Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blazers complete four-game sweep of Royals

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Like your big brother whuppin’ on you one more time, the Kamloops Blazers beat the Victoria Royals again on Saturday night.
Ho-hum! The New York Yankees spend money, Lindsay Lohan is back in court and Christmas is coming.
This time the score was 4-2. It was the fourth time in nine nights that the Blazers beat the Royals and the fifth time in as many games this season. It also allowed the Blazers to run their winning streak to six games.
When one team dominates another like this, well, a linesman misses an offside, play continues, and guess what happens?
On this night, winger Dylan Willick of the Blazers opened the scoring at 6:03 of the first period on a play that developed after the Blazers were clearly offside entering the offensive zone. However, linesman Kris Hartley waved it off.
“Huge . . . it was huge,” Marc Habscheid, the Royals’ general manager and head coach, said. “And then I get attitude on top of that from him.”
After the game, Habscheid waited by his club’s dressing room to have a chat with Gerard Hayes, one of the WHL’s officiating supervisors.
“They won all four but this was a night when I thought we deserved to win,”  Habscheid said. “The hockey gods aren’t smiling on us right now.”
To make matters worse for Victoria, right-winger J.C. Lipon scored 13 seconds later to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
“I’ve been around long enough,” offered Kamloops head coach Guy Charron, “to know that good teams make their breaks and breaks come to good teams.
“When you’re struggling like we were last season, we wouldn’t have gotten that call.”
The Royals did come back to tie the game in the second period, on goals from Zane Jones and Ben Walker, but the Blazers won it on third-period scores, at 5:08 and 11:49, from Ryan Hanes and Matt Needham.
“I was floating around the slot,” Hanes, a 19-year-old from Kamloops, said of his fourth goal, which equalled his career high from each of the last two seasons. “(Chase) Souto shot it and the rebound came out to me and I just happened to put it bar down. I thought I missed it . . . I thought the puck went out. Then the fans started cheering and I realized it went in.”
Did he put it right where he aimed? “I just put it on net,” he said. “Aiming? Are you kidding me?”
The two third-period goals came after Charron moved Willick alongside Chase Schaber and Brendan Ranford. That dropped Brock Balson back and shuffled Needham onto a line with Hanes and Souto.
Charron was trying to get Ranford and Schaber going; instead, he got goals from Hanes and Needham, who has four points in his last two games.
“Needham is very dependable,” Charron said. “He’s good on faceoffs. He’s good in the defensive zone. I thought Hanes and Souto were giving us the effort that we needed to have.
“We need everybody but the change was made because I felt some of the players weren’t playing as well as they could.”
The Blazers also got a strong night from goaltender Cole Cheveldave, who started — and won — all four of the recent games against the Royals. On this night, he made 29 saves and, other than appearing handcuffed on Walker’s quick 45-footer, was in control. His night’s work included a left pad save on Robin Soudek, who was awarded a first-period penalty shot after defenceman Tyler Bell closed his hand on the puck in the Kamloops crease.
“Cole has played all the games against the Royals and played well,” Charron said. “Sometimes that can (get into their minds), thinking ‘it’ll be hard to get goals against this guy.’ I thought he played exceptionally well.”
The Blazers, who have won six straight games for the first time since an eight-game tear in 2006-07, became the second WHL team to 20 victories, behind the Tri-City Americans, who got there Friday night. Kamloops (20-7-1) didn’t win its 20th game last season until Jan. 7.
The Blazers remain atop the B.C. Division and are second in the Western Conference, one point behind the Americans.
The Blazers play their final home game before Christmas on Wednesday when the Everett Silvertips (5-18-5) will be here. On Thursday, Kamloops heads out on an East Division tour. The Blazers will play six games in eight nights, starting Saturday against the Swift Current Broncos.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 3,972. . . . Victoria G Keith Hamilton stopped 25 shots. . . . Kamloops is 6-0 when referee Trevor Hanson is part of the on-ice crew, as he was for this one. . . . The Blazers were 1-for-3 on the PP; the Royals were 0-for-3. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Needham: In a zone now; 2. Cheveldave: Stingy again; 3. Jones: Big body is effective.

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