Monday, November 15, 2010

Blazers complete weekend sweep

BRENDAN RANFORD
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
For awhile, it was as though Batman chose to be Robin’s caddy. Or the Green Hornet decided to spend a night as Kato’s assistant.
Left-winger Brendan Ranford, the WHL’s leading triggerman, turned playmaker Sunday night, setting up the Kamloops Blazers’ first two goals and getting them started towards a 3-1 victory over the Everett Silvertips before 3,920 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
Right-winger Jordan DePape scored those goals, both coming via the power play, and Ranford later iced this one with his 20th goal of the season as he completed this third straight three-point game. He has 11 points, including seven goals, over his last four games.
One night earlier, Ranford scored twice and set up a third, goaltender Jeff Bosch stopped 23 shots and the much-maligned penalty-killing unit was perfect in beating the visiting Kelowna Rockets, 4-0, in what was the Blazers’ best home-ice performance of the season.
The Blazers (11-9-1) knew going into the weekend that if things broke a particular way they could have been in the 10-team Western Conference cellar by Sunday night.
Instead, the two victories have them tied with the Prince George Cougars for fifth, just a point out of third.
Last night, the Blazers were facing an Everett team (8-8-4) that was playing its third game in as many nights and had won the first two. On Saturday, the red-hot Rockets (10-11-0) were in their third game in four nights.
“We beat two teams . . . this team was undefeated in three games,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said, “and (Saturday) night we beat a team that was undefeated in six games. Credit should be given to the hockey team.”
While the Blazers played Saturday what Charron called a “textbook” game, they weren’t able to repeat that effort against an Everett team that was quite structured.
“We thought for sure this would be a very similar situation (to Saturday’s game),” Charron said, “but sometimes it’s not within our control. The players want to but . . .”
The two DePape goals — he now has seven in 16 games — put the Blazers up 2-0, with winger Kellan Tochkin pulling the visitors to within a goal at 6:19 of the second period.
After that, though, Bosch closed the door. He finished with 38 saves, including 16 in the third period.
“Everyone except one guy wasn’t very good,” Charron said.
Bosch, who tweaked a knee and came out after the first period of a 5-4 victory over the Hitmen in Calgary on Nov. 5, said he “felt really confident and really strong” in both games.
Some of that, he said, was due to a couple of sessions he had last week with former NHL goaltender Bill Ranford and Blazers goaltending coach Dan DePalma.
“That really helped out, I thought,” Bosch said.
On Saturday, Bosch put up his second shutout of the season, and the 10th of his career, and the penalty killers were 7-for-7.
Bosch, who now has 10 career shutouts, also blanked the host Red Deer Rebels, beating them 1-0 on Oct. 20.
Ranford’s two goals lifted him into the WHL lead, one ahead of Brendan Gallagher of the Vancouver Giants. Ranford stretched that lead to two last night.
But it was the penalty killers, who according to the numbers were the worst in the league going into Saturday, who saved the game.
The Blazers walked into three minor penalties in a span of 1:59 early in the second period. Kamloops, which had a week between games to work on things, was more aggressive and more structured than it had been on the kill and it was able to keep the game scoreless.
Late in the period, the Blazers struck three times in 1:49 to beat the Rockets, who came in having won six in a row.
Chase Schaber and Colin Smith had the Blazers’ other goals.
JUST NOTES: On Sunday, the Blazers were 2-for-2 on the PP, while Everett was 1-for-2. . . . One of Everett’s scratches was F Landon Ferraro, who suffered an upper-body injury in Saturday’s 3-2 OT victory over the visiting Chilliwack Bruins. . . . The last time Kamloops blanked Kelowna? Dec. 1, 2006, when Dustin Butler stopped 11 shots in a 5-0 home-ice victory. . . . Saturday’s attendance was 4,496, the second-largest crowd of the season. . . . Schaber’s assist on Ranford’s second goal Saturday was the 100th point of his WHL career. . . . Former Blazers head coach Ken Hitchcock, who isn’t listed as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ front office staff but is working as a special advisor, took in both weekend games. He was fired as the Blue Jackets’ head coach last season despite having a contract that runs through 2011-12 at US$1.3 million per. . . . The Blazers will play their annual game against the local Special Olympics floor hockey team tonight at Brocklehurst Middle School. The fun starts at 7 o’clock. . . . It’s Team WHL against the Russians on Wednesday as the Subway Super Series comes to the ISC. The Blazers will be well represented on the WHL team with D Austin Madaisky, Ranford, Schaber, Charron and trainer Colin Robinson. Game time will be 7 p.m.
gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
gdrinnan.blogspot.com
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