If Ryan Hughes had yet to meet any of his fellow Blazers teammates, he got an introduction tonight when all 19 mobbed him for scoring the game-winner in a 3-2 overtime victory over Kelowna.
The newly acquired forward had a stellar debut, with two goals and an assist, helping the Blazers capture their first win of the 2019-20 season. Hughes beat Rockets goalie Roman Basran from the top of the right circle on the power play in overtime to send the 4,461 fans in attendance home happy.
"It was kind of confusing, I didn't know what we were really doing off the faceoff there, but I know I didn't get everything on that shot so I was lucky it went in," he says. "I kind of just blacked out after, I don't know what happened, I just had 19 guys coming after me."
The 20-year-old came over from the Saskatoon Blades via trade on Wednesday night, with Kamloops sending Jerzy Orchard, their third-round pick in the 2021 WHL Draft and their second-round pick in 2022 back.
"It's a pretty good trade," says Blazers head coach Shaun Clouston after the win. "I've always thought he was a great player: dynamic, skilled, great vision. He really controlled the game on the power play tonight. Our power play hasn't been great; it hasn't been overly dangerous and it looked dangerous tonight. I think he was a big part of that."
The Blazers had gone 2 for 15 on the power play in three losses over the opening weekend. They went 2 of 6 with the man advantage tonight.
Having just joined the team a day ago, Hughes admitted he wasn't very familiar with the systems yet. But the newcomer was put in a position to succeed by Zane Franklin. The captain redirected Hughes shot for the game's opening goal, seconds after the Rockets Michael Farren stepped out of the penalty box.
Then Franklin set up Hughes nicely at the side of the net for another go-ahead goal midway through the third period.
Kelowna was able to respond both times, with Dillon Hamaliuk scoring four minutes after Franklin to tie things at one-all. Then, with all the momentum on the Blazers side following Hughes 2-1 goal, Franklin was hit with an interference penalty and the Rockets potted their only power-play goal of the night seven seconds later.
Kamloops killed off their other four penalties.
Orrin Centazzo had a pair of assists for the Blazers while Connor Zary added a helper. In net, Dylan Garand turned away 18 of 20 shots for the win.
Basran, who had a rough outing his last time in Kamloops, came to play tonight. He kept the Rockets in it, turning away 29 of 32 shots, including some high danger chances.
While it wasn't the biggest crowd, the mood in the building was great after the Kamloops Blazers and BCLC provided 1,000 free tickets to tonight's game to students, staff and their families affected by the Parkcrest Elementary fire. The team also donated the 50/50 proceeds from the game to the Parkcrest PAC to help fund new sports equipment.
The Blazers will look to keep the momentum going tomorrow night when they host the Vancouver Giants at 7 p.m.