Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blazers run streak to seven games

Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave stopped 24 shots Wednesday as the
Blazers blanked the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes, 3-0.

(Photo by Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)

By GREGG DRINNAN 
Daily News Sports Editor
 The Kamloops Blazers, just like the song says, took care of business Wednesday night at Interior Savings Centre.
The Blazers ran their winning streak to seven games with a workmanlike 3-0 WHL victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who had beaten the Giants 6-3 in Vancouver on Tuesday night.
Brendan Ranford, Chase Souto and Tim Bozon scored the goals — and goaltender Cole Cheveldave turned aside 24 shots — as the Blazers (32-10-3) again closed to within one point of the Tri-City Americans (34-10-0), who lead the WHL’s overall standings.
The Blazers will play their next five games on the road, starting Friday in Kent, Wash., against the Seattle Thunderbirds. They then will hook up with the Americans in Kennewick, Wash., on Saturday.
Last night, the Blazers’ structure was as good as it has been. They were in the shooting lanes all night and they had active sticks. And they almost always had a forward high in the offensive zone, which resulted in Lethbridge getting very few clean breaks through the neutral zone.
Cheveldave, who record the fourth shutout of his freshman season, but the first against someone not named Prince George Cougars, was rarely tested. His best save may have come late in the third period when he blockered away a 15-foot shot by Phil Tot, who was coming off a five-point night in Vancouver.
The 18-year-old freshman from Calgary was making his seventh straight start. In those seven games, he is 7-0-0 and has allowed only six goals while posting three shutouts. He has a 0.86 goals-against average with a .966 save percentage.
On the season, Cheveldave is 24-5-3, 2.32, .918.
In the early going, the visitors held a 6-1 edge in shots. But at one point late in the second period, the Blazers held a 22-8 edge, meaning they had outshot the Hurricanes 20-2 during that stretch.
Ranford got the Blazers’ train rolling at 12:38 of the first period, firing a puck past goaltender Damien Ketlo after Chase Schaber capitalized on a turnover and got it to the front of the crease.
The Blazers nursed that lead into the second period when Souto hacked a loose puck off a Tyler Hansen shot under Ketlo at 5:25. Then, at 15:54, Bozon scored off the rush — Colin Smith to Marek Hrbas to Bozon — and school was out.
Bozon and Ranford both scored their 23rd goals of the season, which pulled them into a share of the team lead with Smith.
Smith’s assist ran his point streak to eight games — he has 14 points, including four goals, over that stretch. Bozon, meanwhile, also is on an eight-game tear, with 13 points, seven of them goals, in that time.
Ranford provided something of a scare early in the first period when he appeared to stumble over the back of the Lethbridge goal and tweak his right knee. He and trainer Colin Robinson spent some time in the tunnel behind the Kamloops bench, and Ranford soon was back on the ice.
The score could have been a whole lot worse were it not for some errant shooting by the Blazers, whose power play again was silent, and the play of Ketlo, who finished with 32 saves, none better than a pad stop off Ranford in the third period.
If there was an area of concern for Kamloops it may have been with that power play. The Blazers, who for the most part over-passed with the man advantage, went 0-for-5 and now are 2-for-20 in their last four games.
The Hurricanes started the season 2-13-1 and are paying for that now. They actually lost 13 in a row after opening 2-1-0. Since that abysmal start, they are 15-17-0. But, with a record of 17-30-1, they now are 14 points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot as they head for Kelowna and a Friday night engagement with the Rockets.
Lethbridge’s chances also have been hurt by a lack of loser points. The Hurricanes have only one point from an overtime or shootout loss; the Everett Silvertips have a league-high nine.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 3,578, but there were fewer than that many people in the stands as the weather no doubt kept some folks at home. . . . The Hurricanes were 0-for-3 on the PP. . . . Among the Blazers scratches was F Brandon Herrod, who suffered an undisclosed injury in practice on Monday. That injury meant the Blazers dressed 17 skaters, one under the maximum. . . . Herrod isn’t expected to play Friday or Saturday. . . . The Daily News’ Three Stars: 1. D Marek Hrbas, Kamloops: More involved; 2. Cheveldave: Solid; 3. Schaber: Two assists and solid defensively. . . . The Blazers jumped from seventh to fourth in the CHL rankings that were released yesterday. . . . Bozon has been added as an injury replacement to the Top Prospects Game that is to be played in Kelowna on Feb. 1. . . . Bozon will miss the Blazers’ next home game, which is scheduled for Feb. 1 when the Spokane Chiefs are here. . . . Gordie Howe will be in attendance at that game.

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