By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports EditorLike the Hatfields and McCoys, Cleveland and LeBron, and the Red Sox and Yankees, the Kamloops Bruins and Chilliwack Bruins flat out don’t like each other.
If that wasn’t evident before, it certainly became crystal clear with the events of Saturday when the teams combined for 110 minutes in penalties during a WHL game at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
The Blazers won the game, 5-1, and 74 of those penalty minutes were dished out in the game’s last two minutes six seconds.
That included referee Andy Thiessen swinging Chilliwack forward Blair Wentworth around like a sack of dog food and the Blazers claiming that defenceman Brady Gaudet had been bitten during a late altercation.
The Blazers will be hoping to take a bite out of the Bruins tonight as the teams resume their rivalry at Interior Savings Centre. They meet again Saturday in Chilliwack. Game time both nights is 7 o’clock.
“It’s kind of been that way right from the get-go, right from the situation at the start of the (season) with (Chase) Souto,” offered Kamloops defenceman Brady Gaudet. “There’s been some bitterness between us.”
Wentworth was given a double minor for checking from behind for a hit on Souto as the visiting Blazers won 6-1 on Oct. 2 in what was the second meeting of the season between the teams. Wentworth was given a two-game suspension; Souto missed seven games with a concussion.
In the first meeting, on Sept. 25 in Kamloops, Souto had dropped Chilliwack defenceman Zach Habscheid in a late-game bout.
In five games, the Blazers have taken 236 of the 423 penalty minutes that have been handed out. (Kamloops remains the WHL’s most-penalized team, with 1,201 minutes; the Bruins are fourth, at 1,113.)
“They’re a really good hockey team and they work hard every night, and we do, too,” Kamloops left-winger Brendan Ranford said. “When two hard-working teams play against each other there are going to be some confrontations. That’s just how hockey is. We’re battling for a playoff spot, if confrontation comes up we have to battle through it.
“It’s almost like a playoff game every night playing against them. That’s playoff hockey. There are a lot of battles out there. It’s fun hockey.”
Gaudet found himself in the middle of the fun on Saturday, and it resulted in his second career scrap, this one with forward T.C. Cratsenberg. Gaudet emerged claiming he had been bitten.
“I was pretty certain it was a bite,” Gaudet said. “Where my hand was at the time, I knew it was in that region of his mouth and I felt something awfully sharp.”
There wasn’t any real proof, however, so the WHL wasn’t able to act on Kamloops’ complaints.
“That’s right,” said Gaudet, who received a game misconduct for being involved in the second fight during the same stoppage of play.
A big part of the rivalry, at least at this point of the season, may have something to do with the standings.
The Blazers (22-29-3) are in sole possession of the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, one point ahead of the Bruins (21-25-4) and two up on the Seattle Thunderbirds (18-25-9). Kamloops is four points behind the Prince George Cougars and Everett Silvertips, who are tied for sixth.
The race for eighth, however, has turned into more of a walk-a-thon. Kamloops, Chilliwack and Seattle are a combined 5-22-3 in their last 30 games.
The Blazers, who lost 3-2 to visiting Everett on Wednesday, have won two of their last 12 games. The Bruins, beaten 6-4 by the Rockets in Kelowna on Wednesday, have lost six straight.
“Since I’ve been here, every single game has been an absolute battle,” Blazers defenceman Austin Madaisky offered. “We’ve had games where there has been more than 200 penalty minutes.
“Chilliwack . . . you could really see last game when we got up a few goals they started looking for that. They’ve got a few guys who love to get under the skin of opposing players.
“We’re just going to have to go back in that building and play just like we did last time, and same with the game here at home.”
JUST NOTES: Kamloops F JT Barnett was in the penalty box for high-sticking when Everett F Tyler Maxwell scored the winning goal Wednesday. It was only the sixth time in 54 games that Barnett has been responsible for an opposition PP and the first time a goal has been scored while he was off. . . . The Blazers continue to without F Chase Schaber (leg) and G Cam Lanigan (concussion). . . . The Bruins are without F Steve Oursov (concussion) and F Jesse Pauls (leg), while veteran D Jeff Einhorn (leg) is listed as day-to-day. . . . Joe Renney, the father of former Blazers coach Tom Renney, died Tuesday night in Cranbrook after a long illness. Tom, the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, left the NHL team for a few days in the fall to spend time with his father. A funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday, 11 a.m., at McPherson’s Funeral Home (2200 2nd St. South) in Cranbrook.