Monday, September 24, 2012

Blazers banged up and 2-and-0

The Kamloops Blazers, wearing their latest third jerseys, celebrate Friday's
6-5 overtime victory over the visiting Kelowna Rockets. The Blazers
beat the Rockets 3-2 in Kelowna on Saturday night.

(Doyle Potenteau / DubNation)
By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

Guy Charron, the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, never went to medical school.
But you couldn’t fault him if he spent Sunday studying Gray’s Anatomy or on his laptop at WebMD.com.
After all, Charron’s Blazers may be 2-0 but they are without starting goaltender Cole Cheveldave and their shutdown defensive pairing of Tyler Bell and Tyler Hansen.
Despite the adversity and despite trailing 2-0 heading into the third period on Saturday night in Kelowna, the Blazers came back to beat the Rockets, 3-2, on a late power-play goal by Matt Needham. One night earlier, the Blazers twice coughed up two-goal leads before scoring a 6-5 overtime victory over the Rockets.
Cheveldave and Bell both went down Friday night and neither played in the rematch.
Cheveldave suffered what is believed to be a knee injury when he was run into by Kelowna forward Colton Sissons in the second period. The sophomore goaltender is to be re-evaluated Wednesday.
“Cheveldave is better than first expected,” Charron stated.
Bell left in the first period with a knee injury after taking a hit from behind from Kelowna forward Henrik Nyberg. Bell was in for some treatments on Sunday and is thought to be the least-injured of the trio.
Hansen left Saturday’s game on a stretcher and was taken to hospital after becoming involved in some incidental contact and falling head-first into the boards. X-rays were taken, but all came back negative. He was released from hospital before midnight and returned to Kamloops with Blazers goaltender coach Dan De Palma.
Hansen met with trainer Colin Robinson on Sunday and then was to see a doctor. Hansen is expected to be checked for concussion today.
“Hansen . . . wasn’t hit from behind,” Charron explained. “It was a collision or contact from behind and could have been worse than what it is. From what we could see, it was accidental . . . just a freaky thing.”
The Blazers don’t play again until Friday when they meet the Royals (2-0) in Victoria. Bell may be the closest of the three to playing, but at this point, as Charron said, “We don’t know.”
What he does know is that his team is proving that it is never out of a game.
Twice in the exhibition season, the Blazers won games after being down three goals.
On Saturday, the Rockets took a 2-0 lead on goals by Zach Franko, at 13:10 of the first period, and Slovakian Filip Vasko, at 14:21 of the second. Vasko, a sophomore forward who was scratched on Friday, scored his first WHL goal after going goal-less in 51 games last season.
“Our concern,” Charron said, “was let’s make sure they don’t get the third one.”
In the third period, he said, “We went after them. The third period was our best period. Realistically, they only had two scoring chances in the third period. We dominated the third period pretty well and it allowed us to come back.”
The Blazers outshot their hosts 14-4 in the third period and had the period’s only three goals.
Dylan Willick got the Blazers rolling at 5:23 of the third period, with Brendan Ranford tying it at 9:38.
Kelowna’s Colton Heffley was penalized for roughing at 17:56, and Needham got the winner, his second goal in two games, at 19:27. Needham was alone at the top of the crease when Colin Smith found him with a centring pass out of a corner.
The Blazers, who were 3-for-11 on the power play one night earlier, were 1-for-2 this time.
“We’re a team that it’ll be tough to put us completely out of a game,” Charron said. “We have the ability to come back.”
Kamloops goaltender Taran Kozun, 18, stopped 27 shots in earning his third WHL victory. He was 1-1 last season when he was assigned to the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks.
“He played well,” Charron said. “He made some good saves. He looked in control. He was controlling his rebounds. He covered when he need to.”
Charron also had kind words for Kelowna goaltender Jordon Cooke, who also made 27 saves.
“He made some real good saves,” Charron said. “This guy was unbelievable.”

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