Wow! Excellent, excellent game played by the Tips tonight, and they came within six minutes of handing Kamloops, the top-ranked team in the CHL, its first regulation loss of the season. However, the Blazers are 16-0-0-1 for a reason and they found a way to win. The victory was Kamloops’ 14th straight, which sets a new franchise record — the Blazers won 13 straight in 1986-87 and 1989-90. Given the kind of history Kamloops has, owning that record is something special. I might point out, however, that the Blazers did not win the Memorial Cup in either of those seasons where they won 13 straight.
Everett’s defense was fantastic tonight, particularly the pairing of Ryan Murray and Mirco Mueller. Murray and Mueller drew the assignment of dealing with Kamloops’ line of JC Lipon, Colin Smith and Tim Bozon, and they held those three in check. Pretty much all of Everett’s defensemen played well.
The Tips also received some big efforts from their young forwards. With Joshua Winquist out sick and Manraj Hayer having to leave the game after taking several big hits — Everett coach Mark Ferner said after the game Hayer should be OK to play against Portland on Wednesday — the youngsters had to step up. They did, particularly when Ty Mappin’s dash up the ice set up Carson Stadnyk’s first career goal, which gave Everett a 2-1 lead midway through the third period. Perhaps that will be the moment that sparks both players.
But give Kamloops credit for fighting back. The shootout finished 1-0, with Colin Smith pulling off an amazing move for the only goal. Smith made several dekes, took himself all the way to the goal line, then scored on a backhander from the tightest of angles. He also came suspiciously close to bringing the puck to a complete stop, but it was still a sick move.
The turning point should have been a positive one for Everett. The Tips were playing what would have been described as a textbook road third period. The Blazers got a goal to tie it at 1-1 on a fortunate bounce, but Stadnyk quickly restored Everett’s lead. Then the Tips got a power play on Smith’s tripping penalty with 7:45 remaining. However, the Tips were ineffective on the power play all night, and going back on the power play blunted Everett’s impetus and gave energy to the Blazers. Kamloops then scored 24 seconds after the power play expired. The Tips failed to clear the puck from the slot, allowing Chase Souto to spin a backhander under goaltender Austin Lotz to make it 2-2. Everett was playing well five-on-five, and I’m thinking that may have been one of those penalties Ferner would have liked to decline.
I decided to change this category to have more flexibility in what to highlight, and tonight I want to highlight an odd moment in the first period. Kamloops defenseman Tyler Hansen was being called for an interference penalty on a hit on Trent Lofthouse, prompting Everett’s Lucas Grayson to drop his gloves and go after Hansen. But just before Grayson reached Hansen, Souto dropped his gloves and engaged Grayson as Grayson was engaging Hansen. So for a moment we had the image of two guys throwing punches at the same opponent simultaneously. Grayson, for his part, seemed completely unfazed by this development. And somehow there were no fighting penalties assessed. Huh.
First star: Murray. One assist and fantastic on defense. He and Mueller could easily share the first star.
Second star: Stadnyk. One goal. Congrats on the first goal, he’s also gaining confidence.
Third star: Smith. One assist and the shootout winner. Was dangerous with his speed.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Brendan Ranford, Kamloops. No points, but was an absolute handful.