The Blazers made their third trip south of the 49th parallel this past weekend and returned home with two points after tangling with the U.S. Division’s best. After losing 3-2 against Everett on Saturday, Kamloops travelled further south to Portland where they came out on the right end of a barnburner that included 11 goals and four goalies in action.
Friday night’s matchup in Everett saw two of the league’s top goalies in Dylan Garand and Dustin Wolf go head-to-head. While Garand had a solid outing in the Kamloops net, Wolf had the upper hand and glove hand en route to his second victory against the Blazers this season, stopping 42 of the Blazers’ 44 shots. Wolf has now racked up a .949 save percentage in the three meetings between the two clubs this season — a big reason that the Silvertips now find themselves one point above Portland in the standings.
Of course, the ‘Tips owe Kamloops some credit for their position at the top of the Western Conference. Whether it was a galvanized Kamloops squad or the Winterhawks feeling the effects of a third game in three nights, Sunday night’s game was an opening of the floodgates after the Blazers scored two goals or less in each of their previous four games. Regardless of rhyme or reason, because sometimes in junior hockey you just don’t need any, Kamloops jumped on the Winterhawks early with three straight goals in the game’s first eight minutes. Portland responded with goals from four different scorers, including Cross Hanas’ highlight of the night on a first-period breakaway. The two teams seesawed back and forth until Inaki Baragano’s wrist shot from the faceoff circle sealed a 6-5 win for Kamloops — its first against Portland this season.
Stankoven at U17 Hockey Challenge
Kamloops was without rookie Logan Stankoven this past weekend. The 16-year-old is participating at the U17 Hockey Challenge with Team Canada. Of the 112 players invited to development camp this past summer in Calgary, Stankoven’s name was among the 66 that made the cut. While the dynamic rookie made his mark by finishing in the top 10 in scoring at camp, it didn’t come easy. “It was a tiring week, that’s for sure. You have to just put your nose to the grindstone and work hard and get through it.”
The gruelling week paid dividends with a phone call from Team Canada brass informing Stankoven that he would be representing his country. “Oh, it’s humbling for sure. When I got the call, I was not surprised but almost in shock, because it’s a pretty surreal experience to get that chance to wear the leaf. Not many kids get that chance.”
Stankoven’s back-to-back second period goals carried Canada’s Team Red to victory over Russia on Saturday night. Kamloops will be without the services of Stankoven for two more games as his tournament wraps up on November 9th.
Stats and Standings
Portland’s 6-5 loss on Sunday night was their first on home ice this season.
Kamloops is now tied with the Kelowna Rockets for first place in the B.C. Division with 21 points, one ahead of Vancouver.
After having his point streak snapped against Vancouver, Connor Zary responded with three goals on the weekend, including his first multi-goal game of the season.
Zary was also named the WHL McSweeney’s Player of the Month for September and October after collecting 21 points in 14 games.
Mark it on the Calendar
The Blazers now return home for a few days before travelling to Seattle where they’ll square off against the Thunderbirds on Friday, November 8th. The two teams have split the season series thus far, and like Kamloops, Seattle will be without one of its young stars in Connor Roulette, who is currently teammates with Logan Stankoven at the U17 Hockey Challenge.
It will be a quick turnaround in Washington for the Blazers as they host the Medicine Hat Tigers the following evening at the Sandman Centre for Military Appreciation Night. Saturday’s game will also feature a much-anticipated storyline as Blazers’ coach Shaun Clouston faces off against the team he spent 15 years with. After parting ways with the Tigers this past summer, Clouston was recruited by Blazers manager Matt Bardsley to take over the reins in Kamloops. On the other side of the partition, Willie Desjardins returned to Medicine Hat after an eight-year journey across the professional leagues including three seasons as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.