Finally, the Kamloops Blazers were able to solve the Everett Silvertips in regulation time.
The Blazers got two goals from right-winger Cole Ully and 20 saves from goaltender Cole Cheveldave on Thursday night, and scored a 6-0 WHL victory over the Silvertips at Interior Savings Centre.
While the Blazers won all four games between these teams this season, this was the first time in four meetings that the issue was decided within 60 minutes.
In the first three meetings, the Silvertips were like one of those tiny pieces of Styrofoam that you aren't able to shake off a finger. In fact, the last time the Silvertips were here the Blazers unloaded a 69-shot barrage and still had to go to overtime for a 4-3 victory.
Last night, the Blazers, who led 1-0 and 3-0 at the intermissions, were far more workmanlike and efficient than they had been on Jan. 23.
"We had the lapses in the second where we didn't play exactly the way we wanted to play," centre Dylan Willick, the Blazers' captain, said. "But we settled ourselves down . . . and played our style of game and won one for Chevy."
Willick scored his 11th goal of the season - it was the game's final score - but more importantly is really starting to look like his old self. He suffered a broken right ankle on Nov. 5 and didn't play for two months. Now, a month after returning, he is regaining his form.
"I feel a lot better every day," Willick, 20, said. "I blocked a shot in Everett (on Saturday night) on the top of the same foot - it felt like I blocked a shot, it didn't feel like anything extra. I had to walk off a bruise from that one.
"It still takes time to feel comfortable and let it go. I think I'm finally starting to feel that way."
Someone else who felt comfortable last night was defenceman Marek Hrbas, the 19-year-old veteran from Plzen in the Czech Republic.
Hrbas scored his fourth goal this season - he has 10 in 180 regular-season games - and was a game-high plus-5. That carried him into plus territory, at plus-4, for the season.
"I might have had plus-4 before in a game, but I don't think I've had plus-5," said a smiling Hrbas.
During the Blazers' pregame preparations, Hrbas said that winger JC Lipon had said "Herbie's going to score."
So he did!
"I thought I played solid on defence and every time I had a chance to join the rush I did," Hrbas said. "That's my kind of play . . . more like offensive defensive. Join the rush and help the offence, help the forwards."
Kamloops head coach Guy Charron liked what he got out of Hrbas last night but also admitted: "He irritates me sometimes and other times he puts a grin on my face."
"He's a capable player," Charron continued. "For us, he needs to get involved physically. When he's involved physically, he's more effective."
The victory means the Blazers have clinched a playoff spot. They are the third team in the Western Conference to do so, following the Portland Winterhawks and Kelowna Rockets.
Ully also had an assist to go along with his two goals, giving him 19 goals and his ninth multi-point game since recovering from mononucleosis.
Defenceman Tyler Hansen and Lipon also scored.
The Blazers also got a solid game from Cheveldave, who earned his third shutout this season and the seventh of his career.
He was only pressured a couple of times and those instances were in the second period when he made three or four solid stops, including a nice pad save on a point shot by defenceman Kevin Davis, 15, who is from Kamloops.
With seven players on the injury list, the Silvertips had Davis, the 11th overall selection in the WHL's 2012 bantam draft, in their lineup. He played on the fourth line in the first and third periods, but was on defence in the second and didn't look out of place.
"He's smart out there," offered Garry Davidson, Everett's general manager and head coach. "He's smart and cool as a cucumber. He'll be really good for us."
The victory, their third in a row, lifted the Blazers (36-15-5) to within seven points of the B.C. Division-leading Rockets (40-11-4). The Rockets are at home to the WHL-leading Winterhawks (43-8-3) tonight and Saturday.
The Blazers are home again Saturday when the Red Deer Rebels are here. Red Deer (28-21-6) meets the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., tonight.
The Silvertips (21-28-5) are seventh in the Western Conference, 17 points out of sixth and four ahead of eight-place Seattle.
Everett hustled home after last night's game and is scheduled to play the Calgary Hitmen there tonight.
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,027. . . . The Blazers were 0-for-3 on the power play, leaving them at 0-for-23 in the four games with Everett. . . . The Silvertips were 0-for-1 and finished 3-for-17 in the series. . . . Kamloops F Brendan Ranford drew two assists, with the first one being his 200th regular-season helper. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Hrbas: Good decisions, a goal and plus-5; 2. Ully: Two more goals; 3. Cheveldave: The shutout. . . . Everett's injury list includes G Austin Lotz, who stopped a franchise-record 65 shots here on Jan. 23. He hasn't played since Jan. 26 after suffering an ankle injury during a shootout drill in a practice.
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