Saturday, October 6, 2012

Smurfs 7, Gargoyles 2

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Mitt Romney versus Big Bird.
Rusty against the Friendly Giant on a bad day.
The Smurfs taking on the Gargoyles.
Whatever the case, the Kamloops Blazers landed a blow on behalf of the little guy Friday night as they vanquished the Seattle Thunderbirds 7-2 in a WHL game played at Interior Savings Centre.
The Smurfs, er, Blazers dressed 20 players, seven of whom measure out at 6-foot-0 or higher. The Gargoyles, er, Thunderbirds had 16 six-footers, topped out by 6-foot-7 Taylor Green and 6-foot-6ers Mitch Elliot, Kevin Wolf and Jared Hauf. Green, Wolf and Hauf are defencemen, so you know that open ice often was at a premium in the Seattle zone.
“They’re a little bit bigger than the average team, I’ll tell you that much,” offered Blazers centre Dylan Willick, who scored twice.
Willick allowed that the Blazers wanted to “make them move as much as possible.”
The idea, he said, was to not “let them play to their game plan where they want to bump and crash all they want. Get the puck in behind them. Make them turn around and move and every now and them give them a bump instead of letting them bump us.”
Willick’s left-winger, Brendan Ranford, who had a goal and four assists, agreed with that assessment.
“They’re a big hockey team,” he said. “They take up a lot of ice.”
Ranford, who had missed the club’s last two games while in camp with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, said the Blazers wanted to “make them move their feet and we did. In that third period we got pucks in behind them and we got support and we kept going.”
Oh, did they ever!
The Blazers broke open a 2-2 game with five straight goals as they ran their record to 4-0-1 and kept pace with the Prince George Cougars (4-0-1) atop the Western Conference standings.
Despite the final score, this game was closer than that and may well have turned on two plays.
Willick’s first goal, at 15:04 of the opening period, came when he had a Jordan DePape rebound go off his left skate and past goaltender Brandon Glover. The referee closest to the play immediately signalled that it wasn’t a goal, that the puck had been kicked into the net. However, that ruling was over-turned by video review.
“I don’t know why it was over-ruled,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “It looked to me like he kicked it and it looked to me like the ref called the right thing. You need conclusive evidence to over-ride something . . . I have no idea how they managed that one.”
Willick claimed he didn’t kick the puck.
“I was actually stopping,” he explained. “It may have looked that way because I had to twist in my stop. But there was no actual motion to kick it.”
At 17:49 of the second period, with the Blazers nursing a 2-1 lead, Seattle was awarded a penalty shot after Kamloops defenceman Brady Gaudet fell on the puck in behind goaltender Cole Cheveldave.
Seattle right-winger Connor Honey, who scored both his side’s goals, took the freebie but his deke to the backhand off a fake shot was stymied by Cheveldave’s right pad.
“That was huge,” Willick said. “It was a huge confidence booster at a critical time of the game. We rely on Cheveldave to do it and he’s always stepped up when he needs to.”
In hindsight, Konowalchuk didn’t see that stop as being that important.
“It was a big save but we ended up tieing it 2-2,” he stated. “It would have been bigger if we lost 2-1 or 3-1 or something.”
Honey tied the game 2-2 just 39 seconds into the third period, but right-winger Jordan DePape put Kamloops back in front four minutes later and the locals were off to the races.
“As big a team as they were, we didn’t feel it as much,” Willick said. “I think that’s part of how we played our game. They were chasing us for the most part and we had that extra step.”
Left-winger JC Lipon had a goal and three assists for the second four-point game of his career, while his linemates, Colin Smith and Tim Bozon, each scored once.
The Blazers are back at it tonight as they entertain the Medicine Hat Tigers (3-2-1), who last night lost 6-1 to the Giants in Vancouver. Game time is 7 o’clock.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,506. . . . Cheveldave finished with 22 stops. . . . Glover turned aside 28 of 35 before freshman Justin Myles, 17, replaced him with 3:58 to play. Myles didn’t face a shot. . . . Kamloops was 2-for-3 on the power play; the Thunderbirds were 1-for-4. . . . Seattle (2-3-0) is at home tonight against the Everett Silvertips. . . . This was the third five-point game of Ranford’s career. He had two of them last season. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Willick: He is the heartbeat; 2. Ranford: Smooth as silk; 3. Cheveldave: Made a difference for 43 minutes.

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