Sunday, October 16, 2011

Goaltender Cole Cheveldave of the Kamloops Blazers looks for the puck
through teammate Colin Smith and Cody Chikie of the Kelowna
Rockets during WHL action on Sunday evening.

(Photo by Keith Anderson / Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Defenceman Tyler Hansen of the Kamloops Blazers was trying to enjoy the WHL team’s latest victory Sunday evening, but part of him was back home in Magrath, Alta., where he lost two friends in a weekend  car accident.
“It’s a sad, sad day,” Hansen, 18, said shortly after the Blazers had finished off a 3-2 victory over the Kelowna Rockets before 3,580 fans at Interior Savings Centre.
The single-vehicle rollover claimed the lives of four teenagers — two boys, both 16, and two girls, both 14 — from Magrath, a community of about 2,100 people located about 250 kilometres southeast of Calgary.
“I knew the two boys really well,” Hansen said. “We went to the same high school so I saw them lots. It’s a sad day in Magrath, something you never like to have happen.”
Hansen said he spoke with friends yesterday morning.
“The town is in mourning right now,” he stated. “It’s pretty devastating . . . it’s a sad, sad day.”
By contrast, it was a happy night in the ISC as the Blazers won for the third time in as many nights — they beat the Winterhawks 5-4 in overtime in Portland on Friday, then blanked the visiting Prince George Cougars 3-0 on Saturday — and now, at 7-2-0, are tied with the Saskatoon Blades atop the WHL’s overall standings.
That’s right! First place overall!!
The team that couldn’t last season has proven, at least to this point in this season, that it can.
Kamloops hasn’t been off to a start such as this since opening 8-1-1 in 2001.
“Ever since Day 1,” Hansen said, “the coaches came in and talked to us about this being a new year. They built a confidence in us that we’re going to go out every night and win. They brought in a winning attitude . . . we go out and have success, we’re happy and not getting down on each other.”
Last night, both teams were playing their third game in 48 hours.
The Rockets (3-5-1), who opened this season with three straight victories, dropped a doubleheader to the Royals in Victoria — 7-5 and 4-3 in OT on Friday and Saturday — and spent most of Sunday doing the bus-ferry-bus thing in order to get to Kamloops.
The Rockets held a 9-4 edge in first-period shots as the teams exchanged goals, Colin Smith for the Blazers and Colton Sissons for the visitors, but lost this one in the second period.
Kamloops mounted a 16-shot attack and beat goaltender Adam Brown twice, Brendan Ranford and J.C. Lipon getting the goals, after which Blazers goaltender Cole Cheveldave pretty much closed the door.
Defenceman Damon Severson pulled the Rockets to within one, at 3-2, at 9:48 of the third period, but Cheveldave, who is 4-0-0 in his freshman season, never panicked.
“He’s been great,” Hansen said. “It’s always nice having a goalie you know is going to stop the puck when you make the odd mistake out there. He has really stepped up his game and that’s been nice for us.”
Smith added: “When they came with some momentum, he put a stop to it and allowed us to get the win.”
Cheveldave finished with 23 saves as he became the first Blazers goaltender to make consecutive starts this season.
Kamloops head coach Guy Charron intimated later that the three-goaltender scenario may be close to its end.
Charron said Cam Lanigan, 19, was terrific in Portland and that, combined with Cheveldave’s play, may mean a new assignment for Taran Kozun, 17.
“I don’t think it’s fair to anyone to be without playing time for a long period of time,” Charron said. “With two goaltenders, it’s a better rotation. With a third goaltender, somebody has to wait a little bit longer.”
The Blazers will leave Tuesday for Alberta and Charron said “we’re probably, hopefully, going to make a decision before the road trip.”
On Saturday night, before 3,950 fans, Cheveldave earned his first shutout with a 26-save effort against the Cougars.
Dylan Willick and Smith, with second-period goals 4:18 apart, and Tim Bozon, in the third period, scored for the Blazers.
Prince George goaltender Drew Owsley, who beat the Blazers 1-0 on Sept. 24, turned aside 23 shots.
The Blazers open their Alberta trip against the Rebels in Red Deer on Wednesday, then will play the Hurricanes in Lethbridge on Friday and the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Saturday.
Depending on logistics, Hansen said he would like to attend the funerals for his two young friends.
“We’re a pretty small, little town,” Hansen said. “Everyone’s so close, too. If I get the chance, I for sure would (attend the funerals).”
JUST NOTES: Last night, each team was 1-for-4 on the power play. . . . Brown finished with 25 saves. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Cheveldave: Big third period; 2. Smith: A goal and won two key defensive-zone faceoffs near end; 3. Kamloops D Tyler Bell: Getting more comfortable. . . . On Saturday night, Kamloops D Bronson Maschmeyer played in his 200th regular-season game. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Willick: Best game of season at both ends; 2. Cheveldave: First career blank job; 3. Smith: Two more points. . . . A number of scoring changes were made after the Blazers’ 5-4 OT victory over the Winterhawks in Portland on Friday. When they were done, Blazers C Chase Schaber had been awarded three assists, leaving him with career highs in assists (4) and points (5). D Marek Hrbas lost two assists and D Brady Gaudet lost one. 

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
     
gdrinnan.blogspot.com
     
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