|Everett goaltender Austin Lotz had his eyes on the puck Wednesday night in Kamloops.|
(Christopher Mast / Mastimages.com)
Daily News Sports Editor
In the end, Cole Ully and the Kamloops Blazers won the battle.
But, when the smoke had cleared, all Ully and his teammates could do was tip their hats to Austin Lotz, the goaltender for the WHL’s Everett Silvertips.
Lotz stopped a franchise-record 65 shots on Wednesday night, only to lose the game 4-3
“He played amazing and he deserved it,” Ully said following practice at Interior Savings Centre on Thursday. “But it was great to get the win.”
Early in overtime, the Blazers had fired 68 shots at Lotz and had but three goals to show for it. But then Ully was upended while on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot.
Asked about the last time he had taken a penalty shot, the 17-year-old from Calgary responded: “A while ago. . . . I can’t even remember.”
A left-hand shot, Ully deked to his backhand and lifted the winning goal over a sprawling Lotz.
“You kind of just know what you’re going to do,” Ully said, “and don’t really think about missing. You just try to bury one.”
As for that particular move, he said: “I’ve done it a few times. I’ve done it a couple of times this season and it worked so I went with it again.”
It worked, too. And, as veteran defenceman Tyler Hansen said when it was over: “We couldn’t score any other way, so we might as well win it on a penalty shot.”
That was Ully’s 16th goal this season and his second of the game. It gave him his third straight two-point game. He also has two points in four of his last five outings and 10 points in a six-game point streak.
He will be trying to keep that streak alive tonight as the Blazers play host to the Prince Albert Raiders. Game time at ISC is 7 o’clock. The Raiders opened a five-game B.C. Division swing with a 3-2 victory over the Cougars in Prince George on Wednesday.
Despite the fact they went into OT against Everett, the Blazers will be hoping for a similar effort tonight. They know that such an onslaught will lead to goals sooner or later.
“After the first period, (we were) a little bit frustrated,” Ully admitted, “but we didn’t panic or anything. Having 30 shots in a period and no goals hurts. But we played well. We just said, ‘Don’t change anything and it’ll come.’
“It did . . . getting three in the second.”
Lotz, meanwhile, left Kamloops on Thursday with one memory other than his night’s work.
The 17-year-old from St. Adolphe, Man., had been greeted by a standing ovation when he skated out onto the ice surface to acknowledge his selection as the game’s third star.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that on a road game,” Lotz said. “I’ve never really been cheered on like that. It’s something I’ll probably never forget. It was a pretty cool moment.”
Lotz got off to a great start by turning aside 29 first-period shots and allowing his teammates to go into the intermission with a 2-0 lead. In 11 of his appearances this season, Lotz didn’t see 29 shots in an entire game.
“It was pretty interesting,” he said with a rueful chuckle.
As the game wore on and as the shot total mounted, he admitted to fighting fatigue as much as he was battling the Blazers.
How fatigued was he?
“Very fatigued,” he responded. “I was pretty exhausted come the third period. It’s something you just have to battle through. Guys go through it every night, there are guys out there blocking shots . . . there are so many things that the guys did out there that go unrecognized because the thing I did is on a score clock.”
What he did was break a Silvertips’ record that was set by Kent Simpson, who made 55 saves while giving up two goals in a 3-1 loss to the Winterhawks in Portland on Jan. 6, 2012.
Lotz also was the Silvertips’ best penalty killer, as the Blazers were held without a power-play goal despite having 12 opportunities. Only the Medicine Hat Tigers have scored more PP goals (55) than the Blazers (53), but that didn’t matter to Lotz.
“They have a pretty intimidating power play; they’ve got lots of skill up front,” Lotz said. “You have to try not to think about that. You have to remember that they are pretty nifty but, at the same time, you have to get in front of that puck and stay calm and follow it as much as you can.”
On nights like these, he said, “You have to have no mind out there. Just go out there and have fun. Know that your one job is to stop the puck and that’s all you have to do.”
Which is pretty much what he did on this night.
JUST NOTES: Ully has career highs in goals, assists (17) and points (33). If you take out his November games, when he had three points in 11 outings as he tried unsuccessfully to play through what turned out to be mononucleosis, he is a point-a-game player. . . . Kamloops head coach Guy Charron celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday. He was greeted at practice’s end with a whipped-cream pie in the face, courtesy of a few courageous players. . . . Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave is expected to start his second straight game tonight, while D Sam Grist, who didn’t practise yesterday, should play. Grist was given what associate coach Dave Hunchak called “a maintenance day.” . . . The Blazers (31-14-5) are four points behind the B.C. Division-leading Kelowna Rockets (34-10-3), who will be here on Monday. . . . The Raiders (28-15-4) lead the East Division by nine points over the Swift Current Broncos. The Raiders won 21 games all of last season as they missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
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