By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
It was a quiet, subdued and contrite subdued Brendan Ranford who came out of the Kamloops Blazers’ dressing room late Friday night.
Ranford, who leads the WHL team in goals, assists and points, left in the second period of a 5-1 loss to the visiting Kelowna Rockets after he cross-checked linesman Kris Hartley in the chest.
Ranford was given a game misconduct under Rule 40.5 (iii), which deals with abuse of officials.
“I got that penalty for slashing the goalie,” said Ranford of the play that occurred at 9:10 of the second period, just 45 seconds after the Rockets had taken a 3-0 led with two quick power-play goals, “and I got pulled out of there. I was going toward the box . . . (referee Ryan) Bonnett said I had a penalty . . . Hartley grabbed me and my emotions got the most of me. It wasn’t the right thing to do, but . . .”
Ranford, an 18-year-old from Edmonton who was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 NHL draft, paused before continuing.
“It wasn’t the right thing and I regret doing it,” he said. “In the heat of the game sometimes things happen like that . . . after thinking about it, it wasn’t the right thing, for sure.”
Ranford then said he wanted to apologize to Hartley.
“Hartley has been in the league for a long time and I respect him 100 per cent,” Ranford said. “He’s a great guy on the ice, for sure . . . it wasn’t the right thing.”
Ranford, who has 86 points, including 33 goals, now has gone six games without a point, but said he doesn’t feel that he acted out of frustration.
“No,” he said, “it wasn’t really that. I thought I got my chances tonight. I can’t really . . . that’s definitely not towards my actions that I did here.”
The WHL, which is expected to suspend Ranford indefinitely while it investigates his actions, wouldn’t allow Hartley to talk to the media after the game.
As has been the case so often this season, a lack of discipline cost the Blazers, the WHL’s most-penalized team, even before Ranford’s misstep.
With the Rockets leading 1-0, forward Logan McVeigh checked Kelowna defenceman Colton Jobke from behind. Then, in the ensuing mini-melee, Chase Souto of the Blazers began flailing away at Kelowna’s Slovenian import, Gal Koren.
When it was over, the Rockets were looking at a two-man advantage. They didn’t waste their chances. Three shots. Two goals. A 3-0 lead.
Game, set and maybe season.
Because, while the Blazers (29-36-4) were losing for the fifth straight game, the Prince George Cougars were beating the Giants 8-0 — yes, 8-0! — in Vancouver. That means Kamloops is ninth in the 10-team Western Conference, two points behind the Cougars, who hold down the last playoff spot.
The Seattle Thunderbirds, who beat the visiting Chilliwack Bruins 3-2 in overtime, are just one point behind Kamloops.
The Blazers are scheduled to play tonight in Kelowna, while the Cougars meet the Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash.
Geordie Wudrick, with his 40th goal of the season, Zach Franko, Mitchell Callahan, Koren and Tyson Barrie scored for the Rockets, who were 4-for-8 on the power play and clinched the B.C. Division pennant in the process.
Bernhard Keil had the Blazers’ lone goal, beating Kelowna goaltender Adam Brown at 3:37 of the third period. Brown posted his 83rd career regular-season victory, tying the franchise record set by Kelly Guard.
Brown was especially stellar in the first period when the Blazers at one point held a 15-2 edge in shots.
Brown’s shoulder stop on Chase Schaber off a shorthanded 2-on-1 was followed by Kelowna’s first goal, with Wudrick putting a rebound behind Jeff Bosch with three seconds left in the power play.
“For the first 15 minutes, we were on our heels,” offered Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska, adding that Brown has often played well early this season, allowing his teammates to get their legs underneath them.
Kamloops head coach Guy Charron, meanwhile, was again bemoaning that lack of discipline.
“We have to try to stay disciplined,” he said. “We can’t afford to allow a team to take a 5-on-3, especially when we’re down by one goal.
“This is the kind of team you have to be disciplined against. They’re not undisciplined and they cause you to be undisciplined and we allow it.
“I’m not completely down on the guys because I think it’s frustrating, especially with some of the things that I can’t say.
“What can you do?”
JUST NOTES: The Rockets were 4-for-8 on the power play; the Blazers were 0-for-3. . . . Bosch made 29 saves in his 21st straight start. . . . Schaber wasn’t able to put much weight on his right leg after the game. This was his fourth game back after missing 22 of 24 games with a leg injury. . . . The Rockets lead the season series 5-3-0. They have won the last three meetings by a 19-4 count. . . . Kelowna is 40-26-1, the sixth time it has won at least 40 games since 2002-03. . . . Wudrick now has 11 goals in his last 12 games, after starting the season with one goal in 15 outings. Kelowna is 25-4 when he scores.
The rule under which Kamloops left-winger Brendan Ranford received a game misconduct on Friday night:
Rule 40.5 (iii)
Any player or goalkeeper who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official, in any manner attempts to injure an official, physically demeans, or deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall receive a game misconduct penalty.