It was a night of firsts for the Kamloops Blazers.
The Blazers picked up their first victory of the WHL season in Prince George, beating the Cougars 5-2 in the first of a two-game set up north. The teams also will play in Prince George tonight.
It was a good night all-around for the Blazers, who got three points from defenceman Josh Connolly - in his hometown no less - and a two-assist, 37-save effort from Taran Kozun. Kamloops also scored its first power-play goal of the season - snapping an 0-for-9 start with a 2-for-4 effort - and Nick Chyzowski, a Kamloops native, earned his first WHL point.
To top it all off, Tyson Ness, the 20-year-old forward the Blazers acquired from the Red Deer Rebels earlier this month, scored his first two goals in a Kamloops uniform. The first, with 6:47 remaining, was a shorthanded effort that made the score 4-1; he also added an empty-netter.
Special teams were the difference in this game, as the Blazers bounced back from a rough opening weekend on that end. Kamloops took a bunch of penalties last night, but killed off all seven Cougars power plays.
The Kamloops power play only got four tries, but Cole Ully scored on the first two.
Connolly, the younger brother of former Cougars star Brett Connolly, had the first multi-point game of his WHL career, after picking up six points, five of them assists, in 2012-13, his rookie season. Friday was the first time he had recorded a point in a WHL game in his hometown.
But he was on the mark Friday, leading the rush that led to Ully's power-play goal 2:13 into the game. Connolly scored to make it 2-0 with 7:56 to go in the first period, then assisted on Ully's power-play goal early in the second.
Amazingly, both of the early power-play goals came on the same scoring setup - Ully from Connolly and Kozun. The assists were the first of Kozun's career.
Chyzowski, a 16-year-old Kamloops native and the son of former Blazers sniper Dave Chyzowski, picked up an assist on the Connolly goal, his first career point.
Kamloops now is 1-2-0 and tied for second in the B.C. Division - it should be noted that it is early, and there are, in fact, four teams tied for second, two points back of the Kelowna Rockets (2-0-0). Prince George fell to 1-3-0.
Prince George, playing in front of 2,966 fans at the CN Centre, got its goals from Mark McNulty and Tyler Mrkonjic. Mrkonjic's goal, which cut the Kamloops lead to 4-2 in the third period, was the first of his career.
Brett Zarowny made 23 saves in the loss.
JUST NOTES: The game started at 7:24. The delay was due to the Cougars' home-opener festivities. . . . Blazers F Aaron Macklin and Prince George F Klarc Wilson fought 42 seconds into Friday's game - it was the first fight this season for the Blazers. . . . Wilson was charged with an instigator minor, with Ully scoring on the resulting power play. . . . The Blazers are still rotating their alternate captains - F Ryan Rehill and F Joe Kornelsen were wearing the A's on Friday. . . . The teams combined on 102 penalty minutes. . . . Kamloops' next home game is Friday against the Victoria Royals.