The Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets added another chapter to the Thompson-Okanagan rivalry on Remembrance Day, and it was a particularly rough one. Kelowna entered Monday’s matinee winless in their last three games, while Kamloops was on the other end of the spectrum, riding a three-game winning streak. Ultimately, the two teams continued their trends as the Blazers rattled off a 5-2 win and their tenth consecutive victory over the 2020 Memorial Cup hosts.
Winning or losing, streaking or stagnating, the rivalry is alive and well, and that’s music to the ears of Blazers captain Zane Franklin. “In the third, you could really tell there was a rivalry there. I enjoy these games. They’re physical right from the start, there’s a lot of emotion, and the guys in the dressing room love those types of games too.”
A total of 22 penalties were called in the game, none more noteworthy than Pavel Novak’s five-minute major for checking from behind, followed by a game misconduct after checking Kyrell Sopotyk head-first into the boards. After being attended to by Blazers athletic trainer Colin Robinson for a few minutes, Sopotyk was assisted off the ice to a round of applause from a very relieved home crowd. Blazers coach Shaun Clouston could not confirm the extent of Sopotyk’s injury but did offer his blunt initial assessment after the game. “It’s not good. He hurt his shoulder. We’ll find out how serious it is.”
Sopotyk’s injury overshadowed a rare afternoon game that otherwise provided the Blazers’ faithful a lot to cheer for Orrin Centazzo, who was the beneficiary of some nifty passing between Connor Zary and Zane Franklin, kicked off the scoring with his first of two power-play goals. After scoring two goals against Medicine Hat in the previous game, Franklin embraced the role of playmaker with three assists against Kelowna. “I guess that’s just how it goes. Some days you’re the shooter, some days you’re a set-up man. It changes who has the hot stick and Orrin [Centazzo] had it tonight, so I just get him the puck as much as I can.”
Matthew Seminoff then increased the Blazers’ lead to two with his first career goal in the WHL. With the Rockets defender sliding to the ice to disrupt the 2-on-1 between Seminoff and Logan Stankoven, the 15-year-old opted for the short side on goaltender Cole Schwebius.
Stankoven’s return from the U17 World Hockey Challenge was a welcome addition for Clouston who raved of the rookie’s energy. “I love the way he plays, how engaged he is, how hard he goes. He’s got a real passion for the game.”
Both teams traded chances until Nolan Foote deflected a perfect shot-pass from Kaedan Korczak to put the Rockets on the board. The one-goal deficit was as close as the Rockets got to finding the win column. Zary and Ryley Appelt scored back-to-back goals to create a three-goal lead heading into the final frame.
The two teams appeared to reach a boiling point late in the game. After a handful of minor penalties, Martin Lang and Mark Liwiski squared off for a fight near centre ice. As Lang reached for his chinstrap, Liwiski got an early jump and landed a few punches on the Blazers forward. Cooler heads prevailed, and the two teams exited the ice without confrontation as ‘Takin’ Care of Business’ signalled the end of the game.
Monday’s game was Kobe Mohr’s first visit to the Sandman Centre as a member of the Kelowna Rockets. The 20-year-old forward played in 72 regular-season games with the Blazers, including six earlier this season.
Blazers captain and Mohr’s cousin Zane Franklin had this to say about squaring off against each other: “We had a couple chuckles in the warmups. I love Kobe — he’s one of my best friends. We’ve played hockey growing up for a long time, so this is a little awkward I guess, but it’ll be a good story in a couple years to tell.”
Kamloops now sits four points ahead of Vancouver and six ahead of Kelowna in the B.C. Division.
Connor Zary extended his goal-scoring streak to five games. Zary has eight goals in that stretch, and his 30 points are tied with Prince Albert’s Aliaksei Protas for first in the league.
Franklin’s 29 points are tied for second in league scoring, while Ryan Hughes’ 25 points and Centazzo’s 24 are good for 10th and 11th, respectively.
Tonight’s edition of DUBNetwork’s 3 stars vs. the 3 stars in the building will have to be forfeited, as oddly enough, there are no disagreements with the in-house selections.