Blazers take Western Conference lead

Adam Williams, Sports Editor  Ω

The Kamloops Blazers defeated the Victoria Royals 5-2 on Oct. 10, taking over first place in both the B.C. Division and the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League.

The Blazers led the game from start to finish and surrendered only nine shots on goal after two periods – a stat made all the more glaring by the fact that the Blazers outshot the Royals 17-0 in the second frame. Victoria directed 18 shots on goal in the third in an effort to even the game but Blazers goaltender Cole Cheveldave kept the Royals at bay.

“Obviously he didn’t have any saves to make in the second period so I guess he was well rested to make those saves in the third period,” said Blazers head coach Guy Charron. “The best goaltender’s going to have to make those saves and he did when he had to. But the second period, like you said he came in and said ‘Jeez I like those kind of periods, I didn’t have to work.’”

The Blazers took a 1-0 lead as the first period wound down, on JC Lipon’s fourth goal of the year. Colin Smith and Brendan Ranford notched second period markers to put Kamloops up 3-0 headed into the third. The Royals pushed to make a game of it in the third, with goals from Jamie Crooks and Taylor Crunk. Cole Ully and the Blazers’s leading goal-scorer Tim Bozon matched the Royals goal-for-goal.

Though the Blazers sit atop the Western Conference, Charron emphasized there are still areas where the team needs to improve. When playing for the hometown crowd the Blazers focus too much on scoring goals and while it hasn’t cost the team yet, the season is still young.

“The games I thought we played really outstanding are the ones on the road,” Charron said. “It seems like maybe at home we want to put on a show. We get a lot of support from our fans and want to score as many goals as we can, but for me as I coach I will continue to be demanding as far as defense has to come first.”

The Blazers remained home, defeating the Spokane Chiefs by a score of 5-1 on Oct. 12 before heading to Calgary to face the Hitmen on Sunday. Sam Grist, who was acquired in a trade with the Tri-City Americans on Oct. 11, made his first appearance in a Blazer uniform against Spokane, posting one assist and a plus-2 rating.

“To complement our young players, who have a lot of skill,” Charron said about his expectations for Grist. “Getting size and a stay-at-home type of defencemen are rare in our business, there’s not too many of them. The game has changed where it’s all offensive hockey. We feel that he can bring a dimension that will be very important for the success of our team.”