|Kamloops forward Chase Schaber celebrates after scoring the game's first|
goal against Ty Rimmer and the Tri-City Americans on Wednesday night.
(Photo by Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Well, that takes care of that!
The Kamloops Blazers and Tri-City Americans, embroiled in a tussle for a couple of WHL pennants, won’t meet again this season, unless they clash deep into the playoffs.
The two teams went at it Wednesday night at Interior Savings Centre, with the Blazers skating away with a rather convincing 5-1 victory.
The Blazers won the season series with the Americans, 3-0-1, outscoring them14-9 in the process.
Kamloops (38-12-4) now holds a four-point lead over the Americans atop the Western Conference.
The Blazers also lead the WHL’s overall standings. They are two points ahead of the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings (36-12-6), who waltzed into Calgary and dumped the Hitmen 9-5 last night.
The Oil Kings will play a weekend doubleheader in Prince George and then play here Tuesday in what almost certainly will be a Valentine’s Day love-in.
Before then, the Blazers will go home-and-home with the Kelowna Rockets. They will play here Friday and in the Little Apple on Saturday.
Last night’s game may have turned on the left groin of Tri-City goaltender Ty Rimmer.
Just 43 seconds into the third period, with the Blazers leading 2-1, Rimmer was forced to make a sudden stretch to his left to stop a Tim Bozon shot. The goaltender came up limping and, although he stayed in the game, was never the same.
Then, at 7:07, Kamloops winger Brendan Ranford was the recipient of a fortuitous bounce that sent him in alone. He apparently had been paying attention, as he deked to Rimmer’s left side and deposited his 30th goal of the season over the hurting goaltender’s left leg.
If this one wasn’t over then, with the Blazers ahead 3-1, it was finished two minutes later when Colin Smith jammed the puck through Rimmer for a 4-1 lead.
Rimmer, who stopped 22 shots, exited in favour of Eric Comrie, but it wasn’t going to matter.
At the other end, Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave was nothing short of superb in a 33-save performance during which he was in complete control. He especially gave his guys a jolt of confidence when he pitched a perfect first period even though the Americans held a 16-4 edge in shots.
Chase Schaber scored the Blazers’ first goal, at 17:22 of the first period, ending a six-game drought with his 20th goal of the season.
Freshman winger Cole Ully stretched the lead to 2-0 at 1:11 of the second with his eighth of the season, one that would turn into his fifth game-winning goal.
Adam Hughesman, who has 32 goals, ruined Cheveldave’s shutout bid at 6:27 of the second period.
Ranford closed out the scoring at 13:00 of the third. He leads the Blazers in goals (31) and points (66).
The Americans went into the game without four injured regulars — forwards Mitch Messier, Malte Stromwall and Mason Wilgosh, and defenceman Mitch Topping.
Things didn’t get any better during the game. Rimmer appeared to get hurt in the third period. Freshman forward Tyson Dallman left in the first period with an injury to his left leg and didn’t return. Defenceman Sam Grist ran at Kamloops defenceman Tyler Hansen in the third period and went to the Tri-City bench favouring his left arm. As well, forward Jordan Messier saw limited ice time in the third period.
The Americans are at home to the Portland Winterhawks on Friday night.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,346. . . . Schaber became the sixth Kamloops skater to reach the 20-goal mark. He also picked up his 99th career assist, that coming on Ranford’s first goal. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Cheveldave: Gives this team huge confidence; 2. Ranford: Didn’t miss at key time; 3. F Dylan Willick, Kamloops: Blocking shots in last minute of 5-1 game. . . . Kevin Muench, the WHL’s director of officiating, took in the game for the league officials’ box. . . . Tri-City head coach Jim Hiller picked up his 200th WHL victory last week when his side beat the visiting Victoria Royals, 6-3. . . . Hughesman has a single-season high 82 points. He had 81 last season. . . . F Brendan Shinnimin drew an assist on Hughesman’s goal, giving him at least 50 assists for a third straight season. . . . Shinnimin, Hughesman and F Patrick Holland each has at least 50 assists, the first time the Americans have had three players reach that mark in the same season since 1994-95.
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