We all know Calvin Pickard is a good goalie. Tops in the WHL, if you will. After playing two game with some of the top players in the WHL against the Russians, Pickard carried that momentum into Friday’s game against the Americans — to the tune of a a 3-0 shutout.
It was the first time the Americans had been shutout this season, and the loss ended their five-game win streak.
Tonight, the Kamloops Blazers are in town for their first game against the Ams this season. The Blazers haven’t had much luck at Toyota Center in the past. They haven’t won at Toyota Center since Dec. 29, 2008, a span of four games.
But this is a much improved Kamloops team. The Blazers were a pitiful 29-37-3-3 last season and missed the playoffs.
Tonight’s game is a matchup of two of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Ams lead the U.S. Division with 30 points, while Kamloops sits just behind Vancouver (29 points) with 28 points after beating Spokane on the road Friday.
Kamloops is 4-1-0-0 against the U.S. Division this season, while the Ams are 4-2-0-0 against the B.C. Division, with losses to Kelowna and Victoria.
Colin Smith leads the Blazers with 11 goals and 24 points. Brendan Ranford and Dylan Willick also have 11 goals in an offense that has produced 78 goals. Ranford has played his entire career for the Blazers — 226 games and 197 points.
Cole Cheveldave (7-2-0-0, 2.32, .922) and Cam Lanigan (6-3, 2.37, .914) have shared time in goal for the Blazers. Cheveldave gets the start tonight.
For the Americans, Ty Rimmer is in goal.
The Americans have scored 74 goals this season, and just when their power play was on the upswing to sixth in the WHL, it sputtered against Seattle to at a rate of 0-for-8. Tri-City has now dropped to 12 in the PP standings.
On the bright side, the Tri-City penalty kill ranks fourth, while Kamloop’s PP is 15th. We all know this means nothing, but I thought I’d share.
On the scratch list tonight for Tri-City are Riley Guenther, Justin Hamonic, Tyson Dallman and Nate MacMaster, who has the all mysterious lower-body injury.
For the Blazers, Brady Gaudet, Jordan DePape, Aspen Sterzer and Landon Cross are not dressed. All are healthy but DePape, who had shoulder surgery and is out until March.
In stripes tonight are referees Trent Knorr and Chris Crich, while the linesmen are Jason Michelbook and hometown boy Trevor Shively.
For those watching at home tonight via the web, you will notice the ice has a gray tone to it. The white paint is pretty thin and needs another coat. In case you didn't know, the ice is painted white. If not, the ice would be the color of the rink floor and it would be a fun game of Where's Waldo? with the puck every game.
There are more than 5,000 tickets sold for tonight's game. That's what happens when the boys are gone for 21 days. Nothing better than a full house on a Saturday night.
Puck drops in 19 minutes.
The Americans have a 2-0 lead after the first period with goals by Adam Hughesman and Malte Strömwall. Hughesman's came on the power play, while Strömwall stole the puck from Bronson Maschmeyer and beat Cheveldave 5-hole.
Ty Rimmer had a scary moment playing a puck cleared down the ice. As he tried to sweep it aside at the left post, he nearly put it in his own net. The puck was on the line, but not over.
Not surprising, Lukas Walter got into a tangle with Kamloops' Ryan Hanes. Mr. Hanes ought to think twice about who he drops gloves with — he didn't fare very well.
With just seconds left at the end of the first period, Tri-City's Brendan Shinnimin was cross-checked in the head by Austin Madaisky. The 5,000 fans in the rink saw it happen, the refs did not. Shinny retaliated after the horn and was sent to the box to start the second. Really? Watch the replay Knorr and Crich and see what you were missing.
The Americans defense — including the PK — were at the top of their game in the second, killing off a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:22 and featured some great saves by Rimmer.
Kamloop's Tyler Bell got a little feisty at 13:14, picking fight with Brian Williams. Next time, Bell might want to pick on someone his own size. the 6-2, 195-pound Bell got in a couple of licks on the 5-7, 160-pound Williams before the Ams rookie took him down to the delight of the crowd.
We get a lot of assistant coaches up here in the press box, who have a few choice words about the game every now and again, but tonight, WOW! I've lost count, but let's just say those words outnumber the total number of shots by both teams (38). I'm not an innocent, but WOW!
Kamloops comes back with goals by Chase Schaber and Matthew Needham to tie the game at 3 in the third and force OT.
Justin Feser gets the game-winner after Derek Ryckman's shot came off Cheveldave's pad and to Feser in the slot.
Ryckman started the play, knocking the puck away from Colin Smith.
The Americans are off until Wednesday when Portland rolls into town.
The Seattle Thunderbirds and Calvin Pickard are on a roll. Pickard stopped 47 of 50 shots and the T-birds scored a season-high five goals in the second period, two eight seconds apart, to defeat the Portland Winterhawks 6-3. Teams best watch their backs.