Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blazers power past Royals

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Guy Charron’s impersonation of a mad scientist lasted two periods on Wednesday night at the Interior Savings Centre.
Granted, it was nothing like Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor or Marlon Brando as Dr. Moreau, but Charron, the Kamloops Blazers’ head coach, stirred up his lines pretty well going into the WHL game against the Victoria Royals.
Then, with the score 3-3 after two periods, Charron returned things to what has been the norm and the Blazers responded with three goals in a span of seven minutes 15 seconds to earn a 6-3 victory.
With that victory, the Blazers moved back atop the WHL’s overall standings and the 10-team Western Conference. The idle Portland Winterhawks, who spent most of yesterday in first place after an 8-1 beating of the Prince George Cougars on Tuesday, now are a point behind the Blazers, with the Tri-City Americans and Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings three points in arrears.
This was the first of seven games in 11 days for the Blazers, who now have 12 games remaining in the regular season. They will go home-and-home with the Vancouver Giants on the weekend, playing there on Friday and here on Saturday.
The Blazers went into last night’s game having lost their previous two games, only the sixth time this season that had happened. They made sure there wouldn’t be a third straight loss, but it wasn’t easy and they got a lot of help from a power play that scored four times in six opportunities.
They opened with their top two lines, both of which had been constant through most of the season, completely mixed up. Brock Balson was on the left side with Colin Smith and Brendan Ranford, while Tim Bozon was skating with Brandon Herrod and Dylan Willick.
But when the third period began, Smith was back between Bozon and Lipon, and Herrod was centring Chase Schaber and Ranford.
Aspen Sterzer, Bozon and defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer scored in the third period — Bozon and Maschmeyer each scored twice in this one — as the Blazers pulled away. Dylan Willick had the game’s first goal for Kamloops. Forwards Austin Carroll, Logan Nelson and Ben Walker replied for the Royals.
Walker gave the visitors a 3-2 lead at 4:19 of the second period on a play that resulted in an apparent right leg injury to Kamloops goaltender Cam Lanigan.
The Royals, on the power play, got the puck and bodies to the net. Walker jammed the puck into the net and Lanigan, who had stopped four shots, got caught up in traffic. He went to the dressing room and didn’t return. Later, he was taken to Royal Inland Hospital as a precautionary measure but Charron reported after the game that Lanigan is “going to be OK.”
Cole Cheveldave came on in relief, stopped all eight shots he faced and ran his record to 29-9-4. Victoria goaltender Jared Rathjen stopped 25 shots as his record slipped to 0-5-1.
The Blazers took control with three straight power-play goals.
They trailed 3-2 until Maschmeyer charged to the back door on a power play and scored off a nifty pass from Smith, who finished with three assists. That was at 18:37 of the second period.
Bozon then gave Kamloops its first lead, scoring his 30th goal of the season — the French freshman had hoped for 20 when the season started — as he banged a Smith rebound past Rathjen.
Victoria forward Robin Soudek then chose to instigate a fight with Kamloops defenceman Tyler Bell, who had leveled forward Steven Hodges with the night’s stiffest check. Referee Pat Smith made the correct call, giving Soudek and instigating minor which put the Blazers back on the power play.
Just 11 seconds later, Maschmeyer got his second of the night and 12th of the season off another Smith pass and the Blazers were home free.
The Blazers closed out the season series with the Royals by winning for the seventh time in eight games. Kamloops now is an incredible 34-5-3 against Western Conference opponents, including 20-4-2 within the B.C. Division.
The Royals (18-36-6) continue to hold down a playoff spot, but only by the thinnest of margins. They are tied for that last spot with the Seattle Thunderbirds, but are only one point ahead of the Everett Silvertips and two up on Prince George.
The Royals will play in Prince George on Friday and Saturday nights.
JUST NOTES: Attendance on First Nations Night was 4,369. The Blazers wore special uniforms, with the crest on the front replaced by the Tk’emlups Nation’s logo. . . . The game’s last goal was first given to F Matt Needham with an assist to D Tyler Hansen. A few minutes later, it was changed to Willick from Hansen and Needham. Shortly after the game, it was changed again and now reads Sterzer from Willick and Hansen. . . . Sterzer, who has five goals, had gone 25 games with scoring. . . . The Blazers had Schaber, their captain, back in the lineup after he missed the club’s last four periods. He was injured in the second period of a 3-2 loss to the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Friday and missed Saturday’s 5-4 loss to the Calgary Hitmen. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Smith: Set up three goals with game on line; 2. Herrod: He was a force; 3. Nelson: Loves to play here.


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