Sunday July 13, 2014






Blazers' big line comes through in big victory

Before Friday's WHL game at Interior Savings Centre, right-winger Mitch Holmberg of the Spokane Chiefs tweeted a bit of trash in the direction of Kamloops Blazers centre Colin Smith.

"Game on shaw tonight battle between 2 @quantumspeed players. Who's gunna be the better one? @C_Smith_9 battle of the blades #votes #watch it" is how it went.

Well, Holmberg did just fine, scoring three times, but Smith more than one-upped him with a goal and four assists, including his 250th career regular-season point (in his 254th game), as the Blazers skated to a 7-4 victory at Interior Savings Centre.

"We're real good friends," Smith said. "We went to school together and we played summer hockey together."

Smith, from Edmonton, and Holmberg, from Sherwood Park, also work together in the offseason at Quantum Speed in Edmonton.

This was Smith's second career five-point game - he also had a goal and four assists in a 6-4 victory over the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Nov. 18. This season, Smith has 35 goals and 50 assists, the exact career-high totals he put up in 72 games last season.

Smith had a different linemate last night, too, as head coach Guy Charron, disappointed with the work of Smith, Tim Bozon and JC Lipon in Wednesday's 5-2 loss in Portland, shuffled his deck.

"That line was minus-12 in Portland," Charron said. "They're a good line, they play well together, but that doesn't mean that we can't make changes."

Last night, then, Charron inserted Kale Kessy in Lipon's spot, with Lipon moving over to play the right wing with Brendan Ranford and Dylan Willick.

The result was that Smith and Bozon, who had two goals and two assists, really simplified their games, more often taking the puck directly to the net, rather than playing a passing game.

Kessy, known more for his power game, finished with two goals, both on the power play, and three assists, giving him his first five-point outing in his 235th career game. (On Nov. 3, he had four points, including three assists, while with Vancouver as the Giants beat the host Kootenay Ice, 6-3.)

With a little more finish, Kessy, who has 14 goals, might have scored five or six times. He was around the net all game and the puck seemed to find him.

"Kess is a complement to any line," Charron said. "He's a big forward who goes to the net. That line at times . . . gets a little too cute. With Kess on that line, I know that their frame of mind changes a little bit because he doesn't look for tic-tac-toes. He goes to one place and that's the front of the net so it forces these guys to shoot the puck more."

Smith wasn't about to disagree.

Kessy "was great," he said. "He was great. He was holding pucks on the wall, and he was eating up a lot of space. We didn't try as much off the rush. We just got it there."

Lipon, meanwhile, also had a strong game and scored his 26th goal.

"I thought Lipon played one of his better games," Charron said. "He did the things he needed to do. Playing with Ranford and Willick . . . that should be a pretty solid line, too."

Defenceman Jordan Thomson, getting extra ice time with Joel Edmundson starting a four-game suspension, also scored and was especially good on the power play.

"I love the fact that he shot the puck on the power play," Charron said, noting that Thomson scored on one shot and had Kessy redirect another shot for a goal. "Sometimes the power play is pretty simple. Somebody goes to the net, somebody shoots the puck."

The Blazers ended up with four PP goals in six attempts, so things worked pretty well.

Still, Charron wasn't completely pleased with the night's proceedings.

Of late, whenever Smith's line stumbled, it seemed that Matt Needham, Chase Souto and Cole Ully were there to pick up the slack. It wasn't like that in this one.

"We're not full tilt right now," Charron said. "There's always a line that seems to be lagging. Tonight, Matt's line was not good enough for us. We can't afford to have passengers leading into the . . . playoffs. We need everybody."

The Blazers left right after the game for Everett, where they are to meet the Silvertips tonight. The Chiefs, meanwhile, headed for Portland and a date tonight with the Winterhawks.

Kamloops (34-15-5) remains third in the Western Conference, nine points behind the Kelowna Rockets and 10 in front of the Tri-City Americans. The Chiefs (30-19-2) are a point in back of Tri-City.

JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,527. . . . F Blake Gal also scored for the Chiefs. . . . Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave stopped 24 shots, seven fewer than Spokane's pair of Eric Williams and Garret Hughson. Williams left at 1:30 of the third, after allowing a fifth goal. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Smith: Lots of energy and five points; 2. Kessy: Big body, big game; 3. Holmberg: Best of the Chiefs. . . . Spokane D Jason Framleft left at 8:45 of the second period after a play on which he was penalized for tripping. He wasn't able to put any weight on his left leg and was on crutches after the game. . . . The Chiefs, with a number of regulars hurting, added F Markus Bechtold, 16, to their roster for the weekend. A third-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft, he plays for the midget AAA UFA Bisons, who play out of Strathmore, Alta. . . . Stu Walters, who was Shaw-TV's on-ice presence during last night's telecast, is the brother of Fraser Walters of The Tenors, who will play ISC on Feb. 8.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca

gdrinnan.blogspot.com

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