|Centre Colin Smith of the Kamloops Blazers tests Brandon Wheat Kings|
goaltender Curtis Honey on Friday night. Smith had a goal and three assists
as the Blazers beat the Wheat Kings, 8-1.
(Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Reporter
If the Brandon Wheat Kings didn’t feel like roadkill on Friday afternoon, they certainly looked like it later in the evening.
The Wheat Kings already had been on the road for 12 straight days when they took to the Interior Savings Centre ice surface against the high-flying Kamloops Blazers last night.
Less than three hours later, the Blazers had their 11th consecutive victory, five first-period goals having gotten them started towards an 8-1 WHL victory.
The Blazers, at 13-0-1, remain the only one of the CHL’s 60 teams not have been beaten in regulation time. Tonight, they are at home to the Victoria Royals, who beat them 4-3 in a shootout on Sept. 28. The Blazers lead the B.C. Division by nine points over the Royals (9-5-0), who lost 4-1 to the Giants in Vancouver last night.
Kamloops also leads the Western Conference standings by seven points over the Tri-City Americans (9-4-2).
The Wheat Kings, 7-6-2 overall and 2-3-1 on this trip, left after the game for Prince George where they play the Cougars tonight.
“That’s no excuse,” offered Kelly McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings’ owner and general manager who turned the coaching reins over to long-time assistant Dwayne Gylywoychuk over the summer. “(The Blazers) are on a roll. They’re No. 1. They’re at home. This is your one chance to knock them off. You have to show some excitement.”
On this night, there was little of that from the visitors, who had seven freshmen among the 12 forwards dressed for this one.
In their first home appearance since Oct. 12 — Kamloops went 5-0-0 on a trek through the Central Division while it was away — the Blazers came out with guns a-blazin’.
They scored five times in the first period, during which time they outshot the visitors 18-4 and were 3-for-4 on the power play.
“Before the game,” offered Kamloops centre Colin Smith, who finished with a goal and three assists. “We talked about how we have a target on our backs and teams are going to give their best and want to beat us. It’s important for us to take that first five minutes and establish our game and make sure we’re at our best.
“It helped with the early power play, too. That got things rolling.”
The home boys found themselves on the power play just 1:31 into the first period and 1:03 later it was 1-0, Smith having beaten goaltender Corbin Boes.
Slightly more than five minutes later it was 2-0, with winger Cole Ully the triggerman.
And now the race to eight was on.
Tim Bozon, Smith’s left winger, scored twice and Jordan DePape added another before the first period ended. Bozon’s second goal, at 15:15, sent Boes to the bench with Curtis Honey coming on in relief.
Centre Dylan Willick, playing in his 200th consecutive regular-season game, struck while shorthanded just 22 seconds into the second period and defenceman Tyler Hansen added his first goal of the season — and his fifth in 199 career regular-season games — at 4:02.
By the time the second period ended, the Blazers held a 34-9 edge in shots.
“That’s pretty much exactly how we wanted to come out,” suggested Willick, who got his club’s last goal in the third period. “We might not always see that kind of goal production but we can be happy with the fact we were in their end, we were being physical, pucks were in deep and we played our kind of hockey.
“Tonight, pucks were going in the net, too.”
The Blazers were able to keep pucks out of their net, too, at least until late in the third period when they ran into penalty trouble and Swiss winger Alessio Bertaggia, who is pals with Bozon, ruined goaltender Cole Cheveldave’s bid for his second shutout of the season.
“That’s a tough one,” Smith said of the game’s final goal. “We got into penalty trouble and they were able to capitalize. (Cheveldave) played a great game. . . . he deserved (the shutout). It was a tough one.”
Willick added: “You don’t want to give one up in the last five minutes, especially in a game like that. You’re doing it for your goaltender at that point. It was unfortunate.”
Right-winger JC Lipon, the third member of Smith’s line, drew three assists and continues to lead the WHL scoring derby, with 35 points. Smith is second, with 32 points, while Bozon (24) is third.
Lipon did lose his goal-scoring lead, after Medicine Hat Tigers forward Curtis Valk scored five times, giving him 14, in a 10-1 victory over the Hitmen in Calgary last night. Lipon and Bozon have 13 goals apiece.
“Smitty’s line is at the top of the scoring,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said. “I think it’s intimidating. It’s a tool that you have and hopefully you’re able to use it to your (advantage).”
Asked what teams are going to have to do to beat the Blazers, Charron laughed and replied: “I hope nobody finds any answers.”
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 5,508. . . . Cheveldave finished with 20 saves. At the other end, Boes stopped 10 of 14, while Honey turned aside 25 of 29. . . . The Blazers were 3-for-6 on the PP; Brandon was 1-for-6. . . . Brandon D Tyler Yaworski, 20, was suspended by the WHL on Friday morning for a check to the head in a 3-2 victory over the Giants in Vancouver on Wednesday. The length of the suspension has yet to be determined. . . . The Daily News’ Three Stars: 1. Smith: Keeps getting better; 2. Ully: Deserves spot in top six forwards; 3. Hansen: Scoring machine with goal and two assists. . . . That was the first three-point game of Hansen’s career. He had had four two-point outings. . . . D Austin Madaisky, 20, who is eligible to return to the Blazers, has been moved by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets from the AHL’s Springfield, Mass., Falcons to the ECHL’s Evansville, Ind., Icemen. Madaisky had been a healthy scratch for each of the Falcons’ first four games. The Icemen, who are playing three games in three nights this weekend, have 10 defencemen on their roster.
There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping by here, why not consider donating to the cause? Just click HERE. . . and thank you very much.