|Kamloops defenceman Corey Fienhage (6) tries to keep|
Tri-City forward Justin Feser away from a rebound and
Blazers goaltender Jeff Bosch.
(Photo by Keith Anderson/Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNANIf you don’t think the Kamloops Blazers are starting to resemble a M*A*S*H unit, you weren’t paying attention on Tuesday night as the home boys got past the Tri-City Americans 3-2 in a shootout before 3,963 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
The relationship between the Blazers and injuries got to the point where Dr. Sven Kipp, one of the WHL team’s doctors, came down from his seat in the stands and spent a lot of the second period taking in the proceedings from the bench area.
The Blazers, already without forward Chase Schaber and defencemen Austin Madaisky and Brandon Underwood, lost winger Brendan Ranford with an apparent shoulder injury for better than 20 minutes early in the game, and also had forwards JC Lipon and Bernhard Keil go off in various stages of distress.
“I didn’t want to think about it,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said of his state of mind when Ranford, who has 33 goals, missed a check on Tri-City defenceman Matt MacKenzie and returned to the bench just 28 seconds into the game. Ranford got help from trainer Colin Robinson, before moving into the tunnel behind the bench and ultimately going to the dressing room.
However, Ranford came back early in the second period and was around for the end.
“Fortunately, he was able to come back,” Charron said. “He has an injury but it’s a minor injury.”
In fact, Ranford, in his 199th regular-season game, played a large role at the end, scoring the first of his side’s two shootout goals. A left-hand shot, Ranford deked goaltender Chris Driedger and scored on a backhand to the glove side.
Centre Colin Smith, a right-hand shot, also deked and also beat Driedger to the glove side.
“Those two have great skills and can do it against any goaltender,” Charron said.
Meanwhile, Kamloops goaltender Jeff Bosch turned aside 26 shots through overtime and then beat Tri-City snipers Brendan Shinnimin and Justin Feser in the showdown.
“Bosch was very good,” Charron said, “and he was great against their top scorers.”
The victory improved the Blazers’ record to 25-31-3 and lifted them back into sole possession of the 10-team Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. They are one point ahead of the Chilliwack Bruins (24-27-4), who hold four games in hand.
The Americans (35-16-3), who picked up a flu bug after arriving in Kamloops following a 6-1 victory in Chilliwack on Sunday evening, are tied for third with the Spokane Chiefs, five points behind the pace-setting Portland Winterhawks.
“Certainly, we beat a very good hockey team,” Charron stated.
The Blazers opened the scoring at 11:15 of the first period when centre Dylan Willick took the puck away from defenceman Paul Sohor deep in enemy territory and centred it to right-winger Jordan DePape, who beat Driedger.
Driedger, who made 26 saves, was making his fifth WHL start in place of the injured Drew Owsley, whose knee injury apparently isn’t as bad as was first thought.
It took the Americans only 1:01 to tie it, though, as Carter Ashton, the right winger on their big line, pulled the trigger on a power play.
Left-winger Bernhard Keil put the home side back out front less than three minutes later, capitalizing on another Americans’ turnover and scoring for the third time in 36 games.
Feser pulled the Americans even at 8:16 of the second, finishing off a slow-developing 2-on-1 break while his side was shorthanded.
Charron admitted to having concerns about his club’s fragility at that point in the game. But, despite the adversity, the Blazers battled in this one and it could be argued that they deserved to win in regulation time.
Still, the Americans came within an eyelash of winning it in overtime when centre Kruise Reddick beat Bosch on a rebound but it was ruled time had expired before the puck entered the net.
JUST NOTES: Referee Derek Zalaski gave the Americans six of 11 11 minors and one of two majors. . . . The Americans were hit with the game’s last three minors but were able to escape unscathed. . . . Kamloops F Thomas Frazee played in his 300th regular-season WHL game. Frazee, 20, also has played with Portland, the Medicine Hat Tigers, Moose Jaw Warriors and Regina Pats. . . . Tri-City, which is back here on March 8, leads the season series 2-1 and has a 15-5 edge in goals. . . . The Blazers are next at home on March 2 against the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Keil took the night’s hardest check when he was drilled in the neutral zone by Tri-City D Tyler Schmidt in the first period. In the second period, Keil was on the receiving end of nasty check by Shinnimin that resulted in a boarding minor. . . . Lipon has battled ankle/leg problems through much of the second half. He left late in the second period, unable to put any weight on his right leg. But he was back for the third. . . . The Blazers leave Thursday for a five-game swing into the Central Division. They open Friday with a game in Edmonton against the Oil Kings.
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