Chalk one up to the penalty killers.
The Kamloops Blazers, sparked by a penalty-killing unit that was perfect in seven attempts, beat the Vancouver Giants 2-1 at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on Friday night.
The Blazers’ victory was their fourth in a row and sixth in seven games. They improved their record to 7-8-0 as they work
to overcome an 0-6-0 start to the WHL’s regular season.
Kamloops also moved into possession of a Western Conference playoff spot for the first time this season. It now has 14 points and is tied with the Portland Winterhawks (7-8-0) for the conference’s two wild-card playoff spots. Kamloops and Portland are one point ahead of the idle Tri-City Americans (6-9-1).
The Giants (4-9-3) are three points back of the last playoff spot. They have lost seven straight games (0-6-1).
Kamloops forward Jake Kryski, taking advantage of a turnover forced by teammate Deven Sideroff, broke a 1-1 tie with his fourth goal of the season at 12:41 of the third period to send the visitors home with the victory. Kryski’s goal came 56 seconds after the Blazers had shut down Vancouver’s power play for a seventh time.
After a scoreless first period, Blazers captain Matt Needham opened the scoring at 14:06 of the second with his fifth goal.
Vancouver tied it when forward Radovan Bondra, a Slovakian freshman, scored his fifth goal just 13 seconds into the third period.
Referees Bryan Bourdon and Sean Raphael handed out eight minor penalties, seven to the Blazers. Kamloops took the game’s first six minors — two in the first period, three in the second and one in the third.
When the night was over, the Blazers’ penalty-killing unit was ranked fourth in the 22-team league, having allowed 10 goals on 61 opportunities, for an 83.6 per cent success rate. The Victoria Royals, who have allowed seven goals on 68 chances, are No. 1, at 89.7.
Vancouver’s power play is ranked eighth, at 20.3 per cent, with 12 goals on 59 opportunities.
Kamloops goaltender Connor Ingram, who was yanked after giving up four goals in a 5-4 OT victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Tuesday night, was terrific in this one, stopping 31 shots, including 15 in the first period. The sophomore from Imperial, Sask., was honoured as the game’s first star.
At the other end, Daniel Wapple, a 20-year-old who was acquired Thursday from the Regina Pats, turned aside 19 shots.
The Blazers are at home tonight, 7 o’clock, as they entertain the Prince George Cougars. Last night, the Cougars (8-6-1) lost 2-1 in OT in Everett.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 7,314, as the Giants celebrated Canadian Armed Forces Night. . . . Comedian Brent Butt dropped the puck during the ceremonial faceoff. . . . The Blazers scratched F Erik Miller, D Nolan Kneen, F Matthew Campese and D Patrik Maier. . . . Vancouver went without F Dawson Holt, F Brandon Semchuk and F Trevor Cox. . . . Semchuk, a freshman from Kamloops, played in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, as did Kneen. . . . Vancouver F Thomas Foster played for the first time after being injured in an exhibition game. However, he left in the second period with an undisclosed injury and isn’t expected to play tonight against the Silvertips in Everett. . . . The Giants juggled coaching assignments for last night’s game. Long time strength-and-conditioning coach Ian Gallagher joined head coach Lorne Molleken and assist Matt Erhart at the bench. Tyler Kuntz, the other assistant coach, was in the press box. . . .
Former Blazers D Austin Madaisky, 23, has signed with the Straubing Tigers and will finish this season in the German DEL. The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets placed him on waivers this week for the purpose of terminating his contract. He was a fifth-round selection by Columbus in the NHL’s 2010 draft.
There’s more WHL news with Taking Note at TheCoachesSite.com. While you’re there, don’t forget to get your free copy of A Coaching Life, an eBook that features eight prominent coaches, including the Blazers’ Don Hay and former Blazers F Ryan Huska, who how is the head coach of the Stockton Heat, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames.