The Kamloops Blazers made their long-awaited return to the Sandman Centre on Saturday evening to host the Everett Silvertips. Fresh off a 4-0 victory over the Kelowna Rockets, the Blazers entered Saturday’s game three points back of Everett and Portland in the Western Conference standings.
For two teams taking part in the second half of back-to-back’s, neither squad appeared any worse for wear. In fact, the rapid start wasn’t halted until Gage Goncalves’ rebound beat Dylan Garand 4:44 into the game.
Orrin Centazzo then leveled things on the Blazers’ man-advantage with a wrister off the crossbar and in. Minutes later, Logan Stankoven — with as patented of a wrist-shot as one could possess as a 16-year old rookie in the WHL — elected to keep on a 2-on-1 before beating Keegan Karki blocker-side.
The Blazers’ lead lasted all of 36 seconds before Bryce Kindopp scored a power-play goal to tie the game heading into the intermission. If the first period was the exciting, fast-paced and relatively well-behaved contest, the next 20 minutes was its antithesis.
11 penalties were called in the middle frame, none more notable than Inaki Baragano’s five-minute major for checking from behind on Everett’s Jackson Berezowski. The Swiss defenceman was also handed a game-misconduct while Michael Gut received a double-minor for roughing on the play.
The painfully slow second period, plagued by penalties, scrums and a fight between Dawson Butt and Zane Franklin, managed to overshadow the four goals scored including Olen Zellweger’s first in the WHL.
All in all, Everett held a 5-3 lead heading into the intermission, and frustration was mounting on the Kamloops bench. Regardless of the Blazers showing the odd glimpse of a full-on derailment, head coach Shaun Clouston took a bird’s eye view when reflecting on the night’s events.
“In a weird way, there are some positives there. The guys really care, they didn’t just lay down, they got frustrated, and when you’re frustrated, it’s because you want the results that aren’t coming.”
Kindopp’s second of the night, nearly nine minutes into the third period gave Everett a three-goal edge. He now has 27 goals on the season.
Those results still felt within reach in the final few minutes when Connor Zary and Max Martin scored to make it a one-goal game. Orrin Centazzo — who has scored nine goals in his last five games — was stopped point-blank by Karki before Goncalves put home the empty-netter.
After dropping the four-game season series, Centazzo was well aware of the margin for error when playing the Silvertips.
“We’re right there too, we just can’t get off our game like the second period — we took penalties and that’s what hurts us because we’re a very good 5-on-5 team, we roll off that.”
Centazzo’s chance with some 30 seconds left in the game summed up the Blazers’ night in its entirety — close but not quite. The Silvertips, as poised and structured as ever, are among the WHL’s finest, and occupy a position that Clouston and the Blazers continue to search for.
“I think we want to be that team, we want to be one of the best teams but there are probably still some things that we have to learn and some distance we need to travel to get there.”