Saturday April 19, 2014






Blazers take bite out of Tigers

Kamloops dominates in victory over Medicine Hat
Murray Mitchell

Goaltender Cole Cheveldave and the Kamloops Blazers had almost all the answers in beating the Medicine Hat Tigers 4-1 on Saturday night at Interior Savings Centre.

Guy Charron played hurt on the weekend.

Just don't ask the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers if he had ribs for Thanksgiving dinner.

Charron took a puck in the ribs in practice more than a week ago, but a couple of weekend victories, the latest by a 4-1 count over the Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday night at Interior Savings Centre, had him feeling better on Monday.

After being struck by the puck, Charron actually felt OK. But a couple of nights later he was having trouble sleeping and, while wrestling with a pillow, heard a POP!

It was the snapping of a rib. Apparently, the puck had softened the rib to the point where the tossing and turning in bed was enough for it to break.

Of late, though, Charron has been sleeping like a baby.

That's what coaching a WHL team that is 5-0-1 will do for you, especially after a pair of weekend victories in which your guys were convincingly better than the other guys.

On Friday, the Blazers beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, 7-2. The Thunderbirds, the WHL's biggest team, had problems with the Blazers' speed. The Blazers caused havoc in Seattle's zone, with the Thunderbirds' defenders spending a lot of time chasing their tails.

On Saturday, it was much the same story. According to the blog Small Thoughts At Large, which charts these things, the Tigers' defencemen are second only to Seattle in terms of size. And the Blazers gave them fits all night.

"We gave up 13 scoring chances," Charron said on Monday evening. "Five of them were on the power play and four of them on the rush. We played a good game.

"We didn't generate as much as we would have liked but we didn't get a lot of power plays. Our chances were off the rush and from offensive zone play, which is the strength of our team."

The Blazers' play in the Tigers' zone was especially solid.

"We found it very difficult to get out of our own end at times," Shaun Clouston, the Tigers' general manager and head coach, told Darren Steinke of the Medicine Hat News. "We finally got things going a little bit later in the third."

The Blazers got a nine-point night from their top line, as centre Colin Smith and wingers Tim Bozon and JC Lipon each picked up three points.

Lipon scored twice, the last one into an empty net, and actually vaulted into a tie for the WHL points lead, with 12. Smith drew three assists, giving him 11 points in the early season, while Bozon had a goal and two helpers. He has 10 points, five of them goals.

The other goal came from freshman defenceman Jordan Thomson, who may have provided fans with a glimpse of things to come. He had struggled on Friday, as did others on the back end, but the Kamloops defenders, led by sophomore Tyler Bell, who was terrific, were much improved against the Tigers.

"When we know we had a difficult game that way," Charron said, "we address it as much as possible the next day. That's why it's good not to play back-to-back."

The Blazers spent their second straight weekend without veteran Tyler Hansen (concussion). However, Hansen, who was injured on Sept. 22, has been cleared to return. He skated on Monday, but without contact. He is unlikely to play Wednesday, but may be back Friday.

"It's not his injury," Charron said. "It's more conditioning."

The Blazers were off Sunday and then got down to the work of preparing for two more home games. They will entertain the Victoria Royals on Wednesday night, with the Spokane Chiefs here Friday.

The Royals won two of three on the weekend, including their third straight victory over the Vancouver Giants. With all of that the Royals (6-2-0) lead the Western Conference by one point over the Blazers.

JUST NOTES: Attendance on Saturday was 4,372. . . . Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave stopped 21 shots, while Medicine Hat's Dawson MacAuley turned aside 33. . . . Thomson's goal was his first of the season and second of his career. He scored once in a 6-3 loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Dec. 30. That was during a four-game stay after Christmas. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Bell: Took charge in own zone; 2. Lipon: Physical, feisty, a force; 3. Thomson: Composed, and a goal. . . . Lipon was named the WHL's player of the week after he put up seven points in the Blazers' two games. . . . D Austin Madaisky is one of 10 defencemen on the roster of the Springfield Falcons, who open the AHL regular season on Friday.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca

gdrinnan.blogspot.com

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