'Dangerous' hit, heated third period add fuel to Blazers-Rockets rivalry

Kamloops knocks off Kelowna 5-2 at Sandman Centre

Disconcerting sounds told the story.

The first was the clattering boom that resulted from Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk careening head-first into the boards after he was checked from behind by Kelowna Rockets’ forward Pavel Novak.

Following immediately was an uneasy cacophony of groans and yells from the Sandman Centre crowd that eventually gave way to boos and jeering while Novak was escorted off of the ice by an official.

A collective murmuring, the hush of concern, quietly drowned out hostility and suffocated the building.

Sighs of relief were heard when Sopotyk moved.

The 18-year-old Aberdeen, Sask., product was helped to his feet, accompanied by warm applause, and taken to the dressing room by Blazers' trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson.

Kamloops won the B.C. Division clash 5-2 on Monday, but the scoreline is white noise.

“It was obviously dangerous,” Blazers’ head coach Shaun Clouston said of the hit.

“Sopo was quite a way from the boards. The puck was kind of rimmed around, so he was going toward the boards, but, probably, eight feet away. There was a pretty good arm extension [by Novak] in there and he [Sopotyk] couldn’t protect himself.

“It’s not good. He hurt his shoulder. We’ll find out how seriously, but it’s not good.”

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The Blazers on Tuesday provided an update on Sopotyk's injury.

There is no timetable for his return, but he is expected to be out long term. More information will likely be available after Sopotyk visits a doctor on Tuesday.

Novak, a 17-year-old forward from the Czech Republic, was assessed a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct at 18:26 of the second period.

The hit set the table for a feisty third period.

Kelowna’s bench was incensed when Nolan Foote slid into the boards after he was checked from behind by Zane Franklin, the Blazers’ 20-year-old captain.

Franklin, who was not penalized for the contact on Foote, dropped his gloves to fight and was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when no partner in pugilism emerged.

Foote rose gingerly, but appeared uninjured and was able to participate on the ensuing Rockets’ power play.

A few minutes later, Mark Liwiski drove hard to the Kamloops net, made contact with a Blazers’ defender, collided with netminder Dylan Garand and scored for the visitors at 14:56, a goal awarded after review.

“Is that the one where they interfe … hit the goalie?” Clouston said when asked what explanation he was given by officials.

“The puck crossed the line before the net came off and they felt, the refs felt, that our guy was the reason why he [Liwiski] went into the goaltender.”

Liwiski was not finished drawing the ire of Kamloops fans.

He landed a few punches on Blazers’ 18-year-old forward Martin Lang, but Clouston suggested those jabs were thrown before the Czech Republic import was ready to scrap.

The Blazers’ bench boss was asked if Lang was given the opportunity for a fair fight.

“No, not really,” Clouston said. “It looked to me like they both were going to square off. I think Marty was reaching for his helmet. Some guys undo their helmet and then square up. It looked like he wasn’t prepared or wasn’t ready for that.”

Clouston was asked about the heated nature of the third period.

“Those things happen sometimes. When one team is up by a significant margin, the other team shows some frustration,” Clouston said.

“I thought our guys did a real good job sticking up for each other, answering the bell, staying the course.”

Rockets’ head coach Adam Foote refused a post-game interview request from KTW.

The Blazers, who are 4-0 this season against their rival from the Little Apple, will next be in action on Friday, when Prince George comes to town.

Puck-drop is slated for 7 p.m. at Sandman Centre.

Kelowna will play host Kamloops on Saturday. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Prospera Place.

On the scoresheet

Orrin Centazzo (2), Matthew Seminoff, Connor Zary and Ryley Appelt scored for Kamloops.

Seminoff’s marker was the first of his WHL career.

Dylan Garand stopped 25 shots between the pipes for Kamloops.

Nolan Foote and Mark Liwiski scored for the Rockets.

Cole Schwebius started between the pipes for Kelowna.

Schwebius, who allowed two goals on 19 shots, was pulled when Foote scored for Kelowna at 12:42 of the second period, with the Rockets trailing the Blazers 2-1.

Roman Basran entered the game and allowed three goals on 14 shots.

Kamloops outshot Kelowna 40-33.

B.C. Division standings: Kamloops (13-6, 26 points), Vancouver (10-8-1-1, 22 points), Kelowna (9-8-1-1, 20 points), Victoria (9-7-1-0, 19 points) and Prince George (4-13-0-2, 10 points).

© Kamloops This Week


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