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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Blazers break Broncos' hearts

Goaltender Cole Cheveldave of the Kamloops Blazers gave his team a chance
to win with two big saves in the third period of Tuesday's game against
the Swift Current Broncos.

(Kamloops Daily News file photo)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
It would have been understandable had Cole Cheveldave been so stiff that he was slow to react.
After all, there was less than 10 minutes left in the game and he had yet to see a shot in the third period.
But the Kamloops goaltender, his club down 1-0, pulled his teammates’ behinds out of the fire with two brilliant saves and the Blazers came back with two late goals to beat the Swift Current Broncos 2-1 in a WHL game played Tuesday night at Interior Savings Centre.
The victory allowed the Blazers, who had lost their previous two games, to improve to 22-7-3 and remain tied with the Portland Winterhawks (23-4-1) atop the overall standings. The Winterhawks overcame a 4-1 deficit last night and beat the visiting Everett Silvertips, 7-5.
Swift Current (12-14-5), which plays the Rockets in Kelowna tonight, was trying to run out the clock on its 1-0 lead when Kamloops defenceman Tyler Hansen was penalized for hooking at 10:09 of the third period.
Just 13 seconds later, Cheveldave got a glove on a shot by centre Adam Lowry and, moments later, came across his crease and stoned winger Ryon Moser.
“That’s what makes a good hockey team,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said. “He wasn’t busy at all . . . we don’t give up 10 scoring chances, where is he going to get busy? But he did have to make the saves on that last power play and he did the job.”
Those were two of only four shots that Cheveldave would see over the last 20 minutes. He finished the game with 15 saves.
“I stay in the game by talking and everybody in the buiding can probably hear me,” said Cheveldave, who now is 17-5-1. “It keeps me in the game. It keeps my mind warm and that’s what goes first. If my mind’s warm, I’m warm.”
While his teammates sometimes showed signs of frustration with their inability to beat Broncos goaltender Eetu Laurikainen, Cheveldave kept his cool.
“I just have to worry about my job,” Cheveldave said. “If the puck isn’t not going in we just have to keep playing and eventually it’ll bounce our way. That’s what happened tonight.
“If I get frustrated, I probably don’t make that save and we would have been down 2-0.”
Unfortunately for the Broncos, the 19-year-old sophomore made that save twice and the Blazers got two late goals, from centre Colin Smith and defenceman Sam Grist, to win it.
Smith, from right on top of the Finnish goaltender, moved the puck from skate to stick and redirected it enough that it just got inside a post and barely over the goal line. The goal, at 18:11, went to video review, where it was upheld. That review also allowed Smith’s line, which includes Tim Bozon and JC Lipon, to catch its breath.
The Blazers made a quick change one faceoff later to get Smith’s line back out there. And Bozon and Lipon drew assists on Grist’s third goal, a shot from the point at 18:47 that was just under the crossbar.
“Absolutely,” Smith responded when it was suggested that Cheveldave had turned the game around with those saves. “That one save (on Moser) gave everyone on the bench and in the building a lift that we needed.
“Goals were tough from our end and we needed a stop there, and that was the turning point. We were able to get momentum and were finally able to generate some offence.”
As the third period wound down, the Broncos were just hanging on. They had arrived in Kamloops on Sunday evening, while the Blazers were dropping a 3-1 decision to the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., so were well rested. But their cause wasn’t helped when they lost two forwards — Josh Derko in the first period and Levi Bews in the second — with leg injuries. Both were taken to Royal Inland Hospital.
“I don’t think it looks very good,” offered Mark Lamb, the Broncos’ general manager and head coach, adding that both are “pretty big players” in his scheme of things.
“Still,” he added, “I thought the guys played hard and left it all out there. We just didn’t have enough.”
Laurikainen, who leaves Sunday for Finland and the country’s national junior team, almost had more than enough, especially in the first period when he stopped 11 shots, including three big-league saves on a late power play.
“If we play like that I think more times than not we are going to be successful,” Smith said.
Smith, who was stung Monday when he was invited to the national junior team’s selection camp, played well.
“I think emotionally I’m over it,” he said, “but I think it’s something that is going to stick in the back of my head for quite some time.”
JUST NOTES: The attendance was announced at 3,975 but there weren’t nearly that many people in the arena. . . . Lipon, who had two assists, now leads the WHL with 57 points, one more than Smith. The two are tied for the WHL lead in goals, with 22. . . . The Broncos were 1-for-3 on the power play; the Blazers were 0-for-5 and now are 2-for-31 over their last seven games. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Cheveldave: Really did give  his team a chance to win; 2. Laurikainen: Ditto; 3. D Dillon Heatherington, Swift Current: Bright future. . . . Ryan Gibbons, one of last night’s linesmen, played five seasons (2001-06) with the Seattle Thunderbirds. He works out of Vancouver. . . . The Blazers are home again Friday, this time against the Prince George Cougars.

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