holding, at which time one of the linesmen told Kirk about the high-sticking incident. Before play resumed, Smith had a double minor and Charron had a bench minor.
“(Kirk) came to me to explain that the high-stick was called by the linesman,” Charron said. “I said, ‘Fine. Why would there not be a penalty for the player throwing his glove at you?’
“He said, ‘Why? Did it hit you?’
“I said, ‘The one thing I like about you is you’re (bleeping) arrogant.’ And he hit me with a penalty.”
Instead of having the Stefishen penalty neutralize the Cougars’ power play, the Blazers found themselves facing a 5-on-3 situation. Acolatse scored nine seconds after that and right-winger Brett Connolly made it 3-1 just eight seconds later.
Three power plays. Three shots. Three goals.
Centre Charles Inglis scored on Prince George’s fourth shot, at which time Charron yanked goaltender Jon Groenheyde. Jeff Bosch was welcomed by a Connolly shot that went right through him and now it was 5-1.
Five shots. Five goals. The period wasn’t yet 12 minutes old.
“You can’t put everything on (the goaltenders),” Charron said. “But they are a big part of your team. You expect maybe one or two saves to give some positives to the team . . . there are some concerns.”
Inglis later added a second goal, while Tayler Thompson and Cody Carlson had the other Prince George goals.
Near game’s end, the handful of spectators who had hung around cheered the “less than one minute remaining to play” announcement and then booed the Blazers off the ice.
“A lot of time when things don’t go well and you get shellacked at home . . . it’s not a bad idea to get out of Dodge for a few days and maybe regroup,” Charron said.
“Road trips,” Schaber said, “are the funnest times in junior hockey. They bring everyone closer and I think that’s just what we need right now.
“Especially coming off a night like this . . .”
The Blazers (4-6-0-1) are in Red Deer on Wednesday, Edmonton on Friday and Calgary on Saturday.
JUST NOTES: Kirk gave the Blazers 12 of 20 minors, two of four majors and one of two misconducts. . . . Bosch gave up four goals on 21 shots. . . . Groenheyde also was yanked in his last start, in Kelowna on Wednesday. He has surrendered six goals on the last 10 shots he has faced. . . . Kamloops RW Chase Souto, who has missed seven games with a concussion, resumed skating Saturday. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Marincin: Slovakian freshman was dominant; 2. Acolatse: Best night of his career; 3. Connolly: He’s back.
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