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Rockets beat Blazers in season-opener

Pilon gets goal, assist for visitors
By Gregg Drinnan
September 25, 2015 11:00 P.M.
Garrett Pilon of the Kamloops Blazers celebrates after scoring his first WHL goal. (Photo:

The Kamloops Blazers weren’t able to spoil the Kelowna Rockets’ party on Friday night.
Prior to opening the WHL’s 50th anniversary season, the Rockets raised three banners that represent their titles from last season when they finished atop the B.C. Division and the Western Conference, then won the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL playoff champions.
After the opening ceremonies, the Rockets got down to business, scoring early in each of the first two periods, then breaking a 2-2 tie with a pair of late second-period goals that carried them to a 4-3 victory.
Tomas Soustal, a sophomore forward from the Czech Republic, gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead at 17:15 of the second period and Justin Kirkland upped that to 4-2 at 19:25. On their website, the Blazers claimed “a missed offside call on the Rockets fourth goal turned out to be the winning tally.”
Freshman forward Spencer Bast, who is from Macklin, Sask., got the Blazers to within one when he scored his first WHL goal at 3:24 of the third period.
Kamloops brought goaltender Connor Ingram to the bench with 1:46 left in the third, but despite ample pressure with the extra attacker wasn’t able to get another one past Kelowna’s Jackson Whistle.
Whistle finished up with 30 saves, four more than Ingram.
The Blazers were burned in this one with Kelowna’s Tyson Bailie scoring early in each of the first two periods.
Baillie, 20, opened the scoring just 53 seconds into the game. The Blazers equalized when freshman forward Garrett Pilon, the son of former NHL defenceman Rich Pilon, scored his first WHL goal at 7:44 of the opening period. Garrett Pilon, who is from Saskatoon, also had an assist.
Baillie restored the Rockets’ lead at 1:15 of the second period, but the Blazers got that one back just 51 seconds later when Jesse Zaharichuk scored.
JUST NOTES: Announced attendance was 5,464. . . . The Rockets will visit Kamloops tonight for the Blazers’ home-opener. Game time is 7 o’clock. . . . The teams will meet a total of eight times this season. . . . They met 10 times last season with the Rockets finishing 9-1-0. In 2013-14, the Rockets were 8-0-0 against the Blazers. . . . Blazers F Jermaine Loewen, who was pointless in 37 games last season, got his first WHL point with an assist on Bast’s goal. . . . Kamloops was 0-for-6 on the PP, while the Rockets went 0-for-3. . . . With four 20-year-olds on hand, the Blazers will have to scratch one each game. Last night, D Ryan Rehill sat out, with F Matt Needham, F Luke Harrison and D Marc McNulty in the lineup. . . . The Blazers also were without F Deven Sideroff (ill), F Matt Revel (shoulder) and D Conner McDonald (undisclosed injury). . . . With Sideroff out, the Blazers had F Harrison on the right side of a line with Jake Kryski and Needham. . . . Among the Rockets scratches were F Nick Merkley (collarbone) and F Gage Quinney, who is one of four 20-year-olds on the roster.

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