Allen Douglas

Blazers riding high entering the holiday break

The Kamloops Blazers completed their road trip through the WHL’s Eastern Conference, compiling a 4-0-2 record after playing six games in nine nights. 

Kamloops brass learned early on that they would be missing two forwards and one defenceman after their games in Manitoba. Martin Lang, Inaki Baragano and Connor Zary were all called upon by their respective countries in preparation for the World Juniors tournament. 

The orange, white and blue started their trip by eking out a 5-4 victory in Brandon. After scoring a combined six goals in the second period, both teams remained scoreless until 20-year old Ryan Hughes finally broke the deadlock with the lone shootout goal.

Ryan Hughes (Photo- Portland Winterhawks/Keith Dwiggins)

Jonny Hooker led the way for the Wheat Kings, scoring his fifth and sixth goals of the season and earning the second star of the night. Highlights can be found here.  

24 hours later, the Blazers entered the Max Bell Centre to play the Winnipeg Ice for the first time in WHL history.

Zane Franklin’s second goal of the game created a three-goal lead for the Blazers heading into the third period. During the play, Montana Onyebuchi made contact with Winnipeg’s goaltender Liam Hughes, resulting in a major penalty, game-misconduct and one-game suspension.

Benjamin Zloty’s first goal of his WHL career sparked a massive third-period comeback for the Ice who clinched the two points with Michal Teply’s overtime winner. 

(Photo Credit – Zachary Peters) Benjamin Zloty cued the comeback.

Highlights of the game can be found here, while DUBNetwork’s Darnell Duff has your recap here

Due to four regulars missing from the lineup, the Blazers recalled Mats Lindgren from the Burnaby Winter Club while Tye Spencer and Logan Bairos departed the Saskatoon Contacts to join the big club. 

All three associated players suited up in Moose Jaw where, this time, the Blazers squandered a four-goal lead in their 5-4 defeat to the Warriors. 

You’ve likely heard coaches mention that “your best players have to be your best players”, and the Warriors’ top line was exactly that. 20-year old forward Owen Hardy recorded a pair of second-period goals to make it a one-goal game heading into the final frame.

Brayden Tracey’s third-period powerplay marker tied the game at 4-4. The Anaheim Ducks’ first-round draft pick then sealed the victory with another powerplay goal just 19 seconds into overtime. Despite the blown leads, the Blazers managed to collect at least a point in each of their first three games. Highlights of the game in Moose Jaw? Right here

The fourth game of the road trip brought the Blazers into Regina where they jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 4-2 win. Veterans Zane Franklin, Ryan Hughes and Orrin Centazzo once again led the way offensively, combining for three goals and seven points. 

Highlights can be found here while DUBNetwork’s Chris Clark has your recap of the victory here.

Two nights later, the Blazers received reinforcements as Zary and Baragano returned from their camps in Europe. A pair of Saskatoon natives showed up big in their hometown as Zary recorded a goal and an assist while Rayce Ramsay stopped 28 of 30 shots for his third win of the season. Hughes and Centazzo had another big night offensively, combining for three goals in the 5-2 victory. Highlights? Highly recommended.

Last stop: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Max Martin, a key cog of the Raiders’ championship-winning team last season, returned to Prince Albert where he received his ring, recorded two assists and earned first-star honours in the Blazers’ 4-2 win. 

Orrin Centazzo scored two goals for the third consecutive game, finishing the six-game road trip with seven goals and 12 points. Franklin’s three assists against the Raiders was the third three-point game of the trip for the captain from Marwayne.

Allen Douglas / Kamloops Blazers

Highlights of the road trip finale? You got it, folks, right here

As noted, Orrin Centazzo and Zane Franklin each collected 12 points in the six-game road trip to lead the Blazers. Ryan Hughes collected 10 points, while Josh Pillar and Max Martin each had six. Rookie Logan Stankoven scored three goals to bring his total up to 11 on the campaign.

Franklin is now second in league scoring with 50 points while Zary and Centazzo are tied with 43 points, two ahead of Hughes’ 41.

Dylan Garand went 3-0-1 on the road trip. His 28 games played are the most among WHL goaltenders while his 18 wins are second only to Portland’s Joel Hofer. 

The Blazers converted on six of their 26 powerplay opportunities, giving them the fourth-best man-advantage in the league. Short-handed, Kamloops still owns the league’s top unit after operating at 85 percent on the trip.

Voice of the Blazers Jon Keen shared some good news regarding injured forward Kyrell Sopotyk. The Aberdeen, Sask native suffered a dislocated shoulder on November 11th and has since begun skating in his rehabilitation process. 

The Blazers won’t return to action until December 27th when they take on the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place.

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