Kamloops Blazers grind out win over Giants to start 2020

In what was a cleanly-played game for both sides, it ultimately took a nasty bounce for the Kamloops Blazers to open the new year with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants.

Zane Franklin potted the overtime winner when his shot bounced off the Giants' Cole Shepard and over goalie David Tendeck's shoulder. It was perhaps overdue puck luck, considering Kamloops outshot Vancouver 47-20 on the night.

"Good things happen when you send it to the net," said head coach Shaun Clouston. "We had a lot of chances that were real close and maybe deserved a little better fortune on a couple of them, but we'll take it for sure."

Tendeck was outstanding, turning away all 20 shots he faced in the third period, including stopping a wide-open Ryley Appelt early in the frame. The netminders' brilliance gave Vancouver a chance, which they capitalized on when Tristen Nielsen tied it up with 26.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game to three-on-three. 

But like they had all game, Kamloops had the edge in chances in the extra frame, outshooting Vancouver 4-1 before finally breaking through. Josh Pillar and Montana Onyebuchi had the assists on the winner.

The victory ended a two-game skid for the B.C. Division leaders. 

It was a physical game between the division rivals, but neither team was called for a single penalty on the night. 

"I think the guys were really focused, the last two outings didn't go well and the guys realised that we had to play hard and we had to play smart and we did those things," said Clouston.

Logan Stankoven opened the scoring early in the second. Appelt threw a huge hit in the right corner to dislodge the puck and Matthew Seminoff set up Stankoven for his 13th of the year.

"It was a great play by Ryley to get in on the forecheck and separate the man from the puck," said Stankoven. "It ended up on Seminoff's stick there and he made a great play down low. I just walked out and luckily it went in the net. It was a good shift there."

On the other end of the ice, Dylan Garand played strong as well, stopping a few key breakaways in his 19-save performance. 

Kamloops was also helped by the return of some key players, including Kyrell Sopotyk, who has been out with an injury since Nov. 11. The forward immediately made an impact, throwing a big hit in the first period. 

Martin Lang also returned from the World Juniors and Inaki Baragano came back from a one-game suspension.

"It was great to see them back in the lineup, especially Sopotyk. Being out for that long with his injury, it was great to see him back out there and helping the team in a positive way," says Stankoven.

The Blazers close out the weekend with a visit from the Victoria Royals tomorrow night (Jan. 4). Puck drop is at 7 p.m.

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