By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
JT Barnett admits that he was starting to wonder if he would ever score again.
But not only did he score one goal Tuesday night, he set up two others, as his Kamloops Blazers skated to a 4-3 overtime WHL victory over the Regina Pats in front of 3,802 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
Still, it wasn’t until an interminably long video review that a winner was declared.
The Blazers started OT on the power play and fired four shots at Regina goaltender Damien Ketlo before finally beating him. They did that when forward Dalibor Bortnak dived and chipped the puck over a prone Ketlo. The goaltender, who finished with 38 saves, reached back and caught the puck.
Referee Pat Smith, positioned by the Regina net, immediately and emphatically waved it off. He then skated to the penalty box and asked for the phone that connects to the video review booth.
The question, then, was with the position of Ketlo’s glove relative to the goal line when he caught the puck.
The length of the review was due to a fuzzy picture upstairs, but Jason Rende, the video goal judge, over-ruled the call on the ice. The game was televised by Shaw and its picture confirmed Bortnak’s seventh goal of the season.
The victory lifted the Blazers (12-11-1) out of the Western Conference’s basement, past three teams and into a tie for sixth place. Nine of the 10 teams now are separated by only five points.
With linemates Brendan Ranford and Chase Schaber, their two leading scorers, and winger JC Lipon serving WHL-issued suspensions, the Blazers knew they would need someone to step up in this one.
Little did they know it would be Barnett, a 21-goal man last season with the Vancouver Giants who had gone 10 games without a goal.
“I was still getting chances,” the 18-year-old Barnett said. “I just wasn’t capitalizing on them.”
So who better to talk with than a couple of veteran hockey men?
“I sat down with (head coach Guy Charron),” Barnett said, “and said, ‘Look, I know I’m not playing as well as I can and I know I need to play better. What are some of the things I need to focus on?”
Barnett also talked with his father, Michael, who once was Wayne Gretzky’s agent and also was GM of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. He now is in the New York Rangers’ front office.
“You just have to look back and ask, ‘What was I doing when I was playing well, or when I thought I was playing well?’ ” the younger Barnett continued.
So he looked back at video of when things were going better and “tried to do that tonight and it worked out.”
He scored the goal, his sixth of the season, at 12:25 of the second period to forge a 2-2 tie. As his backhander dented the twine, Barnett looked to the heavens.
It was, he said, a look that signified “a little bit of relief.”
Which is what the Blazers felt when video review confirmed Bortnak’s goal. This was the first of four games in five nights for the home boys, who left last night for Spokane, where they are to meet the Chiefs tonight.
“We needed a strong team effort and we felt that (goaltender Cam) Lanigan would have to be strong . . . which he was,” Charron said.
With starter Jeff Bosch (concussion) sidelined, Lanigan stopped 30 shots in a solid performance.
Also turning in a strong effort was sophomore forward Dylan Willick, who forced overtime with a tremendous goal. He beat defenceman Ricard Blidstrand along the right boards in the Regina zone and then out-muscled forward Trent Ouellette behind the net, before beating Ketlo on the playgrounder.
The Blazers, at the time, were just 4:26 from tasting defeat.
Centre Matt Needham, the Blazers’ first-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft, scored his first WHL goal, snapping a long rebound past Ketlo in the first period to open the scoring.
Chandler Stephenson, Carter Ashton and Myles Bell replied for the Pats (7-13-5), who now are 1-0-2 on a B.C. Division tour that continues tonight in Kelowna against the Rockets.
With Kamloops missing Ranford and Schaber, the Pats needed a big game from their top line, which features Jordan Weal between Ashton and Thomas Frazee. But the visitors didn’t get anything close to that from those three.
“If you play disciplined and play good defence you allow yourself to win hockey games,” Charron pointed out.
JUST NOTES: Referees Steve Papp and Smith gave Regina eight of 12 minors and one of two majors. . . . Regina was 1-for-2 on the power play; the Blazers were 1-for-6. . . . Regina wore its third jerseys which salute the 1924 Pats. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Barnett: Three points, finally; 2. Ketlo: Gave his guys a chance to win; 3. Kamloops F Dylan Willick: Hard work rewarded with a goal. . . . Bosch may return as the backup to Lanigan on Friday night. . . . The Blazers left for Spokane immediately after last night’s game. . . . Needham returned to Penticton after the game, while F Aspen Sterzer, who was solid in his WHL debut, and G Troy Trombley were on the bus to Spokane. . . . Ranford will be eligible to play tonight.
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