Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blazers remain alone atop overall standings

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
The Kamloops Blazers, their nine-game winning streak having ended the previous night, were in the pink Saturday night.
The Blazers, who lost 4-2 to the host Victoria Royals on Friday night, got a split of their doubleheader in the B.C. capital with a 5-1 victory on Saturday night.
When the weekend was over, the Blazers remained atop the WHL’s overall standings, two points ahead of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Tri-City Americans, who lost 4-1 to the Hitmen in Calgary on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Royals wore pink uniforms as part of a Pink in the Rink promotion on behalf of cancer research. And it was the home team that struck first, Victoria forward Tim Traber getting his second of the season at 11:01 of the first period.
However, the visitors pretty much took over from there.
“They have it figured out as a team and don't let up,” Traber told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist. “We kind of broke down halfway through the second period.”
Tim Bozon, who scored twice in the first 15 seconds of Friday’s game, got the visitors on the board at 13:46 of the second period. Brendan Ranford added the team’s WHL-leading 15th shorthanded score a minute later and the Blazers were in control.
Colin Smith, J.C. Lipon and Brock Balson, the latter two on the power play, rounded out the Kamloops scoring.
The Blazers’ power play hadn’t struck twice in one game since a 6-1 victory in Prince George on Jan. 7. Since then, it had gone 5-for-43 over eight games, including 0-for-5 on Friday.
While it was hardly the Blazers’ first PP unit that scored in Victoria, Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said he isn’t concerned.
“We have the tools, it’s just that sometimes we’re not scoring,” he explained. “We don’t depend on a lot of traffic in front of the net; it’s puck movemnt, shooting, converging. But that may be an element that we may have to add on some nights, using people who are willing to go there and park themselves there.
“This team has enough talent to make it work. How many guys do we have with 20 goals?”
The answer is a WHL-high six, and Lipon is knocking on the door with 16 goals.
Meanwhile, Kamloops goaltender Cam Lanigan, making just his third start in the club’s last 23 games, stopped 26 shots. In his previous start, he came up with 30 saves in a 5-3 victory over the host Seattle Thunderbirds on Jan. 20.
“If he can give us the kind of hockey he gave us in Seattle and (Saturday) night, I’m going to be very happy,” Charron said. “I thought his performance (Saturday) night was even better than Seattle. It’s not like he was bombarded, but he looked like he was in control. He didn’t look shaky.”
Charron said the Blazers surrendered 19 chances on Friday and just nine on Saturday.
The Blazers next play Wednesday against the visiting Spokane Chiefs (27-14-7), who are 5-0-1 in their last six games and 7-1-2 in their last 10. The hot streak has moved them into a tie with the Vancouver Giants for fourth in the 10-team Western Conference. The Chiefs will play the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., on Tuesday before heading for Kamloops.
The Royals (16-29-5) are in possession of the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. They will play host to the Prince George Cougars on Tuesday and Wednesday. That will be the Cougars’ first trip back to the capital since the franchise left Victoria for Prince George after the 1993-94 season. The Cougars (15-31-2) have lost five in a row and are five points behind the Royals.
 Continued from A8
The Royals (16-29-5) are in possession of the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. They will play host to the Prince George Cougars on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That will be the Cougars’ first trip back to the capital since the franchise left Victoria for Prince George after the 1993-94 season. The Cougars (15-31-2) have lost five in a row and are five points behind the Royals.
JUST NOTES: The game on Saturday drew 7,006 fans, which is a sellout at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. . . . Last season, the Blazers scored four shorthanded goals. . . . Ranford’s goal stood up as his seventh game-winner of the season, one behind F Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who leads the WHL. . . . Kamloops F Aspen Sterzer had one assist, his first point in 15 games. . . . Freshman D Landon Cross had two assists, his first two-point outing in 30 games with the Blazers. . . . The Blazers scratched F Jordan DePape (shoulder), F Ryan Hanes (concussion) and F Brandon Herrod (knee). . . . Hanes, who has missed 15 games, and Herrod, who has sat out six, may be back Wednesday. . . . Bozon won’t play Wednesday as he will be in Kelowna at the CHL Top Prospects Game. . . . Bozon and Ranford share the team lead, each with 26 goals. . . . After playing the Chiefs at Interior Savings Centre, the Blazers will meet the Giants in Vancouver on Friday and the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., on Saturday. . . . The Americans are to visit Kamloops on Feb. 8.


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