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Rockets complete weekend sweep of Blazers

Locals don't show much emotion or intensity
September 10, 2016 11:04 P.M.

Call it an exhibition game. Call it a preseason game. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Don Hay wasn’t happy.
The head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers had just watched his team drop an ugly 6-3 decision to the Kelowna Rockets at the Sandman Centre on Saturday night.
“Kelowna was the better team two nights in a row,” Hay said, just 24 hours after the Rockets had posted a 1-0 victory over the Blazers in the Little Apple. “They were hungrier on pucks they won a lot of battles. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.
“We have to understand that we’re not playing at the level where we need to be to have success.”
Looking ahead to when the Blazers open the regular season against the Rockets on Sept. 23 and 24, Hay noted: “It’s a tough opening schedule and we have to be better than we were this weekend.”
The Blazers, now 1-3-0, weren’t good at all last night. They fell behind early in the first period, trailed 3-0 going into the second and never were able to get much going.
“There wasn’t a lot of emotion tonight,” Hay continued. “We’ve got go play the game with passion. If you don’t play with passion you don’t find ways to have success.”
The Blazers went into the game with 31 players on their roster. They sat out seven veterans and dressed seven freshmen. The Rockets (3-1-0), who are down to 24 players, went with just 17 skaters, one under the maximum, and five of those were newcomers.
The visitors scored early and late in the first period as they outshot their hosts 14-11 and grabbed a 3-0 lead.
Defenceman Braydyn Chizen, the 6-foot-9 sophomore who was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2016 draft, got things started at 2:13 when his point shot hit Kamloops defenceman Dawson Davidson and got behind goaltender Carter Phair
Right-winger Kole Lind upped it to 2-0 at 12:25 when he deposited a rebound behind Phair, who was making his first appearance since the Blazers acquired him from the Edmonton Oil Kings last week.
Jake Kryski, the former Blazers winger who is getting a look at centre in Kelowna, gave the Rockets a 3-0 lead with 32.6 seconds left in the period. With the Rockets on the rush, Kryski, who had drawn an assist on Chizen’s goal, trailed the play into the offensive zone, took a pass from left-winger Calvin Thurkauf and snapped a high shot past Phair’s catching mitt.
The Blazers showed signs of life when they got on the board with a power-play goal at 7:29 of the second period. Nick Chyzowski dug the puck away from Kelowna defenceman Cal Foote behind the Rockets’ goal and centred to Rudolfs Balcers who buried it.
But the Rockets restored that three-goal lead just 1:28 later when Phair misplayed a puck and Tate Coughlin scored what really was a freebie.
“You get the 3-1 goal,” Hay said, “and think you are getting some momentum. But there’s a miscue on their fourth goal and that kind of takes away your momentum.”
Phair, who will turn 18 on Dec. 15, played two periods, giving up five goals on 28 shots. Dylan Ferguson came on for the third period and turned aside nine of the 10 shots he faced.
Ferguson had been terrific one night earlier, making 39 saves in Kelowna.
“I thought the score kind of flattered us,” Hay said of Friday’s game. “Our goaltender was really good.”
Last night, the Rockets stretched their lead to 6-1, getting their last two goals from forward Tanner Wishnowski and Kryski, who finished with two goals and two assists. He also drew an assist on Kelowna’s goal on Friday.
Forwards Travis Walton and Matt Revel got third-period power-play goals for the Blazers.
Walton, a 17-year-old from Abbotsford, was added to Kamloops’ roster prior to the game. An undrafted player who had been on the Blazers’ protected list for two years, he decided on Thursday that he wanted to come to Kamloops. Last season, the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder had 26 points, including 17 goals, in 23 games with the Yale Academy’s midget prep team.
“Walton was good,” Hay said. “He’s going to be a good addition to our group. I’m glad he made the decision to join us.”
Before he changed his mind, Walton was ticketed for the BCHL’s Chilliwack Express.
“He looks like he’s got some pretty good offensive instincts,” Hay said. “That really helps us out to get a forward of that age group with offensive skills.”
The Blazers now will head into what Hay referred to as something of a “fractured” week.
They will be missing six players at Monday’s practice because of their participation in the EDGE program, which includes a visit to Vancouver’s downtown eastside for some life experiences.
Nine players will leave for NHL camps on Wednesday and Thursday.
But, as Hay said, “every team is losing players.”
The Blazers wrap up their exhibition schedule in Prince George on Friday and the Cougars will have eight players away at pro camps.
The onus, Hay said, won’t be on who isn’t here.
“We’ll give the guys who aren’t going to camps a real good opportunity to establish themselves or earn those final spots on the team,” he said.
First, though, “we have to really pick up our intensity and our compete level. We have a week of practice.”
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 1,059. . . . Kelowna G Brodan Salmond, who is ticketed as the backup to Michael Herringer, blocked 32 shots. . . . The Blazers were 3-for-6 on the power play; the Rockets were 1-for-6. . . . D Dawson Davidson drew three assists for Kamloops. . . . Lind added two assists to his goal for Kelowna. . . .
After the game, the Blazers reduced their roster to 28 players, including three goaltenders and 15 forwards, by trimming three 16-year-olds — D Devan Harrison, a second-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft, will return to the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals; F Carson Denomie, a fifth-round pick in 2015, is going back to the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians; and F Ryley Appelt, a fourth-rounder in 2015, will go to the Northern Alberta X-Treme Academy in Devon, Alta. . . .
Kelowna F Rod Southam, the team captain, suffered an undisclosed injury against the Victoria Royals on Sept. 3 and didn’t play on the weekend. . . . Rockets D Nolan Foote, who won’t turn 16 until Nov. 29, is recovering from a bout of mononucleosis. His older brother, Cal, is into his second season on the Rockets’ back end and is being touted as a potential first-round pick in the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . .
F Nick Merkley, who had his 2015-16 season ended by a knee injury and the resulting surgery, won’t be back with the Rockets until sometime in October. A first-round selection by Arizona in the NHL’s 2015 draft, Merkley, 19, is rehabbing there and will attend the Coyotes’ training camp.
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