Fatigued and listless, the Medicine Hat Tigers never stood much of a chance on Saturday at Sandman Centre.
The Kamloops Blazers opened up a three-goal lead inside the first 10 minutes of the first period and cruised to a 7-3 victory over the Tigers, who have not played at home since Oct. 15 and were facing their final opponent on a five-game tour of the B.C. Division that started on Nov. 2.
“The goals we gave up, we made some bad plays,” Tigers’ head coach Willie Desjardins said. “Saying that, they still outplayed us. I thought Kamloops played well.”
The Blazers, who bested the Thunderbirds 7-4 in Seattle on Friday, arrived home in Kamloops at 5 a.m. on Saturday, but did not appear fazed by the overnight trip.
Connor Zary, Zane Franklin and Ryan Hughes, each of whom are among the top 10 in WHL scoring, tallied two goals apiece and Kyrell Sopotyk added a single.
The contest had potential to be a marquee regular-season clash, but did not quite live up to its billing.
Blazers’ head coach Shaun Clouston, who was fired by the Tigers on May 30 and replaced by his old coaching partner Desjardins on May 31, was facing his former team for the first time.
The two head coaches did not speak before the game.
“I haven’t spoken to him since I left Medicine Hat,” Clouston told reporters in a post-game scrum.
Desjardins told KTW he seldom speaks to opposing coaches before games.
“I’m pretty focused on our team,” Desjardins said. “That’s the only team I’m really focused on.
“Shaun has done a good job with the team, though. Good for him.”
Zary, who is tied for third in league scoring with 28 points, said his teammates paid attention to the buildup to Saturday’s game and wanted to win for Clouston.
“Med Hat probably holds a special place in his heart, but for him to play against his former team for the first time, in front of a huge crowd, and with the leadup with the media, it was a pretty special moment for us and we wanted to do it for him and we are happy we got it done,” Zary said.
Dylan Garand stopped 37 shots to pick up the victory between the pipes.
Tigers’ starting goaltender Mads Sogaard allowed three goals on 10 shots before he was pulled at the 8:44 mark of the first period and replaced by Garin Bjorklund, who allowed four goals on 30 shots.
James Hamblin, Jonathan Brinkman and Tyler Preziuso notched goals for the Tigers (12-6-1-0), who will play next on Nov. 15 against the Rebels in Red Deer.
The Tigers will host to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Nov. 16.
Clouston, who spent 16 years coaching in Medicine Hat, said there were a few confusing moments on the bench on Saturday, in part due to the Blazers wearing jerseys specially designed for Military Appreciation Night.
“Especially in the second period,” he said. “There was a black and orange team out there and I’ve coached the black and orange team for a lot of years. And they were playing a white and black and red team. It got confusing two or three times and I really had to focus.”
The Blazers will play host to the Kelowna Rockets on Monday, with puck drop slated for 2 p.m. on Remembrance Day.
B.C. Division standings: Kamloops (12-6, 24 points), Vancouver (10-8-1-1, 22 points), Kelowna (9-7-1-1, 20 points), Victoria (9-7-1-0, 19 points) and Prince George (4-13-0-2, 10 points).
Ryan Chyzowski may have played his last WHL game in his hometown.
The Kamloops product and Tigers’ forward is in his 19-year-old campaign.
Kamloops will travel to Medicine Hat to play the Tigers next season.
Chyzowski was held off the scoresheet and was minus-2 on Saturday.
Connor Zary’s grandma and elder brother Treyton made the trip to Kamloops from Saskatoon and were at the game on Saturday.
Treyton won the 50-50 draw prize money, about $7,500, and his name was announced late in the third period.
“That’s a pretty funny coincidence thing,” Connor said. “I just kind of chuckled.”
Was it really a coincidence or is there something suspicious going on?
“If there is, we’ll keep it under the carpet,” Connor said with a laugh.