In what was largely an even first period, the Blazers found themselves ahead 2-0 at the end of the frame and didn’t look back.
Connor Zary opened the scoring after a bouncing puck hit him in front.
Quinn Schmiemann left the game in the first intermission due to an upper-body injury, forcing Libor Zabransky to eat unanticipated minutes on both the left and right sides. Libor went on to add a power-play assist on Connor Zary’s insurance marker in the second period.
Despite Zary scoring twice, the Blazers took advantage of strong performances from the supporting cast. Brodi Stuart was impactful all night and was rewarded with a beautiful breakaway goal in the third frame. Stankoven, Appelt, and Stuart found themselves with a good chunk of power-play time and created opportunities but unfortunately had nothing to show for it. Josh Pillar and Kyrell Sopotyk hounded the puck all night, frustrating the Kelowna defence. Bankier, Seminoff, and Belton all played good minutes and pressured the opposition on the forecheck. The Blazers leaned on their full bench in this game as fans got to catch a better glimpse of the team’s future. Despite the solid effort, the team did make a few mistakes that weren’t capitalized on, thanks in part to Dylan Garand’s exceptional play.
The Rockets were a frustrated team tonight, affording the Blazers ten power-play opportunities. It would be unfair to categorize this Rockets team as weak given the circumstances. The team has experienced a tremendous amount of roster turnover as players have come and gone all season. They lost Novak to a lengthy suspension and saw Foote away at World Juniors just as Matthew Wedman was acquired. Expect the Rockets to only get better from this point and heat up this rivalry.
Zabransky Shines as First Star (1G, 1A, 6 Shots, +2)
Newcomer Libor Zibransky didn’t play a ton in the opening 10 minutes due to a couple of penalties and the club’s desire to ease him into the game. However, Libor’s ice time wound up being much higher than anticipated. It took all of 14 minutes for the Czech to show off his excellent point shot as he used his heavy release to score blocker side on Roman Basran. After Quinn Schmiemann’s departure from the game, Libor ate big minutes for the club and seemed to fit right in. The Czech looks to be a reassuring presence on the backend, capable of eating minutes in all phases and bringing a degree of toughness to the team.
The Rockets will host the Blazers Saturday night as they look to make amends and earn the split. Kamloops has an opportunity to pull ten points clear of Kelowna with a game in hand. Quinn Schmiemann will likely miss Saturday’s tilt; look for Ethan Brandwood to get back into the lineup in his place.