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Ronning, Giants work OT to beat Blazers

Hay expresses disappointment in team's effort
January 29, 2016 11:50 P.M.

Ty Ronning, who aspires to be a professional hockey player, scored a goal on national television and in front of about 200 NHL scouts and general managers on Thursday night at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum.
However, he said the goal he scored Friday night at the Sandman Centre was more important.
Ronning, 18, scored with two seconds left in a five-minute 3-on-3 OT period to give his Vancouver Giants a 4-3 WHL


victory over the Kamloops Blazers.
The Giants (19-27-5) are 10th in the 10-team Western Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot. The Blazers (22-18-8) are one of the teams Vancouver is trying to catch, but that deficit is nine points. Still, the teams will meet five more times before season’s end.
“This goal here (was bigger),” Ronning said. “As a team, we need to push for the playoffs and those are a big two points. I was lucky enough to get it.
“Sure, the other goal meant something special personally but I have to look at it as a team. This goal tonight was a little bit bigger.”
That other goal opened the scoring in the annual Top Prospects Game, which Ronning’s Team Cherry lost, 3-2, to Team Orr on Thursday. Ronning had been added to the roster a few days earlier when it was decided that an injury would keep Vancouver teammate Tyler Benson from playing.
Ronning, who leads the Giants with 27 goals, has 10 points, six of them goals, in his last five games. He was a threat all of last night, along with linemates Chase Lang and Trevor Cox.
The winning goal developed with Lang in possession of the puck and Ronning coming over the boards.
“I saw the clock . . . I jumped on at 9.something seconds,” Ronning said, adding that before that shift he had told Lang “next time feed me and I’ll put it in the back of the net.”
“I guess I called my shot . . . I got lucky enough,” Ronning said with a laugh. “It was a great pass.”
Ronning headed to the net off the right wing and Lang, who has a team-high 31 assists, put the pass on his tape. The son of former NHLer Cliff Ronning didn’t miss as he pulled the Giants out of a two-game losing skid.
The fact that the game even reached OT was a credit to Kamloops goaltender Connor Ingram, who was listed as doubtful for part of the week after suffering a knee injury during a 9-4 loss to the host Prince George Cougars on Jan. 22.
After not playing the next night — the Blazers lost 6-1 to the Cougars — Ingram had an MRI on Tuesday, was cleared to skate lightly on Wednesday and took shots on Thursday.
When the Blazers filed their injury report to the WHL office on Monday, they listed Ingram as being out for one week. But when the league posted the report on Tuesday, it listed him as being week-to-week.
For the Blazers’ sake, it’s a good thing Ingram wasn’t out last night because without him the Giants may well have blown away the home team.
“He was a solid goaltender tonight,” Ronning said. “It was tough to get it past him.”
Ingram, who finished with 40 saves, was tremendous in making a number of game-saving stops, including at least four really solid saves on Cox.
“We made too many careless plays,” said Kamloops head coach Don Hay, who coached the Giants for 10 seasons before coming home prior to the 2014-15 season. “He was there to help us out.”
There were times after the game when Hay seemed lost for words.
“It’s disappointing . . . it’s disappointing,” he said. “We’re not doing a good job managing the puck. We’re not doing a good job being on the right side of the puck. If you want to cheat, you’re not going to have success. We’re not playing the game the right way right now and it’s really costing us.”
His best players, he added, were “not very good . . . not very good from our top guys.”
Neither of the Blazers’ top two lines could match the energy of the Cox-Lang-Ronning line, which accounted for three of Vancouver’s four goals. As a result, the Blazers never led and spent most of the night chasing the game.
Defenceman Ben Thomas gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 9:03 of the first period when he banged his own rebound past Ingram. Centre Gage Quinney pulled the Blazers even when he drove to the net and shovelled a loose puck through goaltender Ryan Kubic, who would finish with 36 saves in a solid night’s work.
Lang put the Giants back out front at 16:59 of the second period, tipping a point shot from defenceman Brennan Menell through Ingram. Kamloops defenceman Dallas Valentine tied it just 1:35 later, getting his own rebound and beating Kubic.
Cox’s ninth goal gave the Giants the lead, 3-2, when he redirected another Menell and watched it trickle through Ingram and over the goal line. That was at 1:15 of the third period.
Quinney got his second goal of the game, at 7:20, when a rebound off the end boards landed in front of the Vancouver crease and he was able to get it through Kubic.
The Giants put in a solid, gritty effort despite having seven players out of their lineup with injuries. As well, Ronning and centre Carter Popoff had missed the last five games before returning last night.
“It’s been a little frustrating,” Ronning said. “But you look at the best teams in the world and see how they push through adversity . . . see what they’ve come through. We have to push the same way. Tonight was a game and tomorrow is another one. We have to put this one on the shelf and get ready for tomorrow.”
The Giants are at home to the Lethbridge Hurricanes tonight. Lethbridge, which is atop the WHL’s overall standings, watched their 10-game winning streak end as they dropped a 3-1 decision to the host Victoria Royals last night.
The Blazers, meanwhile, are at home again tonight, this time against the Portland Winterhawks. Game time is scheduled for 7 o’clock. Last night, the Winterhawks dropped a 5-3 decision to the host Kelowna Rockets.
Portland (25-22-2) and the Blazers are tied for sixth place in the Western Conference, just one point ahead of the Spokane Chiefs.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,900. . . . The Giants were 0-for-1 on the power play; the Blazers were 0-for-3. . . . The Blazers took one minor penalty, that for having too many men on the ice. . . . D Dawson Davidson returned to the Blazers’ lineup after not having played since Dec. 28. . . . The Blazers scratched D Ryan Rehill (undisclosed injury), F Spencer Bast and F Erik Miller. . . . The Giants went without Benson, F Dawson Holt, F Thomas Foster, D Matt Barberis, D Ryely McKinstry, F Johnny Wesley and F Brendan Semchuk, all of whom are injured. Semchuk, a 16-year-old from Kamoops, isn’t expected to play again this season. He has a goal and an assist in 28 games. . . . The Blazers have lost five times in OT this season, with four of those taking place on home ice. The other loss was by a 4-3 count in Vancouver on Nov.13. . . . Kamloops now has lost four straight (0-3-1) and is 1-4-2 since sweeping a doubleheader in Portland on Jan. 9 and 10.
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