By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
In his role as a power forward/enforcer in the WHL, you can bet that Kale Kessy’s countenance has experienced its share of black eyes and cuts, bruises and gouges.
But never has the Kamloops Blazers winger come out of a game with an angry-looking red ring around his neck like the one that was on display for the world to see late Tuesday night.
“I’ve definitely never had a mark on my throat,” Kessy said after he scored two goals and set up two others in a 6-0 victory over the Victoria Royals at Interior Savings Centre. “The guy didn’t even ask me to fight.”
“The guy” was Victoria forward Tim Traber, a 19-year-old from Quesnel who has six points and 136 penalty minutes in 53 games.
“He just came out and choked me out,” said Kessy, who now has 22 points, including 10 goals, and 42 penalty minutes in 27 games since the Blazers acquired the 20-year-old from the Vancouver Giants. “I kind of woke up on their bench. It was definitely kind of a coward move by him but . . . he’s better off on the ice and we’re just happy with the two points. We need him on the ice. He’s not a threat to us.”
(Keep in mind that WHL’s individual penalty minutes don’t include misconducts or game misonducts.)
The Blazers blasted the Royals in this one, outshooting them 33-14, scoring the game’s only goals and handing them their 10th straight loss.
With four games remaining, the Blazers (45-18-5) have closed to within one point of the idle Kelowna Rockets, who lead the B.C. Division and hold two games in hand. Kelowna is at home to the Royals tonight, then will be in Kamloops on Friday. The Blazers and Rockets then will meet in Kelowna on Saturday night.
Should the Blazers not catch the Rockets, Kamloops will be the Western Conference’s No. 3 seed, meaning a first-round matchup with the Royals (32-27-6), who are locked into sixth place.
Predictably, with this perhaps being a playoff preview and with one team being routed, things turned a bit nasty in the third period as the Royals lost any semblance of self-discipline and self-immolated.
In fact, for a while there it was like back in the day as Kamloops assistant coach Ed Patterson took part in a yapping and finger-pointing exercise with Victoria assistant Ben Cooper and athletic therapist Khore Elliott.
“That was ugly,” offered Victoria assistant coach Enio Sacilotto and that summed up the Royals’ effort in this one.
It was at 3:22 of the third period when things began to get goofy. Before those shenanigans had ended, Kessy was face down in a gate leading to the Victoria bench and, as it turned out, Traber, who was on top of him, had pulled his sweater hard enough that “he choked me out,” Kessy said.
“(Kessy) was out on their bench,” Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave stated. “He was right out!”
There was more silliness as the period progressed. Victoria defenceman Keegan Kanzig finished the night with two minor penalties, a major, a misconduct and a game misconduct. That adds up to 29 minutes, but because, as mentioned, the WHL doesn’t count misconducts in individual totals, he will be credited with only nine minutes.
“To be honest with you,” Kamloops head coach Guy Charron stated, “I don’t know what their strategy was. Our strategy was not to get involved with them at all.
“Maybe they were trying to draw (Kessy) into something that would draw a suspension but we did not need that from any of our guys.”
At game’s end, the Royals had taken 108 of 156 penalty minutes. The Royals were 0-for-3 on the power play, while the Blazers were 1-for-9, but in the third period Charron had his third- and fourth-liners out with the man advantage.
Kamloops centre Colin Smith had a goal and two assists, as did left-winger Tim Bozon and defenceman Sam Grist.
Smith improved his point total to 103. He is the first Kamloops skater with more than 100 points since Erik Christensen won the WHL scoring title with 104 in 2002-03.
Bozon, who had gone eight games without a goal and went into the game with one score in 13 games, notched No. 33.
It seems that Smith, Bozon and Kessy are finding some chemistry.
“I’m just trying to play my game,” Kessy said. “Just playing simple . . . not doing too much . . . not trying to be too fancy with two really good skilled guys. They’re definitely fun to play with. They make it easy for me.”
Winger JC Lipon added his 35th goal, getting the game’s first goal on a one-timer from the slot, which is turning into his private parking lot.
As for Cheveldave, well, it’s doubtful he has ever had an easier shutout. He stopped 14 shots, including three in the first period and five in the third.
“I’ll take that every night,” he said, after putting up his sixth shutout this season and the 10th of his career. He also blanked the visiting Rockets 3-0 on Sunday night, making him the first Kamloops goaltender with back-to-back shutouts since he did it to the Prince George Cougars, beating them 5-0 and 2-0 on Jan. 1 and 6, 2012.
Last season, the Blazers swept the Royals from a first-round series.
Asked if the Blazers delivered a message last night, just in case there is another first-round pairing in the stars, Cheveldave said: “Yeah.”
Then he paused and said it again.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 5,327. . . . This was the second four-point game of Kessy’s career. He had one earlier this season while with Vancouver. . . . The Royals are 3-8-2 since veteran Russian F Alex Gogolev was injured. He is their leading scorer and they hope to have him back prior to next weekend’s final regular-season games. . . . Gogolev was one of six injured Royals to be scratched. The walking wounded also includes D Tyler Stahl, the team captain. . . . The Blazers won the season series with the Royals, 4-2-2. Of course, with loser points, the Royals can say they were 4-4-0. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Kessy: Net presence; 2. Grist: Offensive force; 3. D Tyler Hansen, Kamloops: Strong, silent type. . . . The Blazers have added F Nick Chyzowski, 15, to their roster for the remainder of the season. A second-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, he had 27 points, including 19 goals, with the major midget Thompson Blazers, whose season is over. Chyzowski is the son of former Blazers F Dave Chyzowski, who is the team’s director of sales and marketing.
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