Friday, January 13, 2012

Blazers strike early and often in beating Seattle

Dylan Willick and the Kamloops Blazers had lots to smile about Friday
as they whipped Seth Swenson and the Seattle Thunderbirds.

(Photo by Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor
Well, that didn’t take long.
The Kamloops Blazers, obviously not big on suspense, scored twice in the game’s first 32 seconds and four times in the opening 6:02 as they took apart the Seattle Thunderbirds to the tune of 7-1 on Friday night at Interior Savings Centre.
Seattle goaltender Calvin Pickard, in his first start since the WHL’s trade deadline came and went he didn’t get a change of address, was dissected by the Blazers like a Grade 12 biology student with a frog.
0:19 — The first time the Blazers got into Seattle’s zone, winger J.C. Lipon scored from the slot.
0:32 — On the Blazers’ second foray into enemy territory, forward Chase Schaber beat Pickard from the slot. (Seattle took its time out at this point, and when is the last time that happened so early in a game?)
5:03 — While killing a penalty, Colin Smith and Brendan Ranford played pitch and catch, with Smith finishing off what turned into a 2-on-1 break.
6:02 — It was almost a carbon copy of the first two goals with Ranford finding himself with room in the slot and whipping a shot past Pickard, who was in the tunnel leading to the Seattle dressing room before the home boys had finished celebrating.
There was blood in the water and the Blazers were having a feeding frenzy.
Kamloops did take its foot off the pedal — at that stage, it was headed for a 40-0 victory — and cruised home with its 30th victory of the season.
The Blazers (30-10-3) remain second in the Western Conference, three points behind the Tri-City Americans (33-8-0), who pounded the Giants 11-4 in Vancouver last night. The Blazers, of course, beat the visiting Americans 3-2 on Wednesday night.
“We played the best team in Canada on Wednesday. . . . this team was on a four-game skid,” explained Lipon, who finished with two goals. “The mentality was to go into this game thinking Tri-City and not let up . . . not sink to their level, make them play with us.
“We came out hot.”
Boy, did they!
Defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer gave the Blazers a 5-0 lead in a first period in which they enjoyed a 16-11 edge in shots.
Dave Sutter, Seattle’s Swiss defender, scored for his side at 6:21 of the second, before Lipon, with his 15th, and Dylan Willick, with his 20th, wrapped up the scoring in the third.
“Our game plan was to have a good start,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said. “They had acquired some people at the trade deadline so we felt they would probably have some enthusiasm for the game. We went after them and were able to capitalize early and that really changed the tempo.”
That doesn’t mean that it all was peaches and cream for the Blazers. Their second period wasn’t anything about which to write home.
“It’s learning what winning teams need to do,” Charron said. “Hopefully, we can continue learning without getting hurt from it. . . . we can’t have the kind of period we did in the second.”
The Blazers played the first 13:31 of the second period without even one shot on goal, a stretch that included all of one power play and the first 1:23 of another.
“We didn’t give up a whole lot but we got into a few penalties,” Lipon said. “Some of the guys, including myself, were getting creative and getting away from the game plan. But once we started chipping pucks again it was good.”
The key, Lipon said, is to be consistent, no matter the calibre of the opposition.
“You have to beat the best,” he said, “and you have to beat the lower guys, too. The thing is to stick to the systems all the time, no matter who you’re playing. That’s what we’re trying to build. We have to be a 60-minute team. That’s what’s going to take us far.”
The Thunderbirds (16-22-1), who now have lost five in a row, are seventh in the Western Conference, meaning if the playoffs were to start today they would face the Blazers.
At this point, Kamloops is 2-0 against Seattle, with a 15-3 edge in goals, having also won here 8-2 on Nov. 26.
While Seattle plays the Portland Winterhawks in Kent, Wash., tonight, the Blazers will be at home to the Everett Silvertips, which means former Kamloops player/coach Mark Ferner will be at the ISC. Everett’s roster also includes ex-Blazers J.T. Barnett and Josh Caron, however neither played in a 4-3 overtime victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs last night. Apparently, both were healthy scratches.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,053. . . . The Blazers now have four 20-goal scorers on their roster, with Willick having joined Smith (23), Ranford (22) and F Tim Bozon (20). . . . Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave stopped 23 shots in improving to 22-5-3. . . . Pickard was beaten four times on nine shots, while Daniel Cotton gave up three goals on 19 shots. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Lipon: He lit the fuse; 2. Smith: Three more points and blocking shots; 3. D Tyler Bell, Kamloops: Keeps getting better. . . . Seattle had two forwards — Seth Swenson and Dillon Wagner — in its lineup for the first time. The Thunderbirds acquired Swenson, 18, and two first-round bantam draft picks from Portland for F Marcel Noebels on Tuesday. Seattle later claimed Wagner, 20, off waivers from Portland. . . . The Thunderbirds had room for Wagner after D Kyle Verdino, 20, retired. He is believed to have suffered three concussions this season.
Ryan Hanes, a winger in his third season with the Kamloops Blazers, sat out his eighth straight WHL game on Friday.
   Instead of being in uniform, Hanes watched from the catwalk leading to the press box at Interior Savings Centre as the Blazers beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, 7-1
   Hanes is recovering from injuries, including a concussion, suffered on Dec. 23 when he was involved in an altercation at Cactus Jack’s Saloon in downtown Kamloops.
   The Blazers have said that Hanes was in the wrong place at the wrong time and that he won’t be disciplined.
   Hanes, a 19-year-old from Kamloops, has yet to comment on what happened.
   Last night, during the first intermission, he said: “I can’t comment. I’d like to but I can’t.”
   Hanes, who has career highs in goals (5), assists (9) and points (14), said he isn't close to returning. He has ridden a stationary bike and will continue to do so, but hasn't been cleared to resume skating.


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