The noise caught Evan Sarthou by surprise.
At first, the Tri-City Americans goaltender couldn’t figure out what the ruckus was behind him.
“The last couple of times we were here it was pretty quiet,” he said after backstopping the Americans to a 4-3 victory over the Kamloops Blazers at the Sandman Centre.
On this night, Sarthou had to ward off the Blazers and a couple of dozen members of the Kamloops Broncos, the local junior football team. In the second period, with Sarthou guarding the goal in the south end, the Broncos got comfortable in seats behind him and the fun began.
“I didn’t really realize what they were saying,” Sarthou, a native of Black Diamond, Wash., said. “Then in the second period I realized they were chanting at me and they were giving it to me every time I touched the puck.
“I loved that. I feed off it.”
In the third period, with Sarthou at the other end, the Broncos bunch moved with him. Lucky for them, there were lots of empty seats available. That meant the chants — E-V-A-N! E-V-A-N! — continued.
“The two refs were giving me a hard time, too,” Sarthou said with a laugh. “I enjoy it. A few guys, it might get in their heads, but I enjoy it.”
You can bet that the Blazers didn’t much enjoy last night’s goings-on, at least not the last two periods. And it could be that things are starting to get into their heads.
Kamloops now is 0-5-0 — this is the franchise’s 35th season and this is the poorest start in its history — with the Victoria Royals to play here on Saturday. The Royals beat the Blazers twice on the weekend in Victoria.
In this one, the Blazers simply weren’t able to stand good fortune whenever it smiled on them. The Blazers held 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 leads, but weren’t able to skate with the lead for long.
“We’ve got to give Tri-City credit,” Kamloops head coach Don Hay said. “They pushed back at critical times.”
The Americans got the winning goal at 8:44 of the third period, as Beau McCue, their captain, scored his second of the night. Forward Parker Bowles hit him with a beautiful saucer pass and McCue burst off the left wing to the net. Goaltender Connor Ingram stopped the first attempt but, with the puck loose in the crease, a falling McCue was able to reach back and tuck it over the line.
While that was the winner, the game’s biggest goal came 23 seconds into the second period.
“We had a great start,” Hay said. “But that early goal put us back on our heels.”
The Blazers had taken a 3-2 lead at 19:02 of the first period when defenceman Marc McNulty a point shot through traffic and past Sarthou.
Fifteen seconds into the second period, Kamloops defenceman Ryan Rehill had come to the defence of teammate Quinn Benjafield, a move that resulted in a Tri-City power-play.
“You hate to see . . . Ryan was standing up for Benjafield,” Hay said, “and you hate to take that away from our guys. But you have to be able to do that at the right time.”
Eight seconds into the power play, forward Kyle Olson beat Ingram for his first WHL goal and the steam was gone from the Blazers’ game.
The Blazers had emerged from the first period with a 16-10 edge in shots as well as the lead. They got their speed game in gear as the period wore on and by period’s end the Tri-City defenders were having a tough time.
Kamloops forward Nick Chyzowski got things going by bodying defenceman Parker Wotherspoon off the puck and then scoring from a scramble at 3:02.
However, just 1:24 later, Bowles won a face-off from Matt Needham in the Kamloops zone, pulling the puck back to defenceman Brandon Carlo. His soft shot from the point was tipped in by McCue and it was tied.
Shirley put the Blazers
That set the stage for three late goals, with winger Collin Shirley giving the Blazers the lead at 15:44 when they caught the Americans on a bad line change and he fired a shot to the long side and past Sarthou’s glove.
The lead only lasted until 16:13, which is when Wotherspoon corralled the puck in the low slot and beat Ingram with a quick shot.
“They’re down,” Hay said of his players. “We asked for them to compete harder. They competed harder.
“We didn’t generate enough shots or offence in the last two periods. But it was an even back-and-forth game, and we competed at a good level. We’ve got to stay with it and build off the good things.”
Sarthou, who finished with 27 saves, shut the door on the Blazers after the first period. Another way to look at it is that he didn’t give up a goal with the Broncos perched behind him.
“It was a huge win for us,” he said. “The two points are huge. But the work doesn’t stop.”
The Americans (2-1-1) are off to Prince George where they will play the Cougars on Friday and Saturday nights.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,195, a decrease 742 from the Sept. 26 season-opener. . . . Ingram made 32 saves. . . . Tri-City was 1-for-3 on the PP; the Blazers were 0-for-2. . . . The Blazers scratched D Conner McDonald (undisclosed injury), F Matt Revel (shoulder), F Deven Sideroff (virus), F Matt Campese and F Luke Harrison. . . . They continue to carry four 20-year-olds and can only dress three. They went with D Marc McNulty, D Ryan Rehill and Needham last night. . . . F Jackson Shepard, a 15-year-old from North Vancouver, made his WHL debut with the Blazers. He skated well and played with energy whenever he was on the ice. He was a second-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . The Americans were without F Braden Purtill (undisclosed injury), F Brian Williams (foot), F Austyn Playfair (undisclosed injury), D Riley Hillis (undisclosed injury) and F Parker AuCoin. . . . Tri-City also scratched Russian F Vladislav Lukin, 18, who has visa issues to couldn’t leave the U.S. If the visa doesn’t arrive, he will miss a weekend doubleheader in Prince George.
F Tyler Shattock, a former Blazers captain, has been released from a professional tryout by the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. The Salmon Arm native is off to the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. Last season, Shattock, 25, had 63 points, including 23 goals, in 65 games with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder. . . .
In a BCHL trade made Wednesday, D Carter Cochrane, who is from Kamloops, moved from the Chilliwack Chiefs to the Cowichan Capitals for F Darien Craighead, 18. Cochrane, who turns 19 on Oct. 18, played 31 games with the Everett Silvertips and nine with the Americans last season. Tri-City released him during training camp prior to the start of this season. He had one goal in two games with Chilliwack.
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