By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
It used to be that the Kamloops Blazers, unlike a lot of Canadians, hated going cross-border shopping.
Not any more.
The Blazers completed a two-game swing into the U.S. Division on Saturday night with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash., on a Justin Feser goal at 1:25.
That came one night after the Blazers beat the Chiefs 2-1 in Spokane, and left Kamloops with a 3-0-1 record in U.S. Division arenas this season. This follows a combined 4-15-1 record over the previous two seasons.
The three-point weekend has the Blazers (14-6-1) fourth in the Western Conference, three points out of first and with games in hand on each of the teams in front of them.
“I liked our game and Cole Cheveldave played well in both games,” offered Kamloops head coach Guy Charron, in reference to the goaltender who went the distance in both games. “When your goaltender makes the good saves and keeps you in the games, that’s what makes the difference.”
Cheveldave made 28 saves in Spokane and followed that with 33 stops against the Americans.
“Looking at the game and the chances . . . that was the difference . . . we got caught a little bit with penalties,” Charron said of Saturday’s game. “But we regrouped and got better in the second and had a good third period. We came back from a two-goal deficit which was a good sign.”
The Americans (16-6-0) were playing at home for the first time in three weeks and they won for the sixth time in seven games.
Playing in front of 5,408 fans, the Americans took a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Adam Hughesman, with his 15th score of the season on a 5-on-3 power play, and Malte Stromwall, a Swedish freshman, on a breakaway just 30 seconds later.
“They scored on a 5-on-3; we didn’t score on the 5-on-3,” said Charron, whose club had a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage in the second period. “They scored on a breakaway. We had two or three opportunities alone — Bozon had a breakaway . . . he didn’t score.”
After a scoreless second period, the Blazers pulled even in the third, getting a power-play goal from Chase Schaber, off a Brendan Ranford feed, and an even-strength score from Matt Needham, a shot that bounced off defenceman Michal Plutnar and past goaltender Ty Rimmer. Needham’s goal was his fourth, but his first since the season’s fifth game.
The teams were playing three skaters aside in overtime as referees Trent Knorr and Chris Crich handed out six minor penalties, three to each team, late in the third period.
The winner came off a 2-on-1 break with defenceman Derek Ryckman taking a shot and Feser scoring on the rebound. It was Feser’s ninth goal of the season and second career overtime score.
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Cheveldave, now 7-2-1, finished with 33 saves, 11 more than Rimmer, who has won four straight and is 10-3-0.
“It was positive,” Charron said of the weekend.
The Blazers travelled to Spokane on Thursday and Charron felt that really helped.
“We arrived in Spokane the night before,” he said. “We didn’t play in Kamloops and travel all night and play the next night. We were on even terms.”
The Blazers now will prepare to face the defending-champion Kootenay Ice (15-5-3) at Interior Savings Centre on Wednesday night.
The Ice began a nine-game road swing with an 8-3 victory over the Victoria Royals on Saturday night and then dumped the Vancouver Giants 4-1 on Sunday. The Ice also will go against the Cougars in Prince George on Tuesday before making its way to Kamloops.
The Ice hasn’t played in Kamloops since Nov. 27, 2009, when it beat the Blazers 6-5 in a shootout.
JUST NOTES: Tri-City is 8-2-0 at home. . . . Kamloops is 7-2-1 on the road. . . . The Blazers have lost five straight in Kennewick. . . . Each team was 1-for-6 on the PP. . . . The Blazers scratched F Jordan DePape (shoulder), D Landon Cross, D Brady Gaudet and F Aspen Sterzer. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully was back in the lineup after a six-game absence, the first five with an undisclosed injury.
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