Blazers punish visiting Chiefs, look ahead to home-and-home with Rockets

Discontented after losing a heartbreaker to Seattle on Sunday, the Kamloops Blazers bounced back with one of their most-complete performances of the season on Wednesday at Sandman Centre.

Five Blazers scored in a 5-0 victory over the Chiefs, a win that vaulted Kamloops over Spokane and into the Western Conference's first wild-card position.

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"There was urgency and it's getting down to crunch time," said Blazers' netminder Connor Ingram, who recorded his fourth shutout of the season.

"It's time to stop messing around and get down to business."

The Kelowna Rockets always mean business and the Blazers will be looking to steal points from their nearest rivals in a home-and-home set this weekend.

Game time is 7 p.m. on Friday on Mark Recchi Way and the rematch in the Little Apple gets underway at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

"We've got to play our best," Blazers' head coach Don Hay said. "Kelowna is a real good team. You can't have any letdowns."

Kamloops forward Jermaine Loewen, already a fan favourite, increased his popularity with a cherry-on-top goal against the Chiefs, streaking down the left wing before cutting to the middle of the ice and tossing a backhander past Tyson Verhelst late in the third period.

"That's what we've been seeing in practice and he hasn't been able to bring it to the game yet," Hay said of Loewen's foray to the net, noting traffic in front created by Garrett Pilon helped clear the Jamaican-born forward's path.

"That's a big confidence-booster for him."

Loewen's parents happened to be in town for Wednesday's game, visiting from Arborg, Man., and while they will be proud of their son's goal, Stan and Tara might admit Jermaine needs to work on his celebrations.

"I jumped of the glass and I kind of fell a little bit there," Loewen said. "I didn't land on both of my feet. I was just excited."

"I tried not to watch it," Ingram said. "I knew it was going to be messy."

Also scoring on Wednesday for Kamloops were Matt Needham, Jake Kryski, Matt Revel (with a highlight-reel marker of his own) and Quinn Benjafield, production coming from all four lines.

Ingram's night was made less difficult by solid work from the Kamloops D-corps.

The Blazers will need another complete team effort on Friday if they're going to pry any points away from their B.C. Division rival.

"The guys are going into next game with a sense of urgency," Loewen said. "We're really turning our game around right now."

Playoff picture

The WHL Western Conference playoff system sees the top three teams in the B.C. and U.S. divisions qualify, along with two wild-card spots reserved for the next two best records.

Kamloops sits in the first wild-card slot with 69 points and is two points up on Spokane, which occupies the second wild-card position and holds a four-point lead on the Tri-City Americans

The Prince George Cougars are third in the B.C. Division, five points ahead of the Blazers.

Throwback Friday

The Blazers are going old school.

Kamloops will wear CCM Propac full-length pants on Friday against the Rockets.

Similar pants were worn by Blazer teams in the 1980s, a fashion that lasted until 1986-1987.

Cooper Canada designed hockey pants in the early 1970s, Cooperalls, which has since become a generic term for all hockey pants featuring a waist-to-ankle outer shell.

The game will air on Sportsnet's CHL Friday Night Hockey coverage on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific, along with the NHL Network US.

© Kamloops This Week



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