Garand perfect in net as Blazers earn road shutout over Giants

Blazers blank Giants, 5-0

Dylan Garand made 23 saves to earn his first shutout of the season on Saturday as the Kamloops Blazers blanked the Vancouver Giants 5-0 in a battle of WHL B.C. Division heavyweights.

Kamloops goal scorers were Logan Stankoven, Mats Lindgren, Caedan Bankier, Nick McCarry and Dylan Sydor.

The Blazers were two for three on the power play.

The loss, in front of 2,638 fans at Langley Events Centre, was the first of the season for the Giants.

The Blazers are now 5-1, sitting atop the B.C. Division standings. Their next game will be on Friday, when the Giants visit Sandman Centre.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the final score was 4-0.

Fans returning to Prospera Place were treated to a dandy as the Rockets upended Kamloops 4-2

Fans treated to thriller

A pair of newcomers led the way for the Kelowna Rockets, as they welcomed back fans to Prospera Place for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half Friday night.

Colton Dach scored twice while goaltender Colby Knight made some key saves during the opening two periods leading the Rockets to a 4-2 victory in their home opener over the Kamloops Blazers.

With only 50 per cent capacity still allowed due to provincial health restrictions, only 3,400 fans were able to come into the building.

But, even with numbers smaller than usual, Rockets head coach Kris Mallette said they made all the difference Friday.

"It's been a while. I know our guys were excited, I was excited," said Mallette.

"I've been with this organization for quite some time, and to not have these people backing us in the bubble...it's great to have them back. They really gave our guys a lot of boost."

Dach, acquired from the Saskatoon Blades in an off season deal for Trevor Wong did what the Rockets expect of him, score goals.

And timely ones.

Dach opened the scoring with a shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Dylan Garand cleanly to the far side.

Then, with the score tied at 2-2 and the Rockets controlling the puck on a power play, Dach got open on the left wing, took a pass from Jake Lee, stepped into the left faceoff circle and beat Garand to the short side.

"We knew Colton loves to score goals, and he was going to be given an opportunity to play a lot of minutes in key situations.

"Case in point, he finished when he had to. That's what's expected of him, that's what he expects from himself. It's a great start in the first two games that he's played."

The Rockets took a 2-0 lead on goals from Dach in the first and Max Graham, who beat Garand with a bullet of a wrist shot just under the bar in the second.

Knight, acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings earlier in the week, looked cool and steady in just his fifth WHL start, making key saves on three breakaways to keep the vaunted Blazer offence off the board over the first 40 minutes.

Kamloops got one early in the third when Josh Pillar's centering pass deflected off Noah Dorey's skate and in, then tied it moments later when rookie import Viktor Persson tapped home a centering pass on a shorthanded two-on-one.

But, despite the shift in momentum, it was the Rockets who broke the tie with Dach's power play goal, then sealed it when Elias Carmichael hit the empty net from deep inside his own end.

Mallette says there were some tense moments when the Blazers tied it, but credited his team's resilience in turning the tide against the consensus best team in BC.

"We don't get a lot of credit. The talk in the BC Division is all about Kamloops. I think our players had something to prove, and I think they showed that we can play," said Mallette.

"I know it's one of 14, but our guys are excited, they were very resilient. At times there were some tense moments, but we stuck to a game plan and I thought our execution was great."

For Dach and Knight, it was their first taste of the bitter rivalry that is the Rockets and Blazers.

"That was huge for us. We had a week off to prepare and practice.

"Coming into it, the guys told me it was a pretty big rivalry, so I was amped up, the guys were amped up, and it was an overall good game."

The Rockets are off again for another week before heading to Vancouver to face the Giants next Saturday.

Stankoven, Schmiemann to share captain's C for Blazers

Blazers name two captains

The Kamloops Blazers announced their leadership group on Friday, which will see two veterans sharing the captain’s C.

Logan Stankoven and Quinn Schmiemann will share the captaincy — Stankoven at home and Schmiemann on the road.

Stankoven, a Kamloops native in his third season with the Blazers, was selected in the second round of this year’s NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars.

Schmiemann, from Wilcox, Sask., is entering his fourth season with the Blue and Orange. The defenceman recently returned from Philadelphia Flyers camp and will make his season debut Friday night in Kelowna.

Four players will wear As this season — Caedan Bankier and Josh Pillar at home and Daylan Kuefler and Matthew Seminoff on the road.

The Blazers and Rockets will face off in Kelowna at 7 p.m. on Friday. Kamloops will then travel to Langley to take on the Vancouver Giants on Saturday.

Kelowna Rockets finally get a chance to play in front of the home fans Friday

Rockets host home opener

It's been well over a year-and-a-half since fans have had a chance to pile into Prospera Place for a regular season Western Hockey League game.

That long wait ends tonight when the Rockets host division-rival Kamloops Blazers in their home opener.

The Rockets opened the season last weekend, splitting a pair of games in Victoria, including a season-opening 6-3 defeat.

"I think the first game we were just getting together as a team and getting used to playing with each other," said Rockets captain Tyson Feist about their opening game.

"I think we could've come out a little bit better in that first game and the guys realize that. We recouped for the second game and I think we played a good strong team game."

The reigning BC Division champion Blazers meantime are a perfect 4-0, averaging six goals a game in the process.

"Every game against Kamloops is a big game," said Feist.

"We're going to play a good team and get the W."

The Rockets will look a little different than they did the last time the team played before a large crowd.

Gone are goaltenders Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius. They'll be replaced between the pipes by Colby Knight, acquired earlier this week from Edmonton, and Cole Tisdale.

Colton Dach will also make his Prospera Place debut after being acquired in a deal for Trevor Wong.

Czech native Gabriel Szturc, selected in the import draft, will also make his Rockets debut Friday.

Due to provincial health restrictions, capacity will be capped at 50 per cent for Friday's game.

A limited number of single-game tickets went on sale Thursday morning at Select Your Tickets.

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