Monday, December 31, 2012

Blazers work 9-to-5 in beating Giants

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

Tim Bozon knew that he needed to do something to make amends.
After making an egregious error that almost cost his side a goal — and almost bought him a spot on the bench for a shift or two — the 18-year-old sophomore went out and scored his third goal of the game, one that got the Kamloops Blazers back on track to what was a wild 9-5 WHL victory over the Vancouver Giants at Interior Savings Centre on Saturday night.
“Oh yeah . . . oh yeah. For sure,” said Kamloops head coach Guy Charron when asked if he thought about benching Bozon after the poor pass. “There’s no doubt if we had full personnel . . .”
The Blazers, who led 4-1 after one period, were clinging to a 6-5 lead  at 11:50 of the second period when Bozon, from the left-wing boards, blindly tossed the puck into the middle of the Vancouver zone near the blue line. Like a thief in the night, Vancouver forward Anthony Ast stole away and went in alone on goaltender Taran Kozun, only to be stymied by a terrific glove save.
“I was trying to do a little bit too much,” Bozon explained. “I thought I had had a good period and I wanted to keep it going. I had a good shift before that pass.
“It was a great save by Kozun. He helped me. I’ll have to thank him for that big save. I wanted to repay that.”
A smiling Bozon then added: “I might (buy him lunch).”
Two shifts later, Bozon repaid Kozun by zipping a shot past Vancouver goaltender Tyler Fuhr’s catching mitt for his 24th goal this season.
“In those circumstances,” Charron said, “you have to bring (the error) to his attention and you hope that he grasps what you’re telling him. You need that kind of player on the ice.”
Bozon, who led the Blazers with 36 goals last season, recorded his second career hat trick, both coming this season. He also had an assist Saturday, giving him 53 points in 39 games.
The Blazers tightened the screws defensively after Bozon’s third goal and scored the only two goals of the third period — one of those coming from right-winger Cole Ully, who enjoyed his first career three-goal game — to win going away.
The victory allowed the Blazers (26-10-4) to end a four-game losing streak, although they didn’t do it convincingly. The Giants (10-27-0) lost for the seventh time in eight games and have the WHL’s poorest record.
The Blazers, who remain second in the Western Conference, seven points behind the high-flying Portland Winterhawks (31-5-1), are to play in Vancouver on Wednesday, then return home to face the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday.
Ully, meanwhile, may have been the best player on the ice in his second game back after a bout with mononucleosis. He had only three points, two of them goals, in 11 November games as he tried to play through the illness.
“I didn’t feel that bad but obviously mono is tough,” the 17-year-old Calgarian said. “I was sick for a couple of weeks, trying to play through it. You’re tired and you get tired quick and practices are really hard.”
Ully now has 11 goals in 30 games, two more than he scored in 55 games last season. He also has 19 points, one shy of last season’s total.
“We needed people to step up and maybe the rest did him some good,” Charron said. “He played pretty well tonight.”
The Blazers, who were 5-for-8 on the power play, also got a big effort from Chase Souto, who skated in JC Lipon’s spot — he’s at the World Junior Championship — on the right side with Bozon and centre Colin Smith. Souto finished with a goal and three assists. The 18-year-old Californian had never had more than two assists or two points in any of his previous 141 games.
Smith scored once, leaving him tied for the WHL lead in goals (27) with Todd Fiddler of the Spokane Chiefs. Smith also leads the WHL in assists (38) and points (65). Brendan Ranford also scored for Kamloops, which got three assists from each of defenceman Sam Grist and forward Matt Needham.
The Giants, who had scored just seven goals in their previous five games, got three goals from forward Jackson Houck and singles from Cain Franson and Tristan Sieben.
“That’s not what we want,” Ully said of his club having allowed five goals. “Nine is good but we can’t be letting in five like that.”
Bozon agreed.
“Scoring nine goals is great,” he said. “We haven’t done that for a long time. But 12 goals against in the last two games . . . we have to work on this.
“For sure, we’re not disciplined with our structure and . . . we have to be better one-on-one.”
For the second game in a row, Charron changed goaltenders in mid-stream. Starter Cole Cheveldave gave up six goals on 23 shots in a 7-3 loss to the Rockets in Kelowna on Thursday. On Saturday, he was beaten four times on 12 shots.
“I hate to point a finger,” Charron said, “but goaltending isn’t up to par, and we aren’t protecting him as well as we should. When your goaltender is struggling . . . you have to be more stable defensively. Even though it wasn’t one of his better games, the opportunities we gave them were far too good.”
Kozun came on at 6:18 of the second period, immediately after Houck’s third goal left the Blazers with a 5-4 lead, and stopped nine of 10 shots, none bigger than the save on Ast.
Fuhr, who was making only his second start since Nov. 18, stopped 29 shots.
JUST NOTES: The attendance was 5,563. . . . Kamloops D Tyler Hansen, who has been ill, went to the dressing room with one minute left in the second period. “It became more serious and doctors said it would be better if he didn’t go out for third period,” Charron said. . . . The Blazers last scored nine goals on March 16 when they beat the Cougars 10-4 in Prince George. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Ully: Three goals and a presence; 2. Souto: Fit in on top line; 3. Kozun: One save changed the momentum. . . . Kamloops F Dylan Willick, who has been out since Nov. 2 with a broken ankle, took the pregame warmup Saturday but didn’t play. He likely will play Wednesday. . . . With G Payton Lee, 16, at the U17 World Hockey Challenge with Team Pacific and G Liam Liston, 19, having retired earlier in the week, the Giants had Alex Ahnert, 19, of the junior B Delta Ice Hawks backing up Fuhr.

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