Kamloops Blazers' goaltender Ramsay posts shutout in first WHL victory

Chris and Heather Ramsay were unable to make the trip to Kamloops from Saskatoon to watch son Rayce play for his Blazers on Tuesday at Sandman Centre.

They did the next best thing.

“I know my parents were watching at home,” Rayce said. “They told me they made nachos and everything.”

There wasn’t much salsa required in the 23-save performance, but, holy guacamole, did the 18-year-old netminder ever perform well in a 4-0 sour creaming of the Swift Current Broncos.

The shutout victory marked the first win of Ramsay’s WHL career.

“It felt like I got an A on a group project where I didn’t do much,” Ramsay said. “I owe a lot to my teammates.”

Martin Lang put Kamloops up 1-0 at 17:20 of the first period.

Swift Current hung around, thanks in part to goaltender Reece Klassen, who stopped 41 shots in a losing effort, but Kamloops took over in the second period.

Orrin Centazzo scored twice. Linemate Connor Zary had assists on both goals, the second a power-play marker.

Zary has points in his last 15 regular season games, a streak that dates back to March. He is first in WHL scoring, with 16 points after 10 games.

Centazzo has racked up 15 points in 10 games, good for sole possession of second in league scoring.

“I try not to keep it on my mind,” Zary said when asked about his point totals. “I know where I’m at. I’m not really focused on that. Just trying to win games, help the team out as best I can.”

Josh Pillar put a fork in the Broncos at 19:41 of the third period, with Brodi Stuart and Matthew Seminoff providing assists.

Ramsay has been hampered by an ankle injury and had not played since Sept. 22, when he allowed four goals on 32 shots in a 4-3 loss to the hometown Portland Winterhawks.

The victory inspires confidence in his health and his teammates.

“It’s great for us, having a guy you can lean on,” Zary said. “We know Dylan [Garand] is going to play a lot of games, but being confident in having a guy that’s going to come in and put up a performance like that is unreal.”

Garand is the Blazers’ No. 1 netminder and, at 17, is one year younger than his backup, Ramsay.

“Our team’s been playing so good and we’ve been winning,” said Ramsay, who was cloaked in the Blazers’ shiny player of the game jacket, a 1992 track suit top once worn by associate coach Darryl Sydor.

“That’s all I care about. I know when I get my opportunity, I’m going to do my best to take advantage.”

Ramsay was not drafted into the WHL, but was signed by the Blazers following a strong training camp in September of 2017.

He has paid dues since then, most recently for the Humboldt Broncos in the Saskatchewan Junior (A) Hockey League.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound left-catching goaltender played in 27 regular-season games for Humboldt in 2018-2019, posting a .923 save percentage.

Ramsay boosted his stock in the post-season, with a .925 save percentage in seven games.

“Going back down there, I kind of started as a little bit of a backup and worked my way through and became a starter and I think I’ve learned a lot from that on how to play and be focused in every game,” Ramsay said. “That has helped me a lot this year so far.”

Garand seems likely to start this weekend when Kamloops plays host to Vancouver on Friday and Kelowna on Saturday.

Game time is 7 p.m. both nights at Sandman Centre.

Ramsay will bide his time and wait for another chance to prove the Blazers’ backstops are like chicken or ground beef on nachos — they’re different, but olivem are good.

“I’ve been working to get here for a couple years,” Ramsay said. “To come here and be on the team for sure and get the win today, it’s really special.

The standings

B.C. Division standings as of Tuesday night: Kamloops (6-4-0-0, 12 points), Vancouver (6-5-0-0, 12 points), Kelowna (5-3-1-0, 11 points), Victoria (2-4-1-0, five points), Prince George (2-5-0-1, five points).

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