Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kamloops goaltender Cam Lanigan watches the puck slide wide of his net
while teammate Chase Schaber (10) and Jordan Peddle of the Edmonton Oil Kings
battle for position in front of the crease.

(Photo by Keith Anderson / Kamloops Daily News)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Give the Edmonton Oil Kings the lead after two periods and, like death, taxes and bad Adam Sandler movies, it was a sure thing.
Until Tuesday night, that is.
In a battle of WHL conference leaders, the Kamloops Blazers, who trailed 2-0 after two periods, got a goal from forward Matt Needham at 19:01 of the third period to beat the Oil Kings 3-2 at Interior Savings Centre for their fifth straight victory and ninth in a row at home.
The Oil Kings went into the game with a 30-0-2 mark when leading after two periods. The Blazers, meanwhile, were 1-9-2 when trailing after the second period.
Kamloops’ other late third-period comeback? That was Friday when the Blazers scored twice in the third and then beat the visiting Kelowna Rockets 5-4 in overtime.
That one ended when defenceman Austin Madaisky took a shot from the point and captain Chase Schaber scored on the rebound.
Last night, it was Madaisky, again, with the point shot. This time, it was Needham banging home the rebound for his 10th goal of the season and second winner.
“I think tonight may have been the most I shot the puck all season,” said Madaisky. “Every chance I got . . . I was finding lanes and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to put it on the net.”
The Oil Kings, who lead the Eastern Conference at 37-13-7, were the better team through two periods, but forward Kristians Pelss walked into an interference penalty — he picked Schaber in the Kamloops zone — at 2:03 of the third period.
The Blazers’ power play was 0-for-2 at that point and really hadn’t accomplished much as the Oil Kings had little problem corraling dump-ins and firing pucks up the middle of the ice.
But the Blazers made a couple of adjustments, moving a defenceman off the wall and also trying to keep the puck away from goaltender Laurent Brossoit.
“They were never rimming it,” Madaisky stated. “Behind the net, their guy would take one stride and fire it up the middle.”
Which is what Edmonton tried to do with Pelss off. But defenceman Marek Hrbas got off the wall in time to knock down the attempted clearance. The play then went tic-tac-toe — Schaber to Brendan Ranford to Brandon Herrod — and it was 2-1.
“Hrbas made a great read at the beginning of the period,” Madaisky said. “Little things like that all add up at the end of the game.”
Just 1:44 after Herrod’s 22nd goal, Madaisky took yet another shot from the point. The puck got through traffic  — Kamloops forwards Colin Smith and Tim Bozon were in front of Brossoit — and into the net.
The Blazers, now 41-12-4 and with a seven-point lead over the Tri-City Americans atop the Western Conference, looked half-a-step behind for much of the first 40 minutes. They picked it up in the third period, though, and outshot the visitors 13-2 in outscoring them 3-0.
After the second period, Madaisky said, they talked about “getting back to the game plan . . . working their (defencemen) down low. As soon as we started to do that, it opened up those high-low and low-high passes and gave our defence a lot of opportunities to shoot the puck.
“Then guys like (Needham) could get to the net and put in the rebound. It was huge.”
The Blazers got a huge 24-save effort from goaltender Cam Lanigan, who is 2-0 this season against the team that traded him here on Nov. 4, 2010.
“It’s definitely nice to get that one,” Lanigan said, “in kind of dramatic fashion . . . a storybook ending. If it was possible, I think we one-upped the Kelowna game.”
Lanigan didn’t have a chance on Edmonton’s first goal as Pelss scored on a quick backdoor pass, but felt he should have stopped the second one, a screen shot by Jordan Peddle that got through Kamloops defenceman Brady Gaudet.
“I heard the shot,” Lanigan said. “I was kind of slow going down to make a block save. I’ll take the onus on it . . . I should have been more ready. Maybe I was a little bit lazy on that one.”
The Blazers ended up 1-for-4 on the power play — they also got a late one when Edmonton’s T.J. Foster was flagged for high-sticking at 16:07 of the third period. The Oil Kings’ power play, which is No. 2 in the WHL at 27.1 per cent, never got off the bench.
“I thought they got more calls than we did,” Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal said. “I thought they let us play a little bit . . . but they could have let it go on the (Pelss penalty).”
In the vernacular of the pre-obstruction days, referees Mike Campbell and Pat Smith “let them play.” The result was a game with a lot of skating and few stoppages.
This was the first of a four-game homestand for the Blazers, who are scheduled to entertain the Red Deer Rebels on Friday and the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday, with the Victoria Royals making their final regular-season appearance here on Feb. 22.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 5,044. . . . Laxdal rejoined the Oil Kings for last night's game after missing a Friday-Saturday doubleheader in Prince George so he could attend the funeral of his father. John Laxdal died Sunday at the age of 75. A funeral service was held Sunday in Stonewall, Man. . . . The Blazers are 17-3-2 since Christmas. . . . Ranford ran his point streak to eight games with the assist on Herrod’s goal. . . . Pelss became the Oil Kings’ fifth 20-goal man. The Blazers have six skaters with at least 20 goals. . . . Kamloops F Dylan Willick played in his 200th regular-season game, while D Bronson Maschmeyer was in No. 201. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Madaisky: Man, he was good; 2. D Martin Gernat: Great first impression here; 3. F Colin Smith, Kamloops: His line shut down Edmonton’s big guns. . . . Kevin Lowe, the president of hockey operations with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, was in the house. His son, Keegan, is a defenceman with the Oil Kings. . . . Steve Tambellini, the Oilers’ GM, also was in attendance.

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