Sunday, January 23, 2011

Daily News Sports Editor

For now at least, Andrej Stastny is the answer to a trivia question.
Who is the last WHL player to score three goals in a game while wearing a Kamloops Blazers jersey?
Stastny did it Saturday night as he led the Vancouver Giants to a 6-1 victory over the Blazers before 4,223 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
Got that?
Visiting player scores three goals while wearing Blazers jersey and home team loses.
The Giants somehow managed to forget their jerseys when they were loading the bus for the trip to Kamloops earlier in the day. So they wore a set of Kamloops’ black training camp jerseys, each with a Blazers logo on the front and small white numbers on the back.
“It probably looked really ridiculous to the crowd,” offered a laughing Brendan Gallagher, who scored his 29th goal, a shorthanded effort, for the Giants. “It was something as players that we haven’t had to deal with. It was a little adversity that we had to black out going into the game.
“It’s definitely something we probably would never go through again . . . it was bizarre.”
Equally bizarre was Stastny’s road to Vancouver.
From Povazska Bystrica, Slovakia, the 19-year-old was selected by the Saskatoon Blades in the CHL’s 2010 import draft. The Blades weren’t able to land him, however, and dropped him from their list. The Giants, having released Swedish forward Casper Carning, had room for an import so grabbed Stastny’s rights. He went on to play for Slovakia at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo and joined the Giants after the tournament.
“We’ve been waiting for him to get his first one,” Gallagher said. “He’s been getting tons of chances in every game. For him to finally break out tonight was huge for us.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Stastny broke a 1-1 tie in the second period and then scored twice to key a four-goal Vancouver third period as the Giants dominated the last two periods, outshooting their hosts 33-14.
Stastny’s third goal, and his seventh point in eight games, reeked of his potential as he powered through defencemen Tyler Hansen and Austin Madaisky and went in to shovel a shot past goaltender Jeff Bosch.
“We know that he’s a big power forward who can skate,” Gallagher said. “He makes great plays on the ice. If we can get him going like this it’ll be huge for us.”
(On Sunday night, Stastny scored twice and added an assist as the Giants beat the visiting Chilliwack Bruins, 7-3. Gallagher scored three times.)
The Blazers got out of the first period in a 1-1 tie -- Colin Smith scoring on the power play almost eight minutes after Spencer Bennett had given the Giants a 1-0 lead. However, the Giants opened the middle period with a 49-second two-man advantage and took it right to the Blazers.
Vancouver, with a 12-7 edge in first-period shots, peppered Bosch with eight shots in the second period’s first 1:52 and had increased its total to 24 just four minutes later.
The Blazers, back on their heels, never recovered.
Gallagher broke the Blazers’ backs with his goal at 7:16, and forward Nathan Burns iced it 40 seconds later.
“We had a lot of shots tonight,” Gallagher said. “We wanted to crash the net and find ways to get goals any way we could. We know they’re a little bit of a banged up team over there.”
The Blazers again were missing injured forwards Dalibor Bortnak, Jordan DePape and Chase Schaber. They also were without defenceman Josh Caron, while centre Matt Needham didn’t finish the game.
Caron, who missed 41 games with a broken collarbone, hurt the collarbone in his sixth game back, Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the visiting Chilliwack Bruins. Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said X-rays were negative but that Caron would undergo more tests early this week.
The 15-year-old Needham, who returned to his midget team in Penticton after Saturday’s game, aggravated a knee injury on Friday and then dinged a shoulder Saturday.
“Minor stuff,” Needham said.
“They played a pretty solid game,” said Needham, who was quick to credit the Giants. “We weren’t happy with our effort. But you have to give them credit . . . they played well and we have to be better.”
Needham, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 bantam draft, returns home having played in 10 games and picked up seven points. He will play for Team B.C. in the Canada Winter Games in Halifax, Feb. 11-27, and perhaps finish his season with the Blazers.
“I definitely didn’t expect to get up (with the Blazers) as much as I have,” Needham said. “It’s been awesome. The guys are great. I love playing here, and I’ve had some success so everything’s been good.”
And he has proved his worth at this level. On Friday, in a tie game, Needham was taking a defensive zone faceoff with 1:15 left in the third period.
“Guy has had a lot of trust in me out there,” Needham said.
The Blazers, who have lost four in a row at home, are on the road for their next three games. They meet the Cougars in Prince George on Wednesday, the Giants (24-19-4) in Vancouver on Friday and the Bruins in Chilliwack on Saturday.
Kamloops (21-26-3) came out of the weekend having lost seven of its last eight games. It is tied with the Seattle Thunderbirds (18-21-9) for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
JUST NOTES: Apparently, the Giants won’t be fined for forgetting their jerseys, but could pay for wearing jerseys without namebars. . . . Prior to the start of the game, Cory Flett, the WHL’s director, communications, tweeted: “Little bit of a jersey debacle in Kamloops tonight, Giants forget game jerseys, will be wearing Blazer practice uniforms, major mistake.” . . . The Blazers next play at home on Feb. 2 against the Everett Silvertips.


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