By GREGG DRINNANIf this keeps up, Chase Souto is going to have to change the licence plates on his ride.
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
Souto, who scored four goals last season as a WHL freshman, sniped twice on Friday to help the Kamloops Blazers to a rather convincing 6-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants before 4,209 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
The Blazers (1-1-0) are home again Sunday, this time against the Victoria Royals. Game time is 6 p.m.
The Giants (2-2-0), a team that long has prided itself on team defence, have given up 16 goals over their last three games as they go into Kelowna to play the Rockets tonight.
Last night, the Blazers got solid contributions from players who oftentimes are in supporting roles. Left-winger Tim Bozon drew three assists, while linemate J.C. Lipon had two helpers. Goaltender Cole Cheveldave, left-winger Ryan Hanes, defenceman Tyler Hansen, left-winger Logan McVeigh . . . the list goes on.
Souto, who is from California and has 54FTNG on his plates, contributed eight fights and five points in 46 games last season. He also incurred two concussions and picked up another one in the exhibition season. One of those energy players, he now tries to play hard without endangering himself. He did that last night as he enjoyed the first two-point game of his WHL career.
“Crash the net . . . that’s what our line is supposed to do,” said Souto, who plays alongside Hanes and freshman Aspen Sterzer. “Chip pucks deep, create energy for the boys, go to the net and good things happen.”
Souto gave the Blazers a 2-0 lead at 14:43 of the first period, going to the net and beating goaltender Jackson Whistle off his own rebound. Then, at 6:50 of the third, Souto closed out the scoring by, again, going to the net and this time depositing a Chase Schaber rebound.
The Blazers had a tough time getting pucks to the net a week ago when they dropped a 1-0 decision to the visiting Prince George Cougars. It wasn’t a problem last night against a Vancouver team that struggled to contain the home boys’ speed.
“We worked on it all week in practice,” Souto said. “Chipping pucks deep, making the d-men work. . . . It worked out pretty well for us.”
Defenceman Austin Madaisky also had two goals, both of them on wrist shots through traffic on the power play, a unit that was 0-for-7 against the Cougars but 2-for-6 last night.
Colin Smith, who centres Bozon and Lipon, and McVeigh, with a shorthanded beauty, also scored for Kamloops.
Logan Harland and Nathan Burns counted for the Giants, who were overmatched through most of this one.
Lipon said the Blazers spent a lot of time this week talking about “getting pucks in behind the d-men, rather than turning them over at the blue line. I think that was big.”
“(We wanted to) catch the dmen flatfooted . . . we had speed and got in there and did our thing.”
Lipon, 18, is in his third season with the Blazers. He has bided his team, playing in an energy role while waiting for the opportunity to contribute on offence. That time appears to have come.
“I’ve been waiting a little while,” the Regina native said. “When guys got hurt last season, I got the opportunity. It’s nice to be up there right off the bat.”
He feels he and Bozon, the 17-year-old Swiss freshman, have something going.
“I love playing with him,” Lipon said. “We developed some chemistry over the week practising together and I thought our line did really well, getting pucks deep and getting the cycle going.”
The Blazers had a lot of success deep in the Vancouver zone, which meant that’s where a lot of the play was. That, of course, meant Cheveldave had a relatively easy 23-save night, including four in the third period.
“We were very strong on defence tonight,” said Cheveldave, who was the AJHL’s rookie of the year last season with the Drumheller Dragons. “We were all over them.”
Cheveldave said he didn’t approach his first start any differently than any other start, saying he was pretty “cool” and just wanted to “keep it loose.”
But, he added, he had waited a long time for this night.
“I was pretty pumped,” he said, his smile bigger than all outdoors. “First WHL start. First WHL win. I couldn’t be happier.”
JUST NOTES: The Blazers were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, including a five-minute kill after D Josh Caron was fingered in the second period as the lone fighter when Vancouver F Nathan Burns refused to co-operate with him. . . . Kamloops D Brady Gaudet, in his second season, was a healthy scratch. Head coach Guy Charron said there was a message in that move. “Just because you played last year and you played well, it doesn’t guarantee you a spot,” he said. The Blazers are carrying eight defencemen. . . . The NHL’s Montreal Canadiens returned F Brendan Gallagher to the Giants on Friday. He is expected to be in their lineup tonight when they meet the Rockets in Kelowna. . . . The Blazers wore vintage uniforms, going back to the franchise’s early days as the Jr. Oilers. The uniforms will be used on occasion through the season. . . . Former NHLer Mark Recchi, who owns a piece of the Blazers, handled the ceremonial faceoff. . . . There was a moment of silence held before the game to honour the memories of Doris Rubel, the Blazers’ billet co-ordinator who died Thursday, and Fred Nicolson, who died in April. Nicolson, a long-time volunteer in the community, headed up the Blazers’ off-ice crew. . . . The Blazers are at home again Sunday, 6 p.m., against the Victoria Royals. . . . The Daily News’ Three Stars: 1. Lipon: Strong defensively and contributing on offence; 2. Souto: Best game of career; 3. Hansen: Dependable.
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