Sunday, November 27, 2011

Blazers play their game, bury T-birds

Seattle goaltender Daniel Cotton was under pressure from defenceman
Brady Gaudet and the Kamloops Blazers for much of Saturday's game.
(Photo by Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)

Seattle winger Branden Troock gets stretchered off the ice
during Saturday's game in Kamloops.

(Photo by Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Brendan Ranford was in the middle of things from start to finish on Saturday night.
And it showed on the scoresheet where he was plus-3 with a goal, an assist — the former his 200th career regular-season point — and 21 minutes in penalties as he helped the Kamloops Blazers to a convincing 8-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds at Interior Savings Centre.
When it was all done, however, Ranford, in his 230th game, was more concerned with the condition of Seattle winger Branden Troock.
“I was worried for Branden,” said Ranford, who took a double minor for high-sticking Troock at 1:50 of the first period.
Troock, who missed last season with a head injury, left on a backboard. He had movement in all extremities when he was taken to Royal Inland Hospital for X-rays. Troock, 17, who may have a minor neck injury, was on the team bus when it left. On Sunday, he was sore but resting at home. He will see the team’s doctor today.
Troock had moved the puck off the right side boards in Seattle’s zone when Ranford moved in to check him. After the collision, Ranford’s stick came up and around, the blade striking Troock on the back of the neck, just under his helmet.
One WHL official saw a replay and deemed it “accidental.”
Troock was treated on the ice by Seattle trainer Phil Varney and Colin Robinson, the Blazers’ trainer, and Dr. Todd Ring.
Coincidentally, Ranford and Troock both are products of Edmonton’s Canadian Athletic Club.
“I didn’t really mean to (hurt him),” Ranford said. “I hit him and I came around . . . I don’t even know. I didn’t mean it. I wish him the best of luck in his recovery.”
Prior to this season, and after tests that included his vision, medical people discovered a nerve in the back of Troock’s neck was acting up and causing concussion-like symptoms. He has since been visiting an acupuncturist once a week.
On Saturday, not even a clinic full of acupuncturists could have helped the Thunderbirds, who didn’t get even one shot on goal while Ranford was in stir. The visitors ended up being outshot 50-19, including 19-3 in the first period.
“We just played hockey,” Ranford said. “We played our game, the Blazers’ style of hockey. We got pucks in deep and brought our speed.”
That is exactly what happened and Seattle simply couldn’t match the Blazers below the faceoff dots.
Kamloops also got some life from a minor shuffle when head coach Guy Charron swapped wingers Cole Ully and Brock Balson to start the second period. Ully ended up with Ranford and Chase Schaber, while Balson dropped back to play alongside Ryan Hanes and Aspen Sterzer.
“I thought Ully was on his game,” Charron said of the 16-year-old freshman from Calgary. “Every shift, with Hanes and Sterzer, he had some jump and was making good plays with the puck.
“Not that Brock wasn’t playing well, but when Ully is at the top of his game he’s a pretty good player. He’s a great skater and he can keep up with Schaber.”
Ully rewarded the coach with his third goal of the season at 9:21 of the second period. That gave the Blazers a 3-1 lead and, when Logan McVeigh, who had a goal and two assists, counted less than two minutes later, this one was history.
Hanes and Balson, the two Kamloops kids on the Blazers’ roster, put the exclamation mark on this one at 6:56 of the third period. Hanes pulled the trigger with Balson drawing the lone assist and they may have gotten the night’s loudest applause.
Tim Bozon, Dylan Willick, Colin Smith and Austin Madaisky also scored for the Blazers, who got three assists from Brady Gaudet, a 17-year-old sophomore defenceman who has been searching for his confidence.
Luke Lockhart and Burke Gallimore scored for Seattle, which had won three of its last four games. The Thunderbirds, who dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the visiting Prince George Cougars on Friday, drove through the night, arriving in Kamloops at 5:30 a.m.
Considering Ranford’s contributions it was kind of fitting that he should be front and centre late in the third period. Seattle defenceman Cason Machacek was given a major and game misconduct for a check to the head on Smith and Ranford promptly responded, for which he was given the instigating minor, fighting major and game misconduct.
In the vernacular, that completed the third Gordie Howe hat trick — a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game — of Ranford’s career. All that and 200 points made it quite a night.
“It was nice,” Ranford said, “but I didn’t know until the announcement. It was an exciting moment but the win was the most important thing. We’re playing a lot better defensively and it’s a lot of fun this year.”
The Blazers (16-7-1) are fourth in the Western Conference, one point out of second and five off the leading Tri-City Americans. Kamloops leaves Tuesday morning for Victoria and games that night and Wednesday against the Royals (11-14-1).
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,005. . . . Seattle G Daniel Cotton stopped 42 shots in his third career start. . . . In NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings that were released earlier this month, Troock was ranked 11th among WHL skaters eligible for the 2012 draft. . . . The Blazers’ season-high for shots in a game had been 46 from a 5-2 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on Nov. 12. . . . Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave stopped 17 shots in his fifth straight start. . . . McVeigh had four goals and nine assists in 59 games last season. He has matched those numbers in 20 games this season. . . . Gaudet had the second three-point night of his career. He scored three goals in a 10-5 loss to the Chiefs in Spokane on Dec. 11. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Ranford: played like he did in first half of last season; 2. McVeigh: Playing like he can contribute on offence; 3. Ully: Ran with the big dogs.
gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
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