Saturday, March 16, 2013
Daily News Sports EditorOne team has 46 victories; the other has 42 losses.
They played like it Friday night at Interior Savings Centre.
The Kamloops Blazers, even with something of a patchwork lineup, dropped the Prince George Cougars 5-2, a decision that ended any hopes the boys from the north had of getting into the WHL playoffs.
The odds were long, but the Cougars (21-42-8), who have been on the road since the night of March 6, did have a shot at the playoffs when this game began.
They needed to beat the Blazers last night and again tonight in Prince George when both teams will conclude their regular-season schedules. At the same time, the Cougars needed the Everett Silvertips to lose each of their three remaining games in regulation time. That would have left the two teams tied for the Western Conference’s last playoff spot and set up a sudden-death play-in game in Everett on Tuesday.
All of that went for naught, though, as the Blazers, playing the elephant to Prince George’s mosquito, easily swatted aside the visitors.
The Blazers (46-20-5) scratched five regulars, including defenceman Joel Edmundson and forwards JC Lipon, Matt Needham and Joe Kornelsen, but not even that could slow them down. With 15-year-old forwards Deven Sideroff of Summerland, who made his WHL debut, and Nick Chyzowski of Kamloops, who played in his third game, seeing ample ice time, the Blazers had little trouble winning this one.
“I thought we played well under the circumstances,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said. “They aren’t easy games to get motivated for . . . you have to have pride in those kinds of situations.
“You’re playing in front of your fans . . . there are scouts in the building . . . we owe it to ourselves to be the kind of team that we were all season.”
Left-winger Tim Bozon, who has struggled with consistency of late, scored two goals and added two assists. He had been pointless in two losses to the Kelowna Rockets after picking up three points in a 6-0 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals.
“This week I tried to work hard in practice. I wanted to be one of the leaders and the hardest-working guy on the ice to get ready for the playoffs,” Bozon said. He added that he spoke with some people from the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him in the third round of the 2012 NHL draft, and also to his father, former NHLer Philippe Bozon. The message Tim heard was “to work hard in practice.”
He felt he did that and was able to carry it over into this game.
“I know I didn’t play my best hockey during the regular season,” added Bozon, who has 88 points in 68 games. “It was our last game at home and everybody wants to make an impression. For me, it was more getting the confidence back for the playoffs. I really want to have a huge playoff to make the team win.”
Centre Brendan Ranford added a goal and two assists for the Blazers, while Chase Souto and Kale Kessy also scored.
Souto’s goal, at 10:45 of the first period, gave the Blazers a 2-0 lead. In scoring, he ended up on top of Prince George goaltender Mac Engel, who left the game and was taken to Royal Inland Hospital with a possible neck injury.
“He turned the wrong way and our guy shoved their guy into him,” explained Cougars head coach Mark Holick. “They’re just being really cautious. I don’t think it’s real serious but you never know.”
Asked via email if Engel would be on the team bus when it headed north, Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson replied: “He will be.”
Engel finished with seven saves on nine shots. Brett Zarowny relieved him and surrendered three goals on 18 shots.
Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave appeared headed for his seventh shutout of the season until the Blazers took a couple of third-period penalties and gave up power-play goals to Ryan Hanes, who was playing his final WHL game in his hometown, and Tanner Lishchynsky.
Hanes was a popular member of the Blazers during his three seasons here. He lost his roster spot in the 20-year-old numbers game prior to the start of this season. His goal resulted in one of the night’s louder reactions, and he got another loud cheer when he saluted the fans with his stick at game’s end.
“It was definitely cool,” Hanes said. “The fans here are unbelievable. I can’t say enough about them.”
Hanes will be returning home Monday and it sounds as though he will be in attendance when the Blazers begin the playoffs against the visiting Victoria Royals on Friday.
“You’re going to meet a new Blazers fan in the playoffs,” a grinning Hanes said.
JUST NOTES: The attendance was 5,442. . . . Ranford wore a full cage after having had some dental work done this week. . . . Hanes said he plans on attending university in the fall; he just doesn’t yet know where. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Bozon: Looking like old self; 2. Ranford: Dipsy doodle dandy; 3. F Colin Smith, Kamloops: Two assists and always around the net. . . . Prior to the game, the Blazers handed out their regular-season individual awards with Smith, who has 105 points, being saluted as the most valuable player. . . . The Blazers also honoured Ranford for having broken the franchise’s career games played record and saluted the three 20-year-olds — F Dylan Willick, Kessy and Ranford — who were playing their final regular-season home games.
Individual awards handed out by the Blazers prior to Friday’s game:
Most improved player — Ryan Rehill, Cole Ully.
Diamond in the rough — Jordan Thomson.
Three-star award — Colin Smith.
Best defenceman — Joel Edmundson.
Most dedicated player — Brendan Ranford, Colin Smith.
Community involvement — Tyler Hansen, Taran Kozun.
Grinder of the year — JC Lipon, Chase Souto.
Excellence in hockey and education — Matt Needham.
Rookie of the year — Taran Kozun.
Unsung hero award — Tyler Hansen, Matt Needham.
Inspirational leadership — Tyler Hansen, Dylan Willick.
Top scorer — Colin Smith.
Most valuable player — Colin Smith.
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