Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lanigan, Blazers know it's 'go time'

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

If the Kamloops Blazers are to advance to the WHL’s Western Conference final, it appears they will do it with Cam Lanigan in goal.
Guy Charron, the Blazers’ head coach, said Monday that “there is no saying when” Cole Cheveldave, the Western Conference’s second-team all-star goaltender, will play again.
Charron said Cheveldave won’t play tonight or Wednesday and is a “question mark for a fifth game.”
The Blazers and Portland Winterhawks will play Games 3 and 4 of their best-of-seven conference semifinal at Interior Savings Centre. The Winterhawks have a 2-0 lead, thanks to 5-3 and 4-1 home-ice victories on the weekend.
Should the Blazers win one or both home games, Game 5 would be played Saturday in Portland.
Cheveldave was injured late in Game 1 on Friday when he was run over behind the net by Portland forward Oliver Gabriel. He drew a minor penalty for goaltender interference on the play; however, the Blazers asked the WHL office for supplemental discipline and Gabriel was suspended and didn’t play in Game 2. As of last night, the length of that suspension had yet to be determined.
No one is using the ‘c’ word for Cheveldave’s injury, but it would seem obvious that he has a concussion.
Lanigan made the first playoff appearance of his four-year career in Game 2, stopping 30 shots.
“He played well,” Charron said. “It’s not that he didn’t play well. He played to a level that gave us a chance to win a hockey game.
“And I liked his practice today. He was very competitive.”
Lanigan, 19, was with the Edmonton Oil Kings three years ago. He back up Torrie Jung as the Oil Kings, in the playoffs for the first time in what was their second WHL season, were swept from a first-round series by the Calgary Hitmen.
Acquired from the Oil Kings for goaltender Jon Groenheyde on Nov. 4, 2010, Lanigan came into this season hoping to be the go-to guy here. But Cheveldave, an 18-year-old who was the AJHL’s rookie of the year last season, took the position and didn’t let it go.
Lanigan made the first playoff appearance of his four-year career in Game 2, stopping 30 shots.
“He played well,” Charron said. “It’s not that he didn’t play well. He played to a level that gave us a chance to win a hockey game.
“And I liked his practice today. He was very competitive.”
Lanigan, 19, was with the Edmonton Oil Kings three years ago. He back up Torrie Jung as the Oil Kings, in the playoffs for the first time in what was their second WHL season, were swept from a first-round series by the Calgary Hitmen.
Acquired from the Oil Kings for goaltender Jon Groenheyde on Nov. 4, 2010, Lanigan came into this season hoping to be the go-to guy here. But Cheveldave, an 18-year-old who was the AJHL’s rookie of the year last season, took the position and didn’t let it go.
Prior to Saturday, Lanigan hadn’t played since March 17 when the Blazers lost 4-2 to the Cougars in Prince George in their final regular-season game. Before that, Cheveldave had made eight straight starts, although Lanigan did make two relief appearances.
Lanigan found out after the morning skate on Saturday that he would be starting, and along came a few butterflies.
“I use butterflies as a sign that I’m ready,” he said. “I almost get more nervous if I don’t have them. I turn them into a good thing . . . it’s helped me to let me know that I’m ready and prepared.
“Going into (Game 2), I just wanted to reassure myself that I was going in with confidence. Realizing that it was my first WHL playoff game . . . I just wanted to go in and clear my mind as much as possible.”
He did that and said he “felt really comfortable after making the first few saves.”
Lanigan is looking for an even better performance tonight, knowing that he and his mates absolutely have to win if they are to have any thoughts of taking this series.
“Coming back home now we’re pretty confident with where our game’s at,” he said. “The work we did today and moving forward we feel we’re in a better headspace. Our feet are wet now and we know what to expect.”
The Blazers also feel that they have been the better team through four of the six periods that have been played. They are going to have to deal with the fact that doesn’t show up on the scoreboard.
“That’s adversity,” Lanigan said. “That’s part of the playoffs. That’s maybe their experience pulling through for them a little bit.”
The Winterhawks have been in 34 playoff games over the previous two springs — they lost in the second round in 2010 and last season were beaten in five games by the Kootenay Ice in the championship final.
“I don’t say this negatively,” Charron said, “but it’s the lack of experience we have in playoff hockey. That team went to the final and I’m sure they learned a few things.“For us, it’s a great experience. Our players are learning what it is to be in a tough series. This is a physical series . . . it’s a tough series. It’s great for our players. But we need contributions . . . our keys guys have to step up.”
Kamloops defenceman Austin Madaisky added that “in both games we thought we were the better team for 40 minutes.”
The difference, he said, was that Portland capitalized on its opportunities.
“They are a very opportunistic team,” Madaisky stated. “All they need is a couple of chances and guys like (Sven) Baertschi and (Ty) Rattie are going to put the puck in the net.”
Madaisky admitted that being in both games — Kamloops led the opener 3-1 in the third period and trailed just 1-0 going into the third period of Game 2 — and not coming out with even one victory was tough to take.
“It was definitely tough at the time,” he said. “It would have been big for us to get that first one. As soon as the game was over, we put it behind us and were looking forward to the next game. And the same thing could be said about Game 2.
“What’s done is done. We can’t do anything about that. It would have been great to get one or two of those games but we’re looking forward to playing back here at home.
“We want to play a full 60 minutes. That’s our biggest concern right now. As a group, we have to shut them down for a full 60 minutes.”
One thing is for certain, Lanigan said. The Blazers will be ready tonight.
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a smile. “It’s go time.”

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