By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Cole Cheveldave finally finished a hockey game.
Not only that, he got the victory . . . and a shutout to boot.
“Things felt great out there,” the Kamloops Blazers’ goaltender said early Sunday evening after having blanked the host Victoria Royals, 3-0, at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in an afternoon WHL assignment.
In his previous two starts, Cheveldave suffered injuries that prevented him from finishing t he games.
Cheveldave hadn’t played since suffering a suspected knee injury when he was run over in his crease by Kelowna Rockets forward Colton Sissons during the second period of the Blazers’ 6-5 season-opening overtime victory on Sept. 21 at the Interior Savings Centre.
His 2011-12 season had ended on April 6 when he suffered a concussion during Game 1 of a second-round playoff series against the Portland Winterhawks. On that night, he was run over behind his net by Portland winger Oliver Gabriel. That injury kept Cheveldave out of the next six games as the Winterhawks took out Kamloops in seven games.
Cheveldave had last finished a game on March 28 when the Blazers won 4-1 in, yes, Victoria to complete a four-game sweep of the Royals in a first-round playoff series.
On Sunday, he made 22 saves, 13 of them in the first period, as he recorded his fifth career shutout. That moved him into a tie with Kenric Exner, Dale Masson and Randy Petruk for sixth on the Blazers’ career list. Devan Dubnyk (15) and Corey Hirsch (13) top the list, followed by Dustin Butler, Davis Parley and Rod Branch, each with seven.
“We played great on defence, especially in the second and third periods,” Cheveldave said from Swartz Bay, as the Blazers prepared to catch a 6 o’clock ferry. “We weathered the storm in the first period and then just took over the game.”
While the Blazers improved to 3-0-1, the Royals lost for the first time in regulation and fell to 3-1-0.
“They came out shooting a lot,” Cheveldave said. “They got a quick (power play) off the start and we handled it really well.”
The Blazers, who had lost 4-3 in overtime on Friday night, scored once in each period as they fired 39 shots at goaltender Jared Rathjen, a sophomore who was making his first start of the season.
Defenceman Brady Gaudet, in the first period, and left-winger Robert Trzonkowski, in the second, scored their first goals of the season, while centre Colin Smith added insurance with his second goal of the season midway through the third period.
“The boys really played well today,” Cheveldave said. “You can’t ask for anything more for the first start back from an injury.
“We were all over them. In the second period we were in their end probably for 17 minutes of the period, working it and playing really well.”
Head coach Guy Charron told Cheveldave on Saturday morning that he would be starting, after freshman Taran Kozun went 1-0-1 in back-to-back starts.
“I had quite a bit of time to prepare myself and get ready for it,” Cheveldave said. “I felt awesome.”
He showed in the first period that he was ready when he made a tremendous save off Victoria forward Ben Walker. A point shot got through a screen and bounced to the right of Cheveldave.
“Walker got a swipe at it and I just stuffed him with a pad,” Cheveldave said.
Cheveldave is expected to be back in goal Friday when the Blazers meet the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds (2-2-0). The Medicine Hat Tigers (3-1-0), who open a three-game B.C. Division swing in Victoria on Wednesday, will be here Saturday. Game time both nights will be 7 o’clock.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,171. . . . The ice held up well considering that a John Fogerty concert was held in the facility on Saturday night. . . . Cheveldave drew an assist, the fifth of his career, on Trzonkowski’s goal. . . . The Blazers scratched D Tyler Hansen (concussion), LW Brendan Ranford, D Ryan Rehill and F Mitch Friesen. . . . Hansen, who suffered a concussion on Sept. 22, has yet to be symptom free so is doubtful for this weekend’s games. . . . Ranford is in camp with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in Sherbrooke, Que. . . . D Tyler Stahl returned to Victoria’s lineup after serving a six-game WHL suspension. . . . F Jayden Halbgewachs, the Blazers’ first pick in the WHL’s 2012 bantam draft, scored his first goal of the season Sunday as his Regina Pat Canadians beat the host Battlefords Stars 3-1 in a Saskatchewan Midget AAA League game.
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