It was the Mr. Hyde version of the Kamloops Blazers that showed up two nights ago for a lacklustre Memorial Cup opener, but Dr. Jekyll came to play on Sunday afternoon at Sandman Centre with the club’s season all but on the line.
The Blazers scored early and often in a 10-2 matinee steamrolling of the OHL-champion Peterborough Petes — a far cry from Friday night’s lopsided 8-3 loss to the Quebec Remparts.
The win moves the Blazers to 1-1 on the tournament and guarantees them a spot in at least a tiebreaker with their final round-robin tilt slated for Wednesday against the high-flying Seattle Thunderbirds.
There was a lot to cheer about for the sellout crowd at Sandman Centre on Sunday afternoon, and the excitement was set off by an unlikely source 5:14 into the opening frame when Ryan Michael put the Blazers up 1-0.
“Ryan has had a tough stretch. He’s been out for a long time injured, came back, got injured again — it’s been a challenge for him,” Blazers head coach Shaun Clouston said after the game.
“After that first game we discussed [starting him] again this morning and made the decision to make the change on the back end. He had been practising really hard and he’s a competitive guy.”
The 16-year-old, who subbed in for the scratched Aapo Sarrel, was making his second start of the playoffs. His point shot redirected off Cam Gauvreau and found twine.
“It was definitely nice to get back in the lineup. Obviously, I’m just trying to help the team anyway I could. Lucky for me I put one in the back of the net — I’m happy with that,” said Michael.
“It was definitely really cool, probably the coolest goal I’ve scored. It was definitely an experience I’ll always remember.”
From there, Kamloops captain Logan Stankoven took over, racking up five points for the second time this postseason as the Blazers pulled away and never let the Petes back within striking distance.
Stankoven said he went to school following Friday night’s loss to Quebec.
“I went back and rewatched the game I recorded on the TV — I watched all my shifts and knew there was a lot more to give personally,” he said.
“I know we were a focused group today and were hungry to play the right way.”
Ryan Hofer won a puck battle on the boards during a power play and found Fraser Minten on the left faceoff dot with a no-look pass. Minten went five-hole at 9:08 of the first period for his first marker since Game 3 of the second round to put the Blazers up 2-0.
Dylan Ernst made a strong blocker save on Tucker Robinson, which sent Jakub Demek and the Blazers down the ice. Demek dished to Shea Van Olm, who’s point shot ricocheted off Ashton Ferster and in at the 13:18 mark, making it a 3-0 Kamloops lead.
Matthew Seminoff was the recipient of a nice give-and-go to enter the offensive zone between Caeden Bankier and Stankoven 35 seconds into the second. All Seminoff had to do was keep his stick on the ice for his second goal of the tourney and the Blazers led 4-0.
Bankier appeared to be moving around well. The Minnesota Wild pick got roughed up in the Memorial Cup opener, as a victim of a high stick and missed most of the third period following a serious knee-on-knee collision with Charlie Truchon. He was stationed all game in his usual spot on the top line with Stankoven and Matthew Seminoff.
“We’ve been playing together since we were kids, so we have pretty good chemistry and we know where each other is going to be on the ice. Collectively we were happy with the win and happy to contribute,” Bankier said after the game.
“Obviously you want to feel your best every game and I trust our staff to get me ready. So far, so good.”
Kamloops product Dylan Sydor found the back of the net after sticking with his initial shot and burying the rebound past Simpson to make it 5-0 three minutes into the second period. After allowing five goals on 20 shots, Simpson was pulled for backup Peterborough netminder Liam Sztuska.
It didn’t matter who was in net, though — the Blazers kept coming in waves.
Stankoven welcomed Sztuska to the game by beating him five-hole 76 seconds after the goalie change and Demek made it 7-0 four minutes after that.
With more rounds left in the chamber, the Blazers kept pouring it on in the third against a Petes club that was playing the back half of a back-to-back.
Avery Hayes got the Petes on the board at 15:34 of the second period, but the Blazers kept their foot on the gas early in the third, when Connor Levis beat Sztuska with a short-side wrister to make it 8-1.
Seminoff and Hofer scored midway through the third to put the Blazers up 10-1 when a scary hit sucked the life out of the building.
New York Rangers prospect Brennan Othmann threw Kamloops D-man Kyle Masters awkwardly into the corner boards. Masters went down hard and did not get up. He was stretchered off the ice and gave a thumbs up while leaving.
There was no real update on Masters’ condition following the game, but Blazers associate coach Don Hay said on the Radio NL postgame show that the stretcher was likely a precautionary measure. He said Masters wanted to get up on his own but was told by medical staff to stay down.
“He was fully awake and moving all of his extremities and was transported to the Royal Inland Hospital emergency department for further evaluation,” the Blazers said in a statement after the game.
Clouston said he was happy with his club’s effort on Sunday.
“I thought the guys were focused,” he said. “We didn’t mess around from the opening faceoff and wanted to get in on the forecheck and made sure we managed pucks a heck of a lot better than we did a couple nights earlier.”
Dylan Ernst was strong in net for the Blazers, stopping 28 of 30 Peterborough shots to earn his first Memorial Cup win.
The Blazers will now prepare for Wednesday’s round-robin finale against Seattle. Puck drop is 6 p.m.
The T-Birds, who dispatched Kamloops in six games in the WHL Western Conference championship series, are 1-0 after doubling up on the Petes 6-3 on Saturday.
Seattle and Quebec will play on Monday and the Petes will take on the Remparts on Tuesday.
After the round-robin, the top team will get a bye to next Sunday’s championship game while the second- and third-place teams will play in a semifinal on Friday. If necessary, a tie breaker would be played on Thursday.