By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Laurent Brossoit, the WHL grapevine said, was off to a slow start. He isn’t playing as well as he did last season, they said.
After Tuesday night, you would have a hard time convincing the Kamloops Blazers of that.
Brossoit, the Edmonton Oil Kings’ goaltender, stopped 31 shots, including 14 in the first period, as the WHL’s defending champions got past the Kamloops Blazers 2-1 at Interior Savings Centre. It was the Blazers’ first loss at home in nine games this season.
The Blazers, of course, have been hotter than a pistol, running out to a 17-2-1 record and leading the WHL’s overall standings by eight points over the Portland Winterhawks.
The Oil Kings, meanwhile, have been sputtering along, or so one might believe from their press clippings. But here they are tied for the Eastern Conference lead with the Calgary Hitmen, each club at 11-4-3.
“Statistically, I’m not up to par compared to last season,” admitted Brossoit, a 19-year-old from Surrey who was 42-13-5, 2.47, .914 last season. “But I’m feeling good and I’m being realistic when I’m watching video to see what I need to do to stop the goals that are going in. I don’t think the goals that are going in are top goals.
“But as long as I make the key saves, I really couldn’t care less if my stats are good.”
This season, he is 8-1-3, 2.62, .904.
And he definitely made the key saves in this one as the Oil Kings won for the sixth time in seven games. The victory also avenged a 5-4 shootout loss to the visiting Blazers on Oct. 17.
Brossoit said the Blazers’ quick start also provided Edmonton with some incentive.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of hype over the Blazers right now . . . they’re having a hell of a season,” he said. “That kind of motivated us even more.
“That was a bitter loss in our building. We could have won that one. I’m just glad we came back strong and won tonight.”
Brossoit, as is often the case with good teams, also proved to be his side’s best penalty killer. Edmonton’s PK is the best in the WHL and it shut down the Blazers’ power play, which is ranked No. 2, on five opportunities, three of them in the first period when the home boys had a 14-10 edge in shots.
What hurt the Blazers even more was that Edmonton scored both its goals in the opening period.
First, Mitchell Moroz beat Cole Cheveldave off a centring pass just 21 seconds into the game.
Then, at 13:58, Henrik Samuelsson, who has a chunk of his father Ulf’s game in him, skated out of a corner on an Edmonton power play and put a backhand over Cheveldave.
“Giving up a goal on the first shift . . . you never want to do that to start a hockey game,” bemoaned Kamloops head coach Guy Charron. “Then they got a power-play goal . . .”
Cheveldave, who finished with 24 saves, had a good night, although he likely would want Samuelsson’s goal back. Still, he kept his mates in it in the second period when they gave up 15 shots and, according to Charron, 10 scoring chances.
The Blazers turned over a lot of pucks between the top of the circles and the blue-line in their zone. That resulted in their having to play in their zone far more than they would have liked.
“I thought we got in trouble when we used the wall way too much . . . more than what we need to,” Charron said. “In our own zone you have to make sure you make the short passes and have someone available for the (defencemen) and that’s how you get your transition. It was scattered for awhile and they’re a quick team so they were on the puck a lot and they made it difficult in our end.”
Brossoit took his shutout bid into the second half of the third period before he was beaten at 12:53 when Brendan Ranford re-directed a Marek Hrbas point shot through him.
But the Blazers couldn’t get another one. They now have scored only two regulation-time goals in their last three games during which time Colin Smith, JC Lipon and Tim Bozon, their big line, don’t have even one point.
“The concern I have is looking for secondary scoring,” Charron stated. “Those thee guys have been leading the league. They’re going to have a checking lines against them. I would like to see more secondary scoring right now.”
The search will continue on the road this weekend. The Blazers will head into the U.S. Division to play the Spokane Chiefs (Friday), Tri-City Americans (Saturday) and Portland (Sunday). Kamloops next plays at home on Nov. 16 against Portland.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,586. . . . Bozon ended up with a game misconduct following a dustup with Edmonton D Keegan Lowe at the final buzzer. That penalty apparently followed a spitting incident that is sure to be looked into by the WHL office. . . . Edmonton F Dylan Wruck extended his point streak to eight games with an assist. . . . The Oil Kings were 1-for-3 on the power play. . . . Edmonton plays the Rockets in Kelowna tonight. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Brossoit: Was in the right zone; 2. Samuelsson: Plays with an edge; 2. Foster; 3. Hrbas: Another solid night. . . . The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers had some of their braintrust here last night, including Kevin Lowe, the president of hockey operations; Craig MacTavish, the senior vice-president of hockey operations; and assistant coach Kelly Buchberger.
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