By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Like tourists on a two-day jaunt to Vancouver Island, the Kamloops Blazers were to rise earlier than usual today to catch a bus to get to the ferry.
No, they won’t be hitting the Empress for afternoon tea.
Rather, they’ll be bellying up to a buffet on the ferry for their pregame meal.
The Blazers and Victoria Royals are to renew their WHL rivalry tonight and Wednesday at the 7,006-seat Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
Tonight marks the Blazers’ first game in Victoria since Jan. 30, 1994 — Kamloops lost 5-4 on that occasion. The Cougars moved to Prince George following the conclusion of that season.
The Chilliwack Bruins were sold and relocated to Victoria last summer, after spending five seasons on the Lower Mainland. The Blazers have welcomed the Royals by beating them twice — 8-2 and 4-1 — at Interior Savings Centre.
And the Royals will be back in town Saturday, one night after the Blazers play host to Prince George.
The Blazers (16-7-1) arrive in Victoria having picked up at least a point in five of their last six games, a stretch during which they are 4-1-1. The Royals (11-14-1) have lost four in a row.
Kamloops has played especially well in its last two games, the 4-1 victory over the Royals on Friday night, followed by an 8-2 trouncing of the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.
According to Blazers head coach Guy Charron, the Blazers outchanced Victoria 28-12 and Seattle 30-10.
“Any time we give the opposing team fewer than 15 scoring chances,” Charron said, “we know we are giving ourselves a better chance to win.”
The Blazers didn’t practise Sunday, but were back on the ice Monday, spending some extra time on a power play that was 0-for-6 against Victoria on Oct. 2 and 0-for-5 on Saturday.
There not being an ice surface on the ferry, they won’t get in a morning skate, as they normally would on game day.
“We reminded the players to get their proper rest,” Charron said, adding that check-in time at Interior Savings Centre was 6:30 a.m., with the bus to leave at 7.
“Hopefully,” Charron said, “we don’t get delayed by snow or whatever on the Coquihalla.
“It’ll be different. For us, a lot of the players are looking at it being their first time on the ferry so they’re looking forward to it.”
The last time the Blazers headed south for two games, they left a day in advance in order to get to Spokane a day early. They then beat the Chiefs 2-1 and lost 3-2 in overtime to the Tri-City Americans.
“This isn’t like we played (Monday) night,” Charron said, “and then had to catch the ferry in the morning and play that night.”
The Blazers go into tonight’s game with all hands able to play, with the exception of defenceman Josh Caron, who is completing a three-game WHL suspension. He will be eligible to return Wednesday night.
Goaltender Cole Cheveldave will make his sixth consecutive start for Kamloops. His 2.39 GAA has him ranked fourth among WHL goaltenders who have played at least 400 minutes. The 18-year-old freshman from Calgary is 9-3-1 with a .914 save percentage.
JUST NOTES: On Jan. 30, 1994, the Cougars won on Dorian Anneck’s second goal of the game, at 19:11 of the third period. The Blazers, who trailed 4-0 in the first period, got two goals from Hnat Domenichelli and singles from Jarrett Deuling and Rod Stevens. G Rod Branch got the hook at 3-0, with Steve Passmore coming on in relief. . . . It’s the annual Teddy Bear/Toque Toss on Friday when the Blazers are at home to the Cougars. . . . Seattle F Branden Troock, who left Saturday’s game on a stretcher, could miss four weeks with a nondisplaced fracture of his first rib. He was injured when struck in the back of the neck by the stick of Kamloops F Brendan Ranford. There was no intent, so Ranford isn’t likely to be disciplined.
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