Blazers back in B.C. chase

Sweep series from Rockets; now three off pace

Kamloops Daily News
February 18, 2013 01:00 AM

Defenceman Sam Grist (3) and the Kamloops Blazers kept forward Cody Fowlie (18) and the host Kelowna Rockets under control through most of a 3-1 WHL victory on Saturday night.

The Kamloops Blazers started this WHL season by running the table in October.

Now they are attempting to do the same thing in February.

The Blazers, who went 13-0-0 in October, ran their February winning streak to seven games on Saturday night, beating the Rockets 3-1 in Kelowna.

One night earlier, the Blazers had beaten the visiting Rockets, 4-2. The victories have lifted Kamloops (40-15-5) to within three points of the B.C. Division-leading Rockets (42-15-4). The Blazers hold a 5-2-0 edge in the 10-game season series that resumes in Kamloops on March 3.

The Blazers are back in action on Wednesday when the Portland Winterhawks, who lead the WHL's overall standings, are at Interior Savings Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Rockets are off until they meet the Royals in Victoria on Friday and Saturday nights.

On Saturday, Kamloops and Kelowna each was putting the wraps on a busy week.

"You can't put aside that it was three games in three nights (for Kelowna), though for us it was three games in four nights," Kamloops head coach Guy Charron told Doyle Potenteau of the Kelowna Daily Courier. "I'm sure some nights when we've had to play three-in-three, or six-in-eight or those types of things, it's not easy. But . . . we made it difficult for them to be explosive, take the lead . . . we did, I thought, a tremendous job defensively, and that's what gave us success over the weekend."

The Blazers' seven-game winning streak began with a 7-4 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Feb. 1. Kamloops has given up just 13 goals in the seven games, while winning four times at home and three on the road.

In Kelowna, left-winger Brendan Ranford got the visitors rolling when he beat goaltender Jordon Cooke from along the boards deep in the Rockets' zone just 10 seconds into the game.

Forward Myles Bell got the Rockets even about six minutes later, beating goaltender Cole Cheveldave for his 32nd goal of the season.

Early in the second period, Ranford helped set up defenceman Joel Edmundson while killing a penalty and that goal stood up as the winner. Marek Hrbas, another defenceman, provided insurance in the third period with his seventh goal of the season. It was his fourth score in his last five games.

The 20-year-old Ranford, who is into the stretch drive of his five-year career in Kamloops, now is riding a nine-game point streak, with 18 points in those games. He also has put up five straight multi-point games, including a goal and two assists in Friday's game.

While disappointed with the loss, Ryan Huska, the Rockets' head coach, wasn't upset with his club's effort.

"I thought the guys played hard," Huska said. "They tried out there. There wasn't a lot of jump or push from us. That's the way it goes, but I thought we played and competed right to the end. They were a team that skated and I thought our guys gave what they had."

Huska admitted that the Rockets, who had a 23-game home-ice winning streak snapped the previous weekend when Portland came into the Little Apple and swept a doubleheader, are "going through some adversity right now."

"We have to find, as a group, a way to work our way out of it," Huska added. "Every team goes through it at some point of the season. Now it's our challenge over the next couple of weeks, where we'll have some more practice time and when our schedule isn't quite as busy to get ourselves refocused and back to the way our team is normally playing."

JUST NOTES: Cheveldave finished with 17 saves as he improved his record to 30-12-2. He and Luke Siemens of the Prince Albert Raiders are tied for the WHL lead in victories. . . . Cooke, who is 29-13-3, stopped 25 shots. . . . Kelowna has lost five of its last seven games. . . . The Blazers scratched F Aspen Sterzer (concussion), F Matt Needham (undisclosed) and D Jordan Thomson.

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With a goal and an assist in Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Rockets in Kelowna, Kamloops Blazers left-winger Brendan Ranford has 340 points, including 208 assists, in 336 regular-season WHL games.

He is seventh on the franchise's all-time scoring list, trailing Rob Brown (522 points), Greg Hawgood (473), Darcy Tucker (379), Dean Evason (377), Greg Evtushevski (367) and Hnat Domenichelli (349).

Ranford is five games shy of C.J. Stretch's franchise record for regular-season games played (341) and is sixth on the career assists list, behind Brown (343), Hawgood (326), Evason (236), Evtushevski (232) and Tucker (229).

Ranford is on schedule to tie the franchise record for most games played on March 1 when the Blazers meet the Cougars in Prince George. He could set the record the following night at home against the Vancouver Giants. Should he play in each of his club's remaining 12 games, Ranford will have played in 348 games.

© Copyright 2015 Kamloops Daily News

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