|Kamloops goaltender Cam Lanigan looks for the puck as Blazers defenceman|
Bronson Maschmeyer looks after Kelowna Rockets forward Cody Chikie.
(Photo by Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor
It’s a good thing for the Kamloops Blazers that Chase Schaber was tired.
Otherwise, he may have ended up too close to the Kelowna net and wouldn’t have been in position to score the overtime goal that beat the Rockets 5-4 on Friday night at Interior Savings Centre.
“A big juicy rebound,” Schaber said of the puck he hammered past Kelowna goaltender Adam Brown with 27.9 seconds left in extra time.
Brown, who finished with 41 saves, 17 of them in the third period when his side was outshot 19-4, served up the rebound off a shot by defenceman Austin Madaisky.
It was an OT period that featured a good stretch of 3-on-3 play, as Kelowna’s Damon Severson and Madaisky took minors 42 seconds apart.
In fact, Madaisky got out of the penalty box just 28 seconds before Schaber, who admitted to being gassed when he scored, notched his 21st goal of the season and his seventh game-winner.
That put the finishing touch on the Blazers’ first successful late comeback this season. Prior to this one, they had been 0-9-2 when trailing after two periods.
The Blazers were down 4-2 after 40 minutes in this one; they had trailed 4-1 after one period.
“Everybody in the room stuck together and said, ‘We can do it,’ ” Schaber, the Blazers’ captain, said. “We came in the room and said, ‘Listen, we’ve got a lot more to give.’ We came out and played our game.
“It was a huge character win. Nothing else need be said.”
For the second game in a row, the Blazers walked into early penalty trouble — in this instance, it was two minor penalties in the game’s first 2:28. That allowed the visitors to get some momentum going, especially, on the forecheck, and set the home boys back on their heels.
It also resulted in an early exit by Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave, who was beaten four times on eight shots, two of the goals coming via the power play.
Cam Lanigan, however, came off the bench to pitch a shutout — he stopped 12 shots — and get his 12th victory in 16 decisions.
“Lanigan stepped in and played unbelievable for us,” Schaber said.
Lanigan also was the beneficiary of improved play by his teammates, who held a 32-12 edge in shots over the games last 44:32.
Kamloops also got big games from Schaber’s linemates, Brendan Ranford and Brandon Herrod. Ranford tied the game 4-4 with his 32nd goal, at 8:04 of the third period, escaping a smothering attempt by Kelowna defenceman MacKenzie Johnston in one corner and getting to the net in time to stuff a loose puck past Brown.
“It was a good play by Herrod behind the net,” Ranford said. “He put it out to (Dylan) Willick. It was a rebound and I tried to get a stick on it and it went in.”
Ranford said head coach Guy Charron and associate coach Dave Hunchak told the team after the first period to keep working hard.
“We needed to get back to the way we play hockey, Blazers hockey, and how we’ve been winning games all season,” Ranford said. “That’s what we did in the second and third periods.
“That’s an unbelievable win.”
The Blazers also got two goals from Colin Smith, who turned in a gritty performance in running his total to 29, and one from J.C. Lipon, who returned from a three-game concussion-induced absence.
Brett Bulmer, with two, Tanner Moar and Carter Rigby scored for the Rockets.
Bulmer, who opened this season by playing nine games with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, was the best player on the ice in the first period. But the Blazers, defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer and winger Ryan Hanes in particular, got into his kitchen later and he wasn’t anywhere near as effective as the game wore on.
The victory allowed the Blazers (39-12-4) to stretch their lead atop the overall standings to three points over the Edmonton Oil Kings (36-12-7), the Eastern Conference leaders who were beaten 5-4 in OT by the Cougars in Prince George.
At the same time, the Blazers now lead the Western Conference by six points over the Tri-City Americans, who lost 4-2 to the visiting Portland Winterhawks.
The Blazers will play in Kelowna tonight and then return home to face the Oil Kings on Tuesday night.
“It’s going to be a war, that’s for sure,” Schaber said of tonight’s rematch. “Going into Kelowna after the win tonight. . . it’s going to be the same thing . . . it’s going to be who wants it more, whoever works the hardest.”
Ranford added: “They’re a helluva hockey team. We just have to play our game and it should come out in our favor.”
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,287. . . . Each team was 2-for-7 on the power play. . . . The Rockets were last here on Oct. 28. . . . The Blazers are 4-0-1 against Kelowna, with a 19-14 edge in goals. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully and F Mike Needham saw little, if any, ice time in the third. Charron said neither player is injured. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Schaber: Leads by example; 2. Madaisky: Just gets better; 3. Ranford: Another big goal. . . . The Blazers and Rockets will conclude their season series with a home-and-home set on March 2 and 3. They will open here and wrap it up there. . . . Kamloops F Jordan DePape announced via Twitter yesterday that he will turn to Kamloops on Monday. DePape has been out with a shoulder injury since Oct. 10; he had surgery on Nov. 4 in Winnipeg. He isn’t expected to play again until some time in March.
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