By GREGG DRINNANIt was an excellent adventure, but the end result left something to be desired.
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
“We had a really good time,” offered right-winger Jordan DePape of the Kamloops Blazers on Sunday. “It's too bad that we lost a heartbreaker. The two points would have been huge.
“But it was a really good experience.”
Centre Dylan Willick added: “It was a lot of fun. That was a great experience.”
The only sour note to the WHL team's weekend in Whitehorse, Yukon, was dropping a 3-2 decision to the Vancouver Giants on Saturday.
This was the first WHL regular-season game to be played in the Yukon, although the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Kootenay Ice played two exhibition games in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in 2005.
The Giants and Blazers, who were the home team, met in the 1,535-seat Takhini Arena.
“The rink was neat,” said Willick, an 18-year-old sophomore from Prince George. “It's a lot smaller obviously than your average rink but it was packed . . . standing room only. There was a lot of excitement, a lot of noise. It was great.”
“It was neat,” he said. “It had a great atmosphere. It was packed in there. It seem pretty much like a playoff game so it was cool.”
The game was part of CBC-TV's Hockey Day In Canada celebrations, something that captivated Whitehorse for most of the week.
The two WHL teams and league officials flew into Whitehorse late Friday morning, where they were greeted by a welcoming party and took part in a news conference. Later, the players practised and signed autographs.
There was a banquet on Friday that was attended by the Blazers' coaching staff and two players - injured captain Chase Schaber (leg) and left-winger Brendan Ranford.
DePape, 18, said the weekend almost was like living a fantasy because he “got to see Don Cherry and Ron MacLean . . . we saw guys like Lanny McDonald and Pat Quinn, a bunch of guys from around the hockey world so it was pretty cool.”
The weather, DePape said, was just fine, too.
“It was about minus-10,” he said, before chuckling and adding: “One morning we went for a walk and the boys were pretty cold. They were kind of complaining. I felt pretty good because I'm a Winnipeg boy and I said I've seen probably quadruple this.”
And then it was game day . . .
“We came out really strong,” Willick said. “In the second period, that's when they really took it to us. That took a lot of energy out of our guys by the end of the second and we couldn't quite recuperate. They finished us off in the last five minutes (of the third).”
Vancouver winger Brendan Gallagher scored twice, his second goal, and 38th of the season, breaking a 2-2 tie at 17:15 of the third period.
The Blazers were without Schaber and defencemen Austin Madaisky (neck) and Brandon Underwood (knee).
“We have guys who aren't used to getting that kind of ice time getting that kind of ice time,” Willick said. “so it gets a little bit tough that way, especially on the d-men. (The Giants) were in our end for quite a bit of the time so it was tough on our d-men.
“That's something the guys will have to start getting used to, I guess.”
Centre Andrej Stastny had Vancouver's other goal.
Wingers Thomas Frazee and Brendan Ranford replied for Kamloops. Frazee gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead on a power play at 5:26 of the first period with his 24th goal. Ranford pulled the Blazes even, at 2-2, at 15:31 of the second after Willick won a faceoff in the Vancouver zone.
Vancouver goaltender Marc Segal stopped 26 shots, while Bosch turned aside 28.
The arena doesn't include glass that meets WHL standards. Thus, the teams agreed to have the officials ignore what would have been delay-of-game penalties in WHL arenas. That, however, was never a factor.
“I honestly don't think there was even one shot that went out that would have been a delay of game, so that was perhaps a bit surprising,” said Willick, who also noted that there was “no room” behind the nets.
As well, he said, “The neutral zone was bigger so there was less room inside each team's zone and that was a bit of a factor.”
The loss, combined with a 4-1 victory by the Chilliwack Bruins over the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Saturday, knocked the Blazers into ninth place in the 10-team Western Conference.
Kamloops, with 14 games remaining, six of them at home, is one point behind the Bruins, who now hold the conference's last playoff spot.
The Blazers are at home Tuesday to the Tri-City Americans and then go into the Central Division for five games, starting Friday in Edmonton against the Oil Kings.
JUST NOTES: D Landon Cross, 16, has joined the Blazers from the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings and is scheduled to stay with them through this week. . . . Ranford, who has 33 goals, ended a six-game drought with his third goal in 18 games. . . . Two of the Blazers actually played against each other in Whitehorse, during the 2007 Canada Winter Games. B.C., including Frazee, beat Saskatchewan, which had Bosch in goal, 5-4 in a quarterfinal game. Frazee scored once, while Bosch made 44 saves. . . . This was the last meeting of the season between the teams. The Giants ended up with a 5-2-1 edge. . . . The victory was No. 516 in the WHL for Vancouver head coach Don Hay, who is fourth on the all-time list. Pat Ginnell is No. 3, at 518. . . . The Giants have won 14 of their last 18 games.
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