The Kamloops Blazers suffered a 9-4 loss at the hands of the host Prince George Cougars on Friday night.
At game’s end, the Blazers were wondering if they also have lost Connor Ingram, their No. 1 goaltender and most
valuable player, for any length of time.
The Blazers were trailing 3-2 in the CN Centre just past the midway point of the second period when Prince George super-pest Jesse Gabrielle ran into Ingram behind his net. Gabrielle was hit with a goaltender interference penalty at 11:21, while Ingram was forced to leave the game with an undisclosed injury.
“It’s one of those plays where I think (Gabrielle) took Connor’s ice,” Kamloops assistant coach Mike Needham said on Radio NL’s post-game show.
Needham said that he felt “Connor was coming from behind the net” when Gabrielle brushed him.
“This time he got a little too much of him,” Needham added. “It’s one of those things where I think he possibly could have gone around him.”
Needham called it “one of those plays where you just hate to see your goalie get hit.”
Needham wouldn’t speculate on whether Ingram will be able to play in tonight’s rematch in Prince George. Needham did allow that doctors had seen Ingram and that he was icing one leg in the dressing room.
Centre Gage Quinney scored on the power play, 22 seconds after Ingram was injured, to pull the Blazers into a 3-3 tie,
but the Cougars put two quick ones behind reliever Dylan Ferguson in the period’s last minute and rode to victory from there.
Cougars centre Jansen Harkins scored the only goal of the first period, at 6:27.
Kamloops scored two goals early in the second period to take its only lead of the night. Right-winger Deven Sideroff scored his 14th goal 24 seconds into the period and centre Garrett Pilon notched his 11th at 6:57.
The Cougars then scored four of the next five goals, all before the end of the second period. Defenceman Shane Collins and forward Brogan O’Brien scored before Quinney’s goal, with Harkins and forward Colby McAuley counting at 19:35 and 19:53. All of that left the Cougars with a 5-3 lead going into the third period.
Right-winger Matt Revel scored his 14th goal one minute into the third, pulling the Blazers to within one at 5-4.
However, the Cougars put it away with the game’s last four goals, with Chase Witala getting his 28th, while McAuley, Bartak Bison and Joel Lakusta, with his first WHL goal, also counting.
McAuley, who leads the WHL in penalty minutes, scored twice — giving him 12 — and added two assists. In 41 games,
he has 24 points, including six in his last two outings.
Sideroff added two assists to his goal, with left-winger Jiri Smejkal also getting two helpers for the Blazers.
The Cougars got 28 saves from goaltender Ty Edmonds. Ingram stopped 13 of 16 shots before leaving. Ferguson came on to give up six goals on 20 shots in 28:39.
The Blazers (22-17-7) are 1-3-1 in their last five games and remain in possession of the 10-team Western Conference’s first wild-card playoff spot.
The Cougars (28-17-2) are third in the B.C. Division, one point behind the idle Victoria Royals and now are seven points ahead of the Blazers.
If the Blazers aren’t able to move up to at least third in the division, they would appear to be headed to a first-round playoff matchup with the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips, who lost 1-0 to the Oil Kings in Edmonton last night.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,251. . . . The Cougars were 1-for-2 on the PP; the Blazers were 1-for-5. . . . The Blazers scratched C Matt Needham, their captain. He took the warmup before leaving. Also scratched were injured D Dawson Davidson and F Jake Kryski. . . . Needham was injured in practice on Thursday and now is day-to-day. . . . The Cougars have been without G Nick McBride (undisclosed injury) since Dec. 30. They have had Connor Dochuk backing up Edmonds. Dochuk, 16, plays for Edmonton’s midget AAA South Side Athletic Club. . . . This was the first time the Blazers have given up more than seven goals in a game this season. They have been touched for seven on three occasions, including a 7-3 loss in Prince George on Nov. 28. . . . Four games into the season series with the Cougars, they were 4-0-0. The Cougars have won the last three games. . . . Tonight’s game will be the Blazers’ 12th this month. After tonight, they won’t play until Friday when the are at home to the Vancouver Giants.
F Sophie Shirley, the younger sister of Kamloops F Collin Shirley, is one of 32 players invited to an evaluation camp for Canada’s national women’s team. That camp is to run Jan. 25-29 in Etobicoke, Ont. The 16-year-old Sophie, who plays for the Wilcox, Sask.-based Notre Dame Hounds, was on the Canadian team that lost 3-2 in OT to the U.S. in the U-18 women’s world championship in St. Catharines, Ont., on Jan. 15. The evaluation camp is in advance of the women’s world championship that is scheduled for Kamloops, March 28 through April 4.