For a few minutes in the third period on Friday night it looked as though the Prince George Cougars finally had solved the mystery that is the Kamloops Blazers.
However, the visiting Blazers were having none of it.
Kamloops erased a 3-1 deficit with two late third-period goals and went on to beat the Cougars, 4-3, in a shootout. With six games remaining in the season series, the Blazers are 4-0-0 against the Cougars. In three games in Kamloops, the
Blazers outscored the Cougars 20-4, including a 9-1 victory on Nov. 15.
The teams play again tonight in Prince George, where the Cougars are 5-0-1 in their last six appearances.
Left-winger Jake Kryski, back in the Blazers lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury, scored the lone goal of the shootout, beating goaltender Nick McBride’s attempt to poke-check him.
The star of the game, though, was Kamloops goaltender Connor Ingram, who turned aside 44 shots through overtime and then was unbeatable in the shootout.
Cougars forwards Brogan O’Brien, Jesse Gabrielle and Chase Witala couldn’t solve Ingram, a sophomore from Imperial, Sask., in the shootout. Right-winger Deven Sideroff, the Blazers’ first shooter, was stopped by McBride before Kryski scored the winner.
The Blazers (11-8-3) are 8-0-3 in their last 11 games and have closed to within one point of the Cougars (12-9-2), who are third in the B.C. Division. The Blazers haven’t lost in regulation time since Oct. 23 when they dropped a 4-2 decision to the visiting Calgary Hitmen.
Last night, forward Colby McAuley got the Cougars on the board just 37 seconds into the second period.
The Blazers, who got all three of their regulation-time goals from defencemen, tied it when Ondrej Vala scored at 7:36. Vala has two goals this season, one in each of his last two games.
The Cougars took a 3-1 lead in the third period on goals from forward Jansen Harkins, his fifth, and Witala, his 10th, the latter scoring at 9:32.
Ryan Rehill scored his second goal of the season, at 14:03, getting to the net and putting in a back-door pass to get the Blazers to within a goal. The equalizer came 22 seconds later when sophomore Dawson Davidson got to the Prince George crease and banged in his third of the season.
The Blazers thought they had won it on a Sideroff goal just 20 seconds into overtime, only to have the potential goal wiped out when centre Matt Needha was ruled to have made incidental contact with McBride.
The Blazers were outshot 47-21, including 13-3 in the first period and 15-7 in the second. At one point, they were held without a shot for 21 minutes.
JUST NOTES: Announced attendance was 3,256. . . . This was the first shootout of the season for both teams. It was the third time in four games — and fourth in six — that the Blazers have gone to overtime. . . . Former Kamloops F Luke Harrison, 20, made his debut with the Cougars. He was pointless. Harrison was acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings on Wednesday. . . . The Blazers scratched D Dallas Valentine (undisclosed injury) for a fourth game, F Erik Miller, F Jesse Zaharichuk and D Patrik Maier. . . . Needham returned after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Cougars had D Sam Ruopp, the team captain, in the lineup after he had been listed as being out day-to-day. But D Shaun Dosanjh didn’t play. . . . Tonight’s game, like last night’s, will be televised by Shaw. . . . The Blazers will return home to play the Kootenay Ice on Tuesday. . . . The Portland Winterhawks are here on Dec. 4 (Food Bank Night) and the Medicine Hat Tigers on Dec. 5 (Teddy Bear Toss). After that, the Blazers won’t play at home until Dec. 27.
There’s more WHL news with Taking Note at TheCoachesSite.com. While you’re there, feel free to download a copy of A Coaching Life, an eBook comprising stories about eight prominent coaches, including Don Hay of the Kamloops Blazers and Ryan Huska of the AHL’s Stockton Heat.