The Kamloops Blazers struck four times in the second period Wednesday night and went on to score a 6-3 WHL victory over the host Saskatoon Blades.
The Blazers, who had lost their previous two games, now are 2-2 on a six-game swing through the East Division. They will play the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday and conclude the trip against the Moose Jaw Warriors on Saturday.
Last night, the Blazers got two goals from freshman winger Aspen Sterzer — he went into the game with two goals in 25 games — as they improved their record to 23-9-1 and stretched their B.C. Division lead to five points over the idle Vancouver Giants.
The Blazers and Giants will return from the Christmas break to play a home-and-home series. They’ll meet Dec. 27 in Vancouver and Dec. 28 at Interior Savings Centre.
Last night, the Blazers were trailing 2-1 in the second period when defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer scored a power-play goal at 6:27 of the second period.
The Blazers got their first lead 1:47 later when Logan McVeigh, who is from Kenaston, which is 75 kilometres south of Saskatoon, tipped in a point shot from Tyler Hansen to break a 2-2 tie.
And just 2:14 after that, Sterzer stretched the Blazers’ lead to two when he struck for the team’s WHL-leading 11th shorthanded goal of the season. Sterzer also scored the game’s last goal, at 6:33 of the third.
The Blazers also got goals from Tim Bozon, who has five goals in the four games on this trip, and Ryan Hanes, who also had an assist.
The Blades got goals from Ryan Graham, 15, a Calgarian who was a fifth-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft, Ryan Olsen, who had gone 10 games without a goal, and Matej Stransky.
The Blazers lit up Saskatoon goaltender Andrey Makarov for six goals on 38 shots. He is to leave Sunday to join the Russian national team for the World Junior Championship.
At the other end, freshman Cole Cheveldave stopped 26 shots as he improved to 15-4-1. He has started 13 of the Blazers’ last 14 games.
The Blazers were more disciplined than in the previous games, with Saskatoon going 0-for-3 on the power play. The Blazers were 2-for-6 on the power play and scored once while shorthanded.
“Specialty teams in today’s game are very important,” Kamloops associate coach Dave Hunchak told Saskatoon radio station 92.9 The Bull’s post-game show. “I thought we were excellent in both areas.”
Hunchak also felt the Blazers “got back to playing Blazers hockey.”
“We got away from our game plan against P.A. and especially against Regina, with cheating and things that aren’t characteristic of our game,” he added.
The Blazers lost 8-4 in Regina on Sunday and 5-2 in Prince Albert on Tuesday.
For the second game in a row, the Blazers were without forwards Chase Schaber (leg) and Matt Needham (head). They continue to be without winger Jordan DePape, who had shoulder surgery on Nov. 4.
“Our character is getting tested right now,” Hunchak stated. “DePape and Schaber are top-six guys . . . Needham is a top-nine guy who was coming into his own. Our depth is allowing us to win hockey games.”
JUST NOTES: The Blazers left after the game for Moose Jaw. They will spend today there, then drive to Brandon on Friday. They will return to Moose Jaw immediately after Friday’s game. . . . The Blades were without F Josh Nicholls (knee), F Brent Benson (concussion) and former Blazers F Jake Trask, who completed a two-game WHL suspension. . . . Tim O’Donovan, the Blazers’ media/video co-ordinator, will be away from the team from Dec. 26 until Jan. 8. He will be in Czech Republic with the Canadian U-18 women’s team at the IIHF world championship in Prerov and Zlin. O’Donovan will work as Canada’s video co-ordinator. Canada opens its tournament schedule against Switzerland on Dec. 31. Finland and Germany also are in Canada’s pool. The other pool features Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.