Kamloops Blazers pummel hometown Kelowna Rockets in WHL game that turned into brawl

Eighteen fighting majors and 11 misconduct penalties were assessed between 15:18 of the third period and the end of the game

Radio NL play-by-play man Jon Keen called it a post-nightclub-exit street fight.

The finish to a B.C. Division clash on Saturday featuring the Kamloops Blazers and host Kelowna Rockets will be reviewed extensively by the Western Hockey League, with line brawls, a goalie fight, cross-checks and high sticks, among other nefarious activities, to scrutinize in the Slap Shot throwback.

“It's definitely something the league has worked at trying to minimize,” Blazers’ head coach Shaun Clouston told KTW. “They'll take a long look at it. Coaches will be asked questions. GMs will be asked questions. There were multiple fight situations, potential suspensions in those ones."

Kamloops throttled Kelowna 7-2 to claim its seventh win in eight games this season against the 2020 Memorial Cup hosts, who were playing with a depleted, injury-riddled roster.

Ryley Appelt put Kamloops up 6-2 with an even-strength goal at 8:14 of the third period, a few minutes before madness ensued.

Eighteen fighting majors and 11 misconduct penalties were assessed between 15:18 of the third period and the end of the game.

“I don’t think, for the most part, we initiated most of that,” Blazers’ assistant coach Cory Clouston told Keen on the Radio NL post-game show. “Emotions run high. Our guys did a really good job of playing hard, answering the bell when called upon. In some situations, they were forced into fights. I guess those things happen.”

The Kelowna Daily Courier noted Rockets’ head coach Adam Foote complained of missed calls by officials that put his players in dangerous situations.

He said an Appelt hit on Liam Kindree in the second period was much to blame for the game deteriorating in the third period. Appelt received a two-minute minor for boarding for the check on Kindree.

“The league’s got to take a hard look at how their refs are letting it get out of control,” Foote told the Kelowna Daily Courier. “I talked to a league official before the game. I said, ‘They’ve let three hitting from behinds go, and they let 23 (Appelt) board a guy.’ They call the right call there to control the game … our guys, I never promote that stuff, but I think they just got fed up.”

Four players remained on each team’s bench with time winding down in the third period. More than 200 penalty minutes were doled out in the game.

"That was definitely old school. Maybe like back when I played in the 1980s,” Shaun Clouston said. “When the game does get to that point, you hope both teams get through it and nobody is seriously injured.

“You’d have to go through each incident. I'm not on the ice. I don’t know what's said between players. But from my perspective, it looks like our guys were answering the bell. That's what it appeared to be."

Pavel Novak of the Rockets hit Kyrell Sopotyk during a game at Sandman Centre on Nov. 11, a check from behind that left the Blazers’ forward with a dislocated shoulder.

Novak was suspended for eight games.

Foote told the Kelowna Daily Courier the Rockets have watched numerous similar incidents go unpunished.

“Our guys probably, I think, just got fed up with the way it was going,” Foote said.

Blazers’ netminder Dylan Garand and Rockets’ goaltender Roman Basran squared off at 17:46 of the third stanza, the main event of a line brawl.

"Definitely a big risk,” Cory Clouston told Keen. “You look up and next thing you know your goalie is in a fight. Fortunately, he didn’t get hurt."

Kelowna may not have been as fortunate, as Basran, who lost the decision to Garand, appeared to be wincing in pain and clutching at some sort of upper-body injury.

Shaun Clouston was asked if it was his club’s intention to run up the score.

"Absolutely not,” he said. “We had 16- and 17-year-olds and an extra D-man filling in the power play late in the game. There was zero intention to run up the score.

"At some point, in today’s game, you’ve got to use your power play when teams are coming hard after you. I give Kelowna credit. They came hard early, got a lead and then it was our power play that got us back going. But there was definitely no intention to run the score up."

Kamloops, which outshout Kelowna 43-25, registered four power-play goals on eight attempts — Orrin Centazzo at 12:32 of the first period, Zane Franklin at 18:08 of the second period, Josh Pillar at 18:37 of the second period and Logan Stankoven at 18:14 of the third period.

Pillar scored at even strength at 17:02 of the first period.

Jonas Peterek gave Kelowna a 1-0 lead at 7:02 of the opening frame. Alex Swetlikoff lit the lamp for the Rockets at 15:34 of the second period to cut the Kamloops lead to 3-2.

Kelowna was 0-for-3 on the power play.

Garand allowed two goals on 24 shots in 57 minutes and 46 seconds of work.

Kamloops backup Rayce Ramsay entered the game in relief of pugilist Garand at 17:46 of the third period and stopped the only shot that came his way.

Cole Schwebius started between the pipes for Kelowna, but allowed six goals on 27 shots and was pulled following the second period.

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Basran entered the game to start the third, but was replaced by Schwebius after the tilt with Garand.

The Rockets and Blazers are scheduled to play two more regular-season games — in Kamloops on March 13 and in Kelowna on March 14.

Kamloops is in action next on Tuesday against hometown Spokane (22-13-4-1).

Blazers' 20-year-old forward Ryan Hughes, who has been recovering from a lower-body injury, may return to the lineup on Tuesday.

Everett (26-10-2-1) will play host to Kelowna on Friday.

B.C. Division standings: Kamloops (26-11-2-1, 55 points), Victoria (23-13-3-0, 49 points), Kelowna (21-17-1-2, 45 points), Vancouver (17-18-2-2, 38 points) and Prince George (11-22-3-4, 29 points).

© Kamloops This Week


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