|Goaltender Cole Cheveldave of the Kamloops Blazers gets in front of a shot|
off the stick of Jari Erricson of the Prince George Cougars on Friday night.
(Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor
Three-goal deficit? Who ya gonna call?
Try the Kamloops Blazers.
For the second time in a week, the Blazers erased a three-goal third-period deficit and won a WHL exhibition game.
On Sept. 7, they trailed the host Vancouver Giants 4-1 in the third period and came back to win 5-4 in extra time.
Then, on Friday night, they were down 3-0 in the third period, only to come back and drop the Prince George Cougars 4-3 in a shootout at Interior Savings Centre.
The victory allowed the Blazers to finish the exhibition season at 5-0. But, as centre Colin Smith pointed out, the reigning B.C. Division champions don’t want to be facing three-goal deficits every game.
“We’re well aware of our starts and we’ve got a week to go and now it’s for real,” said Smith, who scored the Blazers’ first goal and then notched the only goal of the shootout. “Preseason game or not, we have to be better than that.
“At the same time, I thought we did a great job of standing up and taking a stand for ourselves in the third period. I think that reassured us what we have to do to be successful, getting it low and working their (defence) . . . now it’s for real and we have to play to our strengths.”
Head coach Guy Charron pointed out that his Blazers “were not in sync” for 40 minutes.
“We couldn’t make good short passes,” Charron said. “We just weren’t playing the game that we need to play to be successful. When we did in the third period, we were able to have the success that we should have.”
At the same time, though, Charron was quick to credit the Cougars, a team that finished last in the B.C. Division last season but one that always seems to play the Blazers tough.
“This is a team for as long as I’ve been here, it’s not an easy game,” Charron said of head coach Dean Clark’s club. “Dean has them playing hard. He expects effort from his team and they have a lot of young guys who got experience last season.”
That effort had the Cougars leading 3-0 after 40 minutes — Chase Witala, Daulton Siwak and Troy Bourke had the goals — and with a 22-14 edge in shots.
Prince George started the third period on the power play and perhaps the game began to change 30 seconds in when Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave got across his crease in time to stone Siwak with a right pad.
“He definitely kept us in it,” Smith said of Cheveldave’s 33-save performance and perfect shootout. “If it wasn’t for him it probably would have been out of our reach.”
The Blazers began to play their game deep in the Cougars’ zone shortly afterwards and the comeback began at 6:23 when Smith put a puck through goaltender Devon Fordyce’s legs.
At 9:55, Dylan Willick scored his fourth goal in as many games, this time the beneficiary of a great move by defenceman Marek Hrbas who presented him with a power-play tap-in.
Then, at 18:39, right-winger J.C. Lipon scored his fifth goal of the exhibition season, on another power play, to force overtime.
The Blazers were presented with a power play in the extra time but weren’t able to beat Fordyce, who was stellar in making 29 saves,
“We played hard,” said Clark, whose side finished 3-2 in the exhibition season. “They are probably the class of the B.C. Division and have some good offensive guys.
“We had a good power play to start the third and didn’t score.”
Yes, that power play may well have told the story for both teams.
But, as Charron said, the Blazers “need to be more consistent” with their effort. And, he added, “we have to make sure as coaches that we make everyone accountable.”
Charron felt the Blazers had a terrific practice on Thursday, which made last night’s start that much more confusing.
Maybe, just maybe, it really was due to the Cougars.
“It didn’t happen tonight,” Charron said, “because the team that we played against played hard and played well and all of a sudden things didn’t work out the way we expected.”
In the end, though, the Blazers were able to come back and, in the end, that’s what mattered.
“We have to give ourselves a little credit for coming back bcause that’s not easy,” Smith said.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers are scheduled to open their regular season on Friday against the visiting Kelowna Rockets. . . . As expected, the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets have assigned Blazers D Austin Madaisky to the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. Madaisky, 20, is under contract to the Blue Jackets. He will report to the Falcons’ training camp on Sept. 27. Madaisky will be one of at least 10 defencemen in the Falcons’ camp. . . . The Blazers are to take part in Sunday’s Terry Fox Run. They have set up a team fund-raising page at www.blazerhockey.com.
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