Monday, October 10, 2011

Konan helps Tigers conquer Kamloops

Curtis Valk of the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers and Kamloops Blazers
goaltender Taran Kozun get up close and personal during
the first period of Monday’s WHL game.

(Photo by Keith Anderson/Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor
On a day when right-winger Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers played like a barbarian — the WHL’s top gun had a Gordie Howe hat trick — it was defenceman Matthew Konan who delivered the knockout blow to the Kamloops Blazers.
Konan, a 20-year-old defenceman from Tustin, Calif., broke a 4-4 tie at 11:05 of the third period as the Tigers erased a 4-1 deficit and dumped the Blazers 5-4 in front of 3,665 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
The Blazers (4-2-0), coming off a 5-2 victory over the Silvertips in Everett on Saturday night, were full marks for that 4-1 lead, as they dominated the Tigers (5-3-0) for at least 30 minutes.
Konan said the Tigers were “pretty disappointed” in their start.
“We took way too many penalties,” explained Konan, who eats up a lot of minutes on the Tigers’ back end. “We can’t be doing that on the road. We have to keep it simple . . . that’s not our team.”
The Tigers took the game’s first five minor penalties, all before the first period was 18 minutes old. That helped the Blazers to a pair of power-play goals — by Dylan Willick and Chase Schaber — and a 3-1 lead. Colin Smith had also scored for the home boys.
Medicine Hat’s first goal came via Etem, who struck while shorthanded. It was his WHL-leading 12th goal in seven games.
“We figured it out between periods,” Konan said. “We were just saying, ‘Relax. We’re a good team . . . Keep it simple. Play our game. Get that first goal and get some energy, and go from there.’ ”
The Blazers actually got that next goal, with Smith notching his second of the game. However, Smith took a slashing penalty four minutes later and the comeback was on.
“We came out and didn’t take any (penalties) in the second period and that’s what got us back in the game,” Konan stated.
Hunter Shinkaruk, at 12:35, and Adam Rehak, at 18:21, counted on the Medicine Hat power play and the Tigers were right back in this one, with the Blazers on their heels.
Midway through the third period, the Blazers couldn’t clear their zone and Boston Leier took advantage to beat goaltender Taran Kozun, who was making his second WHL start, and tie the game.
Less then a minute later, Konan pounded a rebound past Kozun, 17, for the eventual winner.
The Tigers then turned things over to veteran goaltender Tyler Bunz, who finished with 34 saves, 13 more than Kozun.
“I know we have a young goaltender,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said, “but their goaltender was better than ours. What we needed was a couple of saves at key times.”
The Blazers held a 15-5 edge in third-period shots, but couldn’t beat the 19-year-old Bunz.
“He shut the door good,” Konan said. “Even in the first period, those goals weren’t his fault — we broke down. Later, he shut the door for us.”
Charron felt Medicine Hat’s two power-play goals were huge.
“That’s when the momentum changed,” Charron said. “Now we’re in a 4-3 hockey game. And as much as we say the right things, that we want to . . . stick with the program, sometimes it’s too little too late. We have to kill one of those penalties or we need one of the saves.”
The Blazers will travel to Portland for a date with the Winterhawks on Friday and then return home to face the Prince George Cougars on Saturday and the Kelowna Rockets on Sunday.
They likely will play those games without right-winger Jordan DePape who had his left arm in a sling after the game. DePape was involved in the game’s only fight at 1:41 of the second period, and he left with what appeared to be a serious shoulder injury.
DePape has been playing with a wonky shoulder since returning from Penticton, where he played for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets in the Young Stars tournament. He will be re-evaluated today.
It was the first regular-season fight of Etem’s WHL career — this was his 144th game. He later drew an assist on Shinkaruk’s goal, to complete his first Howe hat trick — goal, assist, fight.
On Saturday in Everett, the Blazers erased a 2-1 deficit with three straight goals and then never trailed.
Centre Matt Needham scored two power-play goals 2:50 apart late in the second period to give the Blazers a 3-2 lead. Willick also scored twice for the Blazers, while DePape iced it with an empty-netter.
Josh Birkholz and Jesse Muchan scored for Everett.
Cole Cheveldave stopped 17 shots for the Blazers as he improved to 2-0-0. Everett’s Kent Simpson turned aside 33 shots.
JUST NOTES: Last night, the Blazers were 2-for-7 on the power play; the Tigers were 2-for-5. . . . Etem, from Long Beach, Calif., was a first-round selection by the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL’s 2010 draft. . . . At the age of 10, Kamloops RW J.T. Barnett and Etem were teammates on a Los Angeles Jr. Kings team. Also on that team was F Jason Zucker, the WCHA’s rookie of the year with the U of Denver Pioneers last season. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Konan: A horse on the back end, and the winning goal; 2. Rehak: Czech freshman was in the middle of a lot; 3. Smith: Two goals and solid at both ends.
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