|Brady Gaudet of the Kamloops Blazers battles for the puck with Colton Heffley|
of the Kelowna Rockets in exhibition action Friday at Interior Savings Centre.
(Photo by Murray Mitchell/Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The Kamloops Blazers proved Friday night that they don’t like Ogopogo or Nessie the Loch Ness Monster or whatever that monstrosity is on the Kelowna Rockets’ logo.
The Blazers dropped a 3-2 WHL exhibition decision to Kelowna on Friday night at Interior Savings Centre, despite outshooting the Rockets, 45-21, including 30-12 over the final 40 minutes.
These teams will do it again tonight in Kelowna (3-0).
The Blazers (1-2) were hampered by two things last night — an inability to get pucks through traffic and, when they did, the ability to drill goaltender Jordon Cooke right in the chest.
They also were guilty of some tentative player in their zone, but first things first.
Yes, despite being credited with 45 shots, Kamloops had a lot of shots blocked by defenders or sticks or teammates. Like the shot by defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer that drilled winger Chase Souto in the back of a leg on an early third-period power play.
And when they did get through, Cooke, an 18-year-old from Leduc, Alta., was there.
“Good positioning,” offered Kelowna goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, himself a member of the goaltenders’ union.
Cooke, who went the distance with veteran Adam Brown, 20, in camp with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, took a 3-0 lead into the game’s last five minutes and was full marks for it.
“I thought Jordon was very good,” Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska said. “If we get Adam back, which we are expecting we will, we feel like we have a good one-two punch . . . some teams don’t have a one. Either guy in there gives us a lot of confidence.”
With Cooke holding the fort, the Rockets got a goal in each period — Austin Ferguson, Tyson Baillie and Cody Chikie doing the damage — but were hanging on as the second period ended.
“The message I gave them was that we have to play hard right from the beginning,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said, “as we did maybe in the second period or the third when we were behind.”
Charron said he would like his team to “produce some offence early and have the other teams have to play catch-up hockey.”
The Blazers, however, saved their scoring for the final five minutes.
First, Cole Ully took a centring pass from J.C. Lipon and beat Cooke at 15:18, then Ryan Hanes put in a rebound at 17:50.
“We started slow and by the time we started to go it was too late,” Hanes said. “We just couldn’t get there.”
Hanes had a glorious chance 14 minutes into the first period of what then was a scoreless game. He missed an open side and ended up seated against the end boards, with Cooke chirping at him.
“The puck totally rolled off the back of my stick,” Hanes said. “I think he told me to get out of the league or something.”
With numerous players at NHL camps, the Blazers went with 15 skaters, three under the maximum, while the Rockets dressed 16. The result was a game lacking in flow.
“I thought they played very hard and had a lot of energy,” Huska said of the Blazers. “That was a department I thought we were lacking in. It’s tough when you are down in numbers but it was the same for both teams.”
Charron felt he got good effort from his club but that “it was a bit sloppy at times but that’s understandable; there’s not a lot of cohesion there because a lot of players haven’t played together. The power play is the same thing. It’s different people and there’s no cohesion.”
The Blazers were 0-for-6 on the power play; the Rockets were 1-for-3.
The Blazers went the distance with goaltender Cole Cheveldave, 18, who finished with 18 saves. Of the three goals, he likely would want the third one back. Other than that one — a short-side stuff job by Chikie — he looked to be in control.
Charron said he plans to go with Cam Lanigan, 19, tonight. That might indicate the coaching staff is leaning toward keeping Lanigan and Cheveldave, especially with Taran Kozun, the third goaltender in camp, having played only 30 minutes.
Kelowna lost highly touted defenceman Madison Bowey with an apparent left knee injury after he took a knee from Kamloops left-winger Tim Bozon at 5:16 of the first period.
“He’s sore right now,” Huska said. “We’ll get him looked at (today).”
JUST NOTES: Among the Blazers scratches were C Logan McVeigh (concussion) and D Landon Cross (groin). . . . Kelowna D Mitchell Chapman sat out this one with a one-game WHL-issued suspension for fighting off the second-period faceoff in a game against the Victoria Royals last weekend. . . . Among the Kelowna scratches was F Max Adolph, who was limited by concussions to 36 games last season. The 19-year-old from Saskatoon may have suffered another one in a game last weekend. . . . The Blazers conclude their exhibition season by going home-and-home with the Prince George Cougars next week. They’ll play here on Wednesday and there on Friday. . . . The Blazers’ home-opener, against Prince George, is scheduled for Sept. 24.
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