WHL hands Novak of Rockets eight-game suspension for hit on Sopotyk of Blazers

There were seconds in which Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk thought the worst after he careened head-first into the Sandman Centre boards on Monday.

The WHL reviewed the check from behind by Pavel Novak of the Kelowna Rockets that is likely to keep Sopotyk out of the lineup until January and handed down an eight-game suspension on Wednesday.

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Once he could move his extremities, Sopotyk was relieved. The left shoulder that was dislocated in the scary collision was popped back into place on the ice by Blazers' trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson.

"I've seen it too many times over 25 years, but that was a bad one," said Robinson, who demonstrated the rotate-and-pop motion he used to put the shoulder back in place.

"It’s been a long time since I’ve gone out to see a player and my heart was jumping a bit more than usual. Not a good hit at all."

Novak, a 17-year-old forward from the Czech Republic, is eligible to play next against the Wheat Kings in Brandon on Dec. 10.

The Blazers who spoke to KTW said there is no ill-will toward Novak, who was assessed a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct on Monday.

"He felt bad," Kamloops defenceman Montana Onyebuchi said. "He even reached out to Sopo after and told him he didn’t mean to. It was an accident."

Sopotyk, an 18-year-old left shot from Aberdeen, Sask, will miss the Blazers’ road trip to Manitoba and his home province, the six-game East Division swing that begins in Brandon on Dec. 6 and precedes the Christmas break.

"That's pretty scary stuff," Blazers' captain Zane Franklin said. "It looks even worse on the replay. Your first thought is I hope he can get up and skate off.

"It could have been a lot worse. We're just thankful for that."

Kamloops GM Matt Bardsley was asked if Novak's punishment fits the crime.

"Eight games, some people think it could have been more but, at the end of the day, it's not my decision to say if it should be more," Bardsley said. "Eight games is probably the longest we've seen in a while. I hope eight games is a deterrent for any player."

Bardsley said he does not expect Sopotyk to play until after Christmas.

"Definitely I would say after Christmas at some point, whether that's early, mid or late January, it's all going to depend on how his recovery goes."



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