Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ryan Howse of the Chilliwack Bruins fires the game's first
goal past Kamloops Blazers goaltender Jeff Bosch.
(Photo by Shane Kurki/Kamloops Daily News)

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Standing at the middle point in overtime, his team on the power play, defenceman Brandon Manning’s experience told him something.
“When you’re 4-on-3 there’s going to be a lane to shoot,” said Manning, who shot and scored 21 seconds into OT to give the Chilliwack Bruins a 3-2 WHL victory over the Kamloops Blazers before 4,367 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
The Bruins were on the power play because Kamloops forward Dylan Willick had been fingered for hooking at 19:14 of the third period. With 54.5 seconds left in the period, the Blazers had lost a faceoff in their zone and Willick got  his stick tangled in the midsection of Chilliwack winger Robin Soudek.
Chilliwack then won it on the only shot of extra time, as Manning blasted the puck high and over goaltender Jeff Bosch.
“We had a set play set up,” said Manning, a 20-year-old native of Prince George who is in his third season with the Bruins. “They weren’t giving us much and they gave us a shot, so I took it.
“I’ve been known to shoot the puck so I just put it on net and it found a hole for me.”
Manning, who signed a three-year contract as a free agent with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers in late November, now has 14 goals.
The victory lifted the Bruins (21-20-3) into a tie for seventh in the Western Conference. They are even with the Blazers (21-25-3) and Seattle Thunderbirds (18-20-9), who lost 6-3 to the visiting Kelowna Rockets last night. The Bruins, who meet the visiting Prince George Cougars tonight and play the Giants in Vancouver on Sunday, hold five games in hand on the Blazers.
Kamloops, which is at home to the B.C. Division-leading Giants tonight, led this one 2-1 heading into the latter stages of the third period, thanks to winger JT Barnett’s ninth goal of the season.
He capitalized on some good work by centre Colin Smith in behind the Chilliwack net. Smith outworked a defenceman and threw the puck out front to a wide-open Barnett, who whipped a shot through goaltender Lucas Gore.
The lead stood up until 16:15 when thumper Curt Gogol knocked down an airborne puck in front of Bosch and whacked it home for his fifth of the season.
“The way the standings are, every point is pretty important,” said Smith, a 17-year-old sophomore who continues to look more and more comfortable. “There are certain games that you battle and it just doesn’t turn out for you.”
Make no mistake . . . this one was a battle. There wasn’t a whole lot of room out there for a lot of it.
“It was pretty tight out there,” Smith said. “It was one those games where you just had to keep sticking with it. Unfortunately, they regrouped at the end.”
Smith picked up one assist and now has 12 points over his last 13 games and 31 points in 49 games overall.
“I’m just trying to play,” said Smith, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 bantam draft. “I’m just battling through the ups and downs. I’m starting to feel it might be headed in the right direction and I’m just trying to keep on getting better.
“I just want to keep playing every game hard and hopefully good things will happen.”
The teams went into the third period even at 1-1 after Ryan Howse scored his 31st of the season for Chilliwack in the first period and freshman centre Matt Needham replied with his third in the second period.
Howse, who also is from Prince George, finished with the goal and an assist on the winner, giving him 184 career points and the franchise’s career record, one more than Mark Santorelli (2006-08). A third-round selection by Calgary in the 2009 NHL draft, Howse signed with the Flames on Dec. 21.
“It’s great to see guys have success like that,” Manning said of his teammate. “Ryan’s been great for Chilliwack and to have some personal success and do something like that is great. Good for him.”
JUST NOTES: Referee Pat Smith gave each team five minors and a major, with the Bruins (Gogol) taking the lone misconduct. . . . The Bruins were 1-for-4 on the PP; the Blazers were 0-for-4. . . . Bosch was sharp, making 26 saves. Chilliwack G Lucas Gore, who is from Kamloops, stopped 28 shots. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Manning — the Bruins’ leader on the back end; 2. Willick — no one works like he does; 3. Howse — first goal was an NHL shot. . . . Kamloops LW Brendan Ranford remains stalled at 30 goals. He hasn’t scored in 11 games and has just two in 16 outings.
gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
     
gdrinnan.blogspot.com
     
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