Pillar scores twice in 5-0 Blazers win over Prince George

Blazers steamroll P.G., 5-0

Josh Pillar scored twice and Dylan Garand was perfect in net Wednesday as the Kamloops Blazers shut out the Prince George Cougars 5-0 inside an empty Sandman Centre.

Pillar opened the scoring at 8:06 of the first, a power-play marker from Orrin Centazzo and Connor Zary.

The score remained 1-0 until late in the second period, when Dylan Kuefler scored his first of the year with 25 seconds remaining from Matthew Seminoff and Caedan Bankier.

Third-period goals from Inaki Baragano, Pillar and Bankier made it a 5-0 final.

Garand stopped each of the 16 Prince George shots he faced for the win. Cougars goalie Taylor Gauthier made 35 saves on 40 shots in the loss.

Zary and Centazzo each finished Wednesday's game with two assists. Zary leads the team in scoring with 16 points (3-13-16) and Centazzo is second with 12 points (3-9-12).

The Blazers are now 7-1 on the season, alone atop the B.C. Division bubble standings.

Kamloops will be back in action on Sunday taking on the second-place Vancouver Giants (5-3). Puck drop at Sandman Centre is at 6 p.m.

Kelowna Rockets will get in a few practices before resuming shortened season Saturday

'The players wanted to play'

The Kelowna Rockets will soldier on and make the most of a difficult season made even more difficult from positive tests for COVID-19 within the players cohort.

A two week suspension of all team activities, which resulted in the loss of nine games from an already pandemic-shortened 24 game season, was finally lifted late Tuesday night, meaning the Rockets could begin skating Wednesday to prepare for a resumption of play Saturday.

"They want to play games," said Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton, who let the players and coaches discuss whether to resume Saturday or Monday.

"The players wanted to play. We honoured that, so we are going to honour our end."

Safety of the players and all involved is first and foremost, added Hamilton. "That's why we're not starting Thursday, and waiting to Saturday."

The games the Rockets lost can't be made up because BC Division games must be completed as scheduled May 12. Any possible extension would mean going back to the province for approval, something he indicated they were not going to do.

The five GM's will meet Thursday to finalize one extra game which would allow the Rockets to play 16 games compared with 22 for the other four clubs.

With Saturday's game their first in three weeks, and following just a few practices, Hamilton says the early going will be difficult.

"We'll be in real tough," he said, "because everyone is in mid season form, and we're just starting out again."

"Our guys will have to be aware of everything."

On the positive side, Hamilton says the players did have a chance to workout and stay in shape while they were in isolation,

"We've had a good Zoom program with them, and we were able to move some equipment around.

"Any billets that didn't have gym equipment and bikes, we moved stuff around for them.

"And, there were a few who had been in quarantine before that were in quarantine for this, so they skated through this whole thing on their own, without coaches."

But, it was the isolation that was the toughest, he said.

Players knew coming in there wouldn't be any social life. Players would go from the rink to their billets houses.

Now, add no rink, no one-on-one interaction with teammates and coaches.

"I think you find out things about them, about character," said Hamilton.

"If there ever was a test of adversity, this is certainly it."

Kelowna Rockets return to the ice today after a 14-day isolation

Rockets cleared to play

The Kelowna Rockets have been cleared to resume all on-ice and team activities.

The Western Hockey League announced the decision after everyone within the team cohort, players, coaches and training staff, tested negative for COVID-19.

All team activities were paused, and those within the team cohort were placed on 14-day isolation following a positive test result March 30.

Seven additional positive tests within that cohort were also discovered, however, league officials say those results occurred while individuals were in isolation, and did not impact the initial 14-day isolation.

The Rockets will practice for the balance of the week and are scheduled to resume their abbreviated schedule Saturday against the Prince George Cougars. That game is slated for Kamloops.

Nine games involving the Rockets were postponed over the course of the two week pause. The league is expected to further update the schedule in the coming days.

The 24-game schedule is slated to end May 12. It's not believed that date will be extended.

The Canadian Hockey League has officially cancelled the 2021 Memorial Cup

Memorial Cup cancelled

For the second straight year, Major Junior Hockey will not have a champion after the Canadian Hockey League officially pulled the plug on the 2021 Memorial Cup.

While the Quebec Major Junior League has played much of its season, the WHL only began playing an abbreviated schedule last month with no plans for playoffs, while the Ontario Hockey League has not yet resumed play.

"There is no question that the 2020-2021 season has been difficult for all involved in CHL hockey," the organization said in a statement.

"We have focused on making decision that put the health and safety of our players, staff and the entire CHL family first, while balancing the need to provide our players with the best hockey development opportunity in the world.

"With the WHL and QMJHL in the midst of shortened seasons, and the OHL continuing return-to-play discussions with the Ontario government, unfortunately we have once again had to make the difficult decision to cancel the Memorial Cup."

Last year's national championship, scheduled for Kelowna, was cancelled at the height of the early spread of the coronavirus.

The CHL says a decision regarding the timing and location of the 2022 Memorial Cup will be made at a later date.

There are ongoing discussions about a future Memorial Cup in Kelowna, possibly in 2023, when the WHL is next scheduled to host the event.

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