|Kamloops Blazers goaltender Cole Cheveldave during WHL action against the Kelowna Rockets on Saturday night at Prospera Place in Kelowna, B.C.|
By Larry Fisher
The Okanagan Sunday
Cole Cheveldave enjoyed a bounce-back effort and the Kamloops Blazers picked up where left off. Combined, it resulted in yet another two points for the WHL’s top team.
Cheveldave made 35 saves less than 24 hours after getting the early hook, as the Blazers edged the host Kelowna Rockets 3-2 at Prospera Place on Saturday night to sweep the home-and-home weekend set. At Kamloops on Friday night, the Rockets chased Cheveldave with four goals on eight shots in the first period before blowing a three-goal lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the league-leading Blazers (40-12-1-3).
“Obviously, I had to be better,” said Cheveldave, who watched his backup, Cam Lanigan, stop all 12 shots in relief as his teammates rallied with four unanswered goals for Friday’s win. “I was focused before tonight and knew I needed to have a big game, so I was pleased with my performance.”
The Rockets started strong again, peppering Cheveldave with 20 first-period shots, but trailed 2-0 after 20 minutes, with the Blazers netting two late power-play goals courtesy of Bronson Maschmeyer, at 17:54, and Dylan Willick, at 19:43.
Willick’s second of the night stood up as the winner, when he stuffed the puck short side on Rockets goaltender Adam Brown at 8:20 of the third period to break a 2-2 tie.
“Their goalie might have been the difference tonight . . . but, at the end of the day, they got the key goal when they needed to and we weren’t able to,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, whose club trailed 2-0 and 2-1 at the period breaks.
Brown finished with 34 saves, one shy of Cheveldave’s total in an entertaining goaltender’s duel that featured stellar stops at both ends.
Overall, it was a strong showing for the Rockets (24-25-3-4) despite not getting any points in the game to show for it in the standings.
Myles Bell and Carter Rigby, with power-play goals, scored for Kelowna. Bell made it 2-1 at 9:00 of the second, with Rigby tying the game at 1:59 of the third.
“It was a better effort than our past home game (2-0 loss to Seattle on Wednesday) and I think even better than (Friday) night,” said Shane McColgan, the Rockets’ leading scorer who tallied two assists and was the game’s second star. “We were right in this game with them, so it shows we can compete with any team in this league. We have to build on this . . . get a good rest with a day off (today) and get rejuvenated.”
Huska agreed with that assessment, giving his squad full marks in a losing cause.
“I can’t fault the guys for their effort,” he said. “With the exception of a couple soft plays on our penalty kill early on — we had some tough clears and they capitalized on their opportunities — but I liked the way we played for 60 minutes. It was an improvement. This was a good effort at home and that’s what we want to see. You have to use your home building as an advantage and tonight was one of the nights where I thought we did a good job playing at home; we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”
With 16 games left in their regular season, the sixth-place Rockets will enter a busy week with four games in five nights starting Tuesday at Kent, Wash., against Seattle.
Blazers 3, Rockets 2
KELOWNA — WHL Saturday night:
1. Kamloops, Maschmeyer 10 (Lipon, Herrod) 17:54 (pp)
2. Kamloops, Willick 22 (Ranford, Herrod) 19:43 (pp)
Penalties — Smith Kam (hooking), McColgan Kel (unsportsmanlike conduct-embellishment) 0:59, Franko Kel (goaltender interference) 6:26, Balson Kam (tripping) 9:48, McColgan Kel (hooking) 16:12, Bowey Kel (interference) 18:39.
3. Kelowna, Bell 11 (McColgan) 9:00 (pp)
Penalties — Hanes Kam (goaltender interference) 7:06, Heffley Kel (checking-from-behind) 11:34, Bell Kel (cross-checking) 11:40, Needham Kan (hooking) 15:41.
4. Kelowna, Rigby 16 (Sissons, McColgan) 1:59 (pp)
5. Kamloops, Willick 23 (Ranford) 8:20
Penalties — Herrod Kam (high-sticking) 0:26, Hansen Kam (roughing) 5:51, Severson Kel (checking-from-behind) 15:51, Hansen Kam, Bulmer Kel (roughing) 19:11.
Shots on goal by
Kamloops 15 9 13 — 37
Kelowna 20 9 8 — 37
Goal — Kamloops: Cheveldave (W, 28-7-1-3); Kelowna: Brown
Power plays (goals-chances) — Kamloops: 2-6; Kelowna: 2-5.
Referees — Jeff Ingram, Adam Byblow. Linesmen — Ward Pateman, Alex Teichroeb.
Attendance — 6,086.