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Rockets complete sweep of Blazers

Pilon shows offensive touch, but lots to learn
By Gregg Drinnan
September 26, 2015 10:54 P.M.

The hockey gods giveth and they taketh away.
That sums up Garrett Pilon’s weekend.
A freshman centre with the Kamloops Blazers, Pilon scored three times and added two assists through the first five periods of the WHL’s regular season. But it was a mistake he made early in the third period on Saturday night that haunted him after a 7-3 loss to the Kelowna Rockets at the Sandman Centre.
The Rockets, who had opened the season at home on Friday with a 4-3 victory over the Blazers, now are 19-1-0 in their last 20 regular-season meetings with Kamloops.
The Rockets were nursing a 4-3 lead going into that third period and had the puck in the Kamloops zone, to the right of goaltender Dylan Ferguson. The puck ended up on Pilon’s stick but he took half a second too long before trying to clear it.
Kelowna sniper Tyson Baillie and mates Dillon Dube and Gage Quinney picked Pilon’s pocket and went tic-tac-toe, with Baillie scoring his second goal of the game and fourth of the weekend.
“He’s very dynamic,” Kelowna head coach Brad Ralph said of Baillie. “He likes to score and that’s contagious.”
That upped Kelowna’s lead to 5-3 and pretty much put the game on ice.
“They get on you quick,” Pilon, a 17-year-old from Saskatoon, said. “I’ve just got to be better in my own end. That showed that I’m not completely confident there. I’ve just got to be better.”
Asked what he would do if he had that play to do over again, he replied: “Get the puck out on my forehand a lot harder.”
Kamloops head coach Don Hay expects Pilon to learn from that mistake.
“He was our best player (Friday) night,” Hay said, referencing a 4-3 loss in Kelowna in which Pilon had a goal and an assist, “and he was one of our better players tonight.
“But we weren’t good enough. We made a lot of mental mistakes. It’s hard to chase the game against a good team like Kelowna. We deserved what we got tonight. You just can’t give up seven goals in this league at any time.”
Starting goaltender Connor Ingram gave up the first three of those goals, but felt Hay’s hook at 3:58 of the second period after Baillie’s first goal broke a 2-2 tie.
“I didn’t think he was playing well enough,” Hay said of Ingram, who stopped 15 of 18 shots. Dylan Ferguson came on in relief, making his first WHL appearance, and surrendered four goals on 23 shots. Hay judged Ferguson’s play as “adequate.”
“We need better goaltending . . . that’s the bottom line,” said Hay, whose club next plays Friday and Saturday in Victoria against the Royals, who are 2-0-0 after sweeping the visiting Portland Winterhawks.
Down the hall, meanwhile, the Rockets were wondering about the status of Jackson Whistle, their 20-year-old goaltender who started both games against Kamloops. He went down during a scramble in his crease at 9:24 of the third period, apparently having taken a stick to the throat. He was experiencing some minor difficulties with his breathing and after the game was on his way for X-rays at Royal Inland Hospital.
The Rockets are to visit the Vancouver Giants tonight, but had no idea as to Whistle’s status immediately after last night’s game.
Whistle had turned aside 35 of 38 shots. Michael Herringer came on in relief and stopped all six shots he faced.
The Rockets came out of the first period with a 16-10 edge in shots and a 2-0 advantage on the scoreboard.
Their first goal, at 7:12, started with a terrific backhand pass by defenceman Riley Stadel. It ended with Ingram making a glove save but being unable to corral the puck, and Dube tucked in the rebound.
At 18:36, with the Rockets on the power play, Ingram tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice, only to have freshman defenceman Cal Foote — yes, the son of former NHLer Adam Foote — intercept it and fire a 45-footer into the net.
The Blazers were at their best early in the second period when they got goals from Jake Kryski and Pilon, the latter on the power play, to tie the game before the three-minute mark.
But, just 1:12 after equalizing, they turned over the puck in the neutral zone and Baillie finished off a 2-on-1 by beating Ingram to his glove side.
“We didn’t look after the puck at all,” Hay said. “I could go over every goal . . . the first goal, second goal, third goal. . . . We have to play a tighter game.”
Rourke Chartier, a 48-goal man last season, upped the Rockets’ lead to 4-2, welcoming Ferguson by blowing a 40-footer past his blocker at 7:33. However, the Blazers got that one back 1:04 later with Pilon taking a nifty centring pass from Kryski and beating Whistle.
That left Pilon, the son of Rich Pilon, a hard-nosed defenceman during a 631-game NHL career, with five points in as many periods, meaning he was on pace to pick up — AHEM! — 216 points this season. His father had 72 points, including 17 goals, in a 139-game career with the Prince Albert Raiders (1985-88). Rich also had 369 penalty minutes.
“It depends on whether you’re talking about stickhandling or punching guys in the face,” Garrett said with a chuckle when asked whether he or his father has better hands. “Ahh, he’ll say he has better hands.”
If Rich was watching on the weekend, he will have learned the truth.
Of course, it was no secret that his son, a seventh-round pick by the Blazers in the 2013 bantam draft, has a nose for the net. After all, he had 87 points, including 30 goals, in 44 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts last season, after putting up 29 points in 43 games as a 15-year-old freshman in 2013-14.
After last night, though, he will be remembering that Kelowna goal early in the third period.
“I’ll just keep working hard in practice and do all the drills the way Don wants them done,” Pilon said, adding that he wants to be a sponge and soak up all that Hay has to teach him.
“He’s a young player,” Hay said, “and young players have to learn that winning and losing is important. To be coachable, you have to learn from your mistakes and do your best to limit them.”
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,937. . . . Kelowna F Tomas Soustal scored the game’s last two goals, at 10:06 and 19:39 of the third period. . . . Kelowna was 1-for-9 on the PP; Kamloops was 1-for-6. . . . The Blazers scratched F Matt Revel (shoulder), F Deven Sideroff (ill), D Conner McDonald (undisclosed injury) and D Marc McNulty. . . . With four 20-year-olds on the roster, one has to be scratched each game. That’s why McNulty was scratched. . . . The deadline for teams to be down to three 20-year-olds is Oct. 15. . . . Among the Rockets’ scratches was F Nick Merkley (collarbone), their leading scorer last season. . . . They also are carrying four 20-year-olds and scratched F Cole Linaker, choosing to use Whistle, Baillie and Quinney, who had two assists. Quinney had been the odd-man out on Friday. . . .
F Cole Ully, the Blazers’ leading scorer each of the last two seasons, played in an NHL game for the first time last night. Ully, 20, scored the Dallas Stars’ fourth goal at 14:52 of the third period on a nifty backhand, as they doubled the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-3. He had a solid rookie camp and has carried that over to the Stars’ main camp. F Brendan Ranford, who holds the Blazers’ career games played record, also scored for Dallas.

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