To this point in the WHL season, whenever the Prince George Cougars and Kamloops Blazers have met, it has been like a youngster with a Rubik’s Cube on Christmas morning.
The Cougars simply can’t figure out the Blazers.
The line of Collin Shirley, Gage Quinney and Matt Revel struck for 12 points on Sunday night as the Blazers whupped the Cougars, 9-1, at the Sandman Centre. It was the third time these teams have met here this season and the third time the
Blazers have posted a lop-sided victory.
Earlier, the Blazers won, 6-1 and 5-2. The teams will meet seven more times this season, with the Blazers scheduled to head north for games Nov. 27 and 28.
Last night, the Cougars were playing their third game in 48 hours as they swept a doubleheader from the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, 4-2 and 6-1, on Friday and Saturday nights. The Blazers hadn’t played since blowing a late 3-1 lead and dropping a 4-3 OT decision to the Giants in Vancouver on Friday night.
The victory may have been costly as the Blazers lost a pair of forwards. Centre Matt Needham, the team captain, left in the first period and left-winger Jake Kryski bowed out in the second, both with undisclosed injuries.
“We will re-evaluate them both (Monday) and see how they’re doing,” Blazers head coach Don Hay said.
Asked if either injury appeared to be long-term, Hay replied: “We have to wait until (Monday) to find out.”
After what happened Friday in Vancouver, Hay admitted that he was “kind of worried about how we’d start the game after that loss.”
But he liked they way his charges responded Saturday.
“Yesterday’s preparation and yesterday’s practice put that game behind us. We moved ahead,” Hay said.
It appears to have helped that Hay had a pre-game chat with the Quinney line.
“We didn’t have a great game against Vancouver,” Shirley said. “He said we need to be more aggressive and we need to
get more chances, and I think that kind of happened out there.
“It seemed to work tonight. The puck was going in.”
Was it ever!
Shirley finished with two goals and three assists, for the first five-point game of his WHL career. Quinney added three goals — it was his first WHL hat trick — and an assist. Revel scored twice and added an assist.
Add it up and it’s a 12-point night for that line.
“The Quinney line hadn’t been that great the last three games,” Hay said. “Obviously, they were really good tonight and really set the tone.”
Quinney now has 24 points, including 10 goals, while Shirley has 12 goals and nine assists, and Revel is at five and eight.
“We weren’t as dominant or as effective as we should be,” Quinney said of the unit’s recent play. “Tonight, we really stepped up and helped the team win.”
Quinney opened the scoring while killing a penalty at 3:27 of the first period. The Cougars, who were playing their third
game in 48 hours, tied it on a goal by Brogan O’Brien at 6:20.
Quinney and centre Nick Chyzowski, the latter on a PP, scored before the period ended and it was all Blazers after that.
“I was happy with our effort,” Hay said. “We knew Prince George was playing their third game in three nights and it was really important to get off to a good start. To come out of the first period 3-1 up was good for us. It was what we talked about before the game and what we wanted.”
Kamloops right-winger Quinn Benjafield had three assists, the first time he has done that in a game; it was his second three-point game. Defenceman Dawson Davidson and centre Garrett Pilon each had two assists, and left-winger Jermaine Loewen scored his second goal.
Kamloops got another strong effort from goaltender Connor Ingram, too. He finished with 32 saves, none bigger than when he got his right pad on a shot from Cougars left-winger Chase Witala on a breakaway nine minutes into the first period. It was 1-1 at that point. Quinney scored his second goal shortly thereafter and the rout was on.
“If we didn’t have the saves that Ingram made at the beginning of the game, who knows what the score could have been,” Quinney said.
“He’s been great,” Shirley said of Ingram. “He’s been amazing the last three weeks. When you’re scoring lots of goals like we are right now, he doesn’t get some of that credit, but he’s been our rock.”
The Cougars opened with Nick McBride in goal and finished up with Tavin Grant, who has joined them from the junior B Kamloops Storm.
McBride surrendered four goals on 14 shots. Grant, who came on 42 seconds into the second period, after Revel scored for a 4-1 lead, was beaten five times on 22 shots.
Grant will stay with the Cougars while Ty Edmonds, who was injured Friday night, recovers from a hamstring injury. Cougars head coach Mark Holick said Edmonds is “week-to-week.”
Grant got to Prince George on Saturday, after going the distance for the Storm in a 4-2 loss to the host Kimberley Dynamiters on Friday.
“I don’t know what it is with this rink. We haven’t pissed a drop in this building. We haven’t turned a wheel,” offered head coach Mark Holick. “We play scared . . . don’t want to get involved . . . cheating. Any adjective you want to use . . . you have to play 36 away from your rink, too.
“I didn’t like out goaltending at all. We weren’t very good in front of (Nick McBride). It was over when Tavin (Grant) came in.
“I did not like the defence. There was zero passion, zero emotion. We’re getting punched in the face, we’re getting knocked off pucks, there was zero push back from our D, especially in our zone.
“Our forwards didn’t do a whole lot on the forecheck; I don’t know how many finished checks we had, if any, up front. It was an absolute debacle. It was just a terrible game.”
The victory lifted the Blazers (9-8-1), who are 6-0-1 in their last seven games, to within two points of the Cougars (10-8-1), who are third in the B.C. Division.
This was the first of four home games this week for the Blazers. They will entertain the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday, the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday and the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday. Each of those games is to start at 7 p.m.
The Cougars next play Wednesday when they meet the Hitmen in Calgary.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,498. . . . The Blazers hadn’t scored nine goals in a game since Dec. 29, 2012, when they beat visiting Vancouver, 9-5. . . . With Kryski and Needham gone, Hay used Davidson and D Patrik Maier up front on occasion. . . . The Blazers scratched F Erik Miller, F Spencer Bast, D Cam Reagan and D Conner McDonald. . . . The Cougars went without Edmonds (hamstring), F Jordan Ross, F Bartek Bison, D Josh Anderson and D Max Martin (undisclosed injury). Bison was scratched after his skates missed the bus. . . . With the French flag showing on the videoboard, the game was preceded by a moment of silence in support of France after Friday’s tragic happenings.
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