Daily News Sports Editor
Jordan DePape admits that he did a lot of talking during Saturday’s WHL game at Interior Savings Centre.
“I was talking to him throughout the game,” the Kamloops Blazers’ winger said, the “him” being Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Calvin Pickard. “Like, ‘I got one coming on you Cal.’ We were laughing about it.”
Pickard almost had the last laugh, too, but, in the end, it was DePape who wore the biggest smile.
The victory snapped the Blazers’ four-game home-ice losing streak and improved their record to 8-7-1. They’ll play at home again Wednesday, this time against the Kelowna Rockets (4-10-0), who have lost three in a row.
The Thunderbirds (5-3-4) have points in nine of 12 games as they have gone into overtime or a shootout on seven occasions.
DePape and Pickard were born a month apart in the spring of 1992 and grew up in Winnipeg.
“We’re good buddies,” DePape said. “I started playing hockey with him when I was eight.
“He knows where I like to shoot. I was lucky enough to get an open net on him and he almost did grab it.”
Pickard, the younger brother of former Tri-City Americans star goaltender Chet Pickard, finished with 49 saves, many of them of the magnificent variety. On a number of occasions, he slid across his crease to stone a Blazers’ shooter who was attempting to one-time the puck into an apparent open net.
On the winner, Pickard didn’t quite get over in time and DePape, from the left wing, was able to slap in a Chase Schaber rebound for his fourth goal of the season.
“That’s the Calvin (we’ve heard about),” DePape said. “He almost won that game and we more than doubled them in shots.”
The Blazers didn’t have much trouble getting pucks to the net against one of the WHL’s largest teams.
“That’s going to win us games,” DePape said. “If it’s any other goalie in the league, we probably would have had a couple of others. That has to be our bread and butter . . . get a lot of shots on net and crash the net.”
The Blazers outshot the visitors 19-3 in the first period and 16-9 in the second but were tied 1-1 going into the third. Centre Colin Smith scored for the Blazers at 9:43 of the first period on a wrap-around, while defenceman Travis Bobbee drilled a slapshot past Kamloops goaltender Jeff Bosch at 15:58 of the second.
When Bobbee scored, the Blazers had a 35-8 edge in shots.
“We rely on Pickard,“ Bobbee said, “but we kind of don’t want to . . . but we do. He’s such a good goaltender.”
Left-winger Marcel Noebels actually put Seattle out front on a backdoor play on the power play early in the third period, a play on which Bosch had no chance.
Bosch, while not as busy as Pickard, had a quality night with 23 saves. That included a key glove save on Seattle centre Luke Lockhart who was awarded a penalty shot at 3:16 of the third period, just 1:56 after Noebels had scored.
Kamloops defenceman Austin Madaisky, with his fourth of the season, forged a 2-2 tie by beating Pickard with a high shot through traffic on a power play at 8:43.
Seattle was presented with a late power-play opportunity when forward Tyler Alos tried to power his way around Kamloops defenceman Brandon Underwood, who was nailed for holding.
Before the Thunderbirds could mount much of a threat, defencemen Brenden Dillon was penalized for interference — the Blazers, killing the Underwood penalty, chipped the puck past Dillon and he nudged winger Dylan Willick to prevent a 2-on-1 going the other way.
A couple of years ago, neither Underwood nor Dillon would have been penalized. Times have changed, however, and both players found themselves doing time.
It was while Dillon was off that DePape put this one to bed.
The Blazers hadn’t had great starts in recent games. For example, they had fallen behind 4-0 on Wednesday before eventually dropping a 6-4 decision to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
This time, though, the slow start was nowhere to be found.
“It wasn’t as loud as it usually is,” DePape said of his club’s pregame buildup. “We said, ‘Enough talk. Let’s just go and do it.’
“I thought we had a good start.”
That they did.
At the same time, the Thunderbirds were back on their heels. They had dropped a 2-0 decision to the visiting Prince George Cougars on Friday night and headed this way immediately after the game, arriving at about 4 a.m.
Still, Bobbee refused to attribute his side’s start to bus legs.
“I think it was more mental,” he said. “We can’t let the schedule get in the way of things. It’s more of a mental thing. Every team goes through it. Once we get past that we’ll be a better team and definitely play a full 60 minutes.”
JUST NOTES: Referees Dan Cowley and Trent Knorr gave each team seven minors and one major. . . . The Blazers were 2-for-6 on the power play; the Thunderbirds were 1-for-6. . . . Madaisky’s goal was announced as unassisted but assists were added Sunday to F JT Barnett and D Corey Fienhage. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Pickard: Could have had all three stars; 2. Bosch: May have saved day with save on penalty shot; 3. DePape: Lots of chances and buried the winner.
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