Saturday, November 24, 2012

Blades burn Blazers with late goals

Forward Nathan Burns (21) of the Saskatoon Blades, here skating away from
Kamloops Blazers defenceman Marek Hrbas, won Friday's game with a late
third-period goal.

(MURRAY MITCHELL/KAMLOOPS DAILY NEWS)

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

The Saskatoon Blades, who will be the host team in the 2013 Memorial Cup, made their national TV debut in On The Edge, a Sportsnet show, on Friday night.
They weren’t able to hold their own viewing party because they were playing the Kamloops Blazers at Interior Savings Centre.
On the ice, the Blades were more like junkyard dogs than TV prima donnas as they erased a 2-0 third-period deficit and stunned the Kamloops Blazers, 3-2.
“That’s probably the biggest goal I’ve scored in my career,” offered Saskatoon forward Nathan Burns who won this one at 18:59 of the third period. “It feels good.”
This was Burns’ first goal in seven games for the Blades (11-11-1), who acquired him from the Vancouver Giants for first- and third-round bantam draft picks and forward Travis McEvoy, 18.
Burns beat Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave with a shot from the slot that came off the rush.
“That felt great to get it out of the way,” Burns said. He admitted that he had been “squeezing the stick a little bit. It’s good to get that weight off my shoulders.”
It was Burns' 35th goal in 194 regular-season games. Nine of those goals have come against the Blazers. Last season, when he scored 12 times in 55 games, he had six goals against Kamloops, three of them at the ISC.
“I’ve scored a few goals against Kamloops,” Burns, a 19-year-old from Edmonton, offered. “I don’t know what it is.”
The Blazers (19-6-2) don’t know what it is, either. They appeared to have this game under control as they led 2-0 with less than 12 minutes to play in the third period.
“Momentum was huge, especially in the third period,” Burns said. “They let off a little and we took advantage.”
Burns added that the Blades, who are 3-1-0 on a B.C. Division swing that ends in Kelowna tonight, weren’t going to quit, despite being down 2-0.
“We new we’d had chances,” he said. “We knew that one would go in and when one went in we were going to get a couple more. We never doubted ourselves.”
He also said that the Blades looked forward to playing the Blazers, who lead the WHL’s overall standings by a point over the Portland Winterhawks.
“This is a huge win,” he said. “We knew coming in that Kamloops was a top team in this league and we wanted to judge ourselves off them. Now we know where we are and how good we can play when we stick with it and play our systems.
“Playing them is a fun game. You know it’s going to be a fun game coming in.”
That first Blades goal came from forward Logan Harland, a 17-year-old from Frenchman Butte, Sask.,  who was in the lineup because of injuries. He got the Blades rolling with his first goal this season, at 8:39 of the third, firing a shot off the left wing that sailed past Cheveldave’s trapper.
The Blades were without five regulars, including injured centre Shane McColgan, their second-leading scorer, and defenceman Duncan Siemens, a first-round selection by the Colorado Avalanche in the NHL’s 2011 draft. Siemens, 19, flew out of Kamloops yesterday to be with his ailing father, Errol, in Sherwood Park, Alta.
Four minutes after Harland scored, it was 2-2. Kamloops winger Cole Ully thought he had Matej Stransky covered in the neutral zone, but the Saskatoon veteran tripped him up, a move that created all kinds of room on the right side, and he was able to rip a shot past Cheveldave.
“We just laid right back. We didn’t shut them down after getting a two-goal lead,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said. “When things don’t go well . . . there’s going to be nights when you’re not going to score. When we won those games, we couldn’t do anything wrong. Now it’s not going in.”
Since enjoying a 14-game winning streak, the Blazers are 3-6-1.
“If we want to continue to win and get back to winning consistently,” Charron continued, “we have to play defence much better. They had two goals tonight when it was one invidivudal versus three or four of our guys. We’re there in position but we don’t do anything about it.
“If you want to win in any league, you have to learn how to check.”
Charron said he and associate coach Dave Hunchak continue to work on the defensive game in practices.
But, Charron added, “the players have to commit themselves to it. Right now we’re not committed to playing defence. We’re just committed to being an offensive type of team and it’s catching up to us.”
Charron also was upset with his big line — Colin Smith between Tim Bozon and JC Lipon — for not getting the puck to the Saskatoon net.
“Smitty’s line passes east-west,” Charron stated. “Teams are saying ‘Don’t worry about these guys. Take away the seams. They don’t shoot.’ ”
The coaches, Charron said, have been talking to the players about not passing up scoring chances and shooting the puck more from the high-percentage areas.
“We showed them . . . you can take the horse to the water but you can’t force him to drink,” he added with a shrug.
The Blazers, who got second-period goals from Chase Souto and  Smith, also are going to have learn how to deal with being on the receiving end of physical play, especially if their power play, which was 0-for-6, continues to struggle.
“Our penalty killing was excellent and the reason for that is because (Andrey) Makarov was great in goal for us,” said Lorne Molleken, the Blades’ general manager and head coach.
Makarov finished with 41 saves, including a brilliant right pad save on Smith in the first period and a terrific second-period glove save on Bozon. The Blazers also had a chance at the final buzzer, but Makarov again stoned Bozon.
The Blades came out and were physical and chippy, and the result was a hockey game, that at least for the first 30 minutes, was about as gritty as it gets these days.
It was obvious early that the visitors were wanting to take a pound of flesh from the Blazers big guns, especially Smith and Brendan Ranford.
The result was a number of post-whistle scrums, lots of gloves in faces and the odd stick in the back of the legs.
“We get caught up in that and we addressed it after the second period,” Charron said. “That’s not our identity as a team. If teams know they can have success doing that then we better be ready for it because every team is going to do it.
“And the team (tonight) is not going to do any different.”
That would be the Vancouver Giants, who provide tonight’s oppostion at the ISC. Game time is 7 o’clock.
JUST NOTES: The attendance was 4,764. . . . The Blades were 0-for-5 on the power play. . . . Kamloops F Aaron Macklin didn’t return after the first period. He took a stick while seated on the bench and needed stitches. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. D Darren Dietz, Saskatoon: Best player on the ice and played a lot; 2. Makarov: Owned Bozon; 3. D Sam Grist, Kamloops: Big guy blocked shots and played tough. . . . Ranford picked up his 300th regular-season point when he drew an assist on Souto’s goal. Ranford has played 303 games, all with the Blazers, and his 10th on the all-time scoring list, 12 points behind Zac Boyer. Already this season Ranford has passed Darryl Sydor (274), Robin Bawa (278) and Donnie Kinney (287).

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