On Teddy Bear Toss Night, an event focused on giving and goodwill, the Kamloops Blazers took two points off the Portland Winterhawks in a rather animus fashion, dominating the visitors in a 4-1 win.
It was an odd juxtaposition: the same Kamloops team that was playing around with plush toys halfway through the first frame went tough on the Winterhawks for three full periods, avenging a 2-1 shootout loss from the previous night.
Connor Zary opened the scoring midway through the first on the Blazers second power play of the night, starting a rain of teddy bears onto the ice that has been a tradition in Kamloops since 1993.
"I think we were just all over them tonight, we didn't really let up off the gas pedal after that first goal," he said. "Sometimes that teddy bear goal puts you into a lull but I think we just kept coming at them and all four lines were rolling tonight."
Connor Zary triggers the Teddy Bear Toss halfway through the 1st. His 19th of the season gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead and gave these fans a chance to toss an unbearable amount of stuffed toys on the ice. pic.twitter.com/9B5b6TZkeq— Kamloops Matters (@KamloopsMatters) December 1, 2019
After about a 15 minute delay, the Blazers didn't lose any momentum and Orrin Centazzo added to their lead, roofing a feed from Zary at the side of the net to give the team a 2-0 lead.
"I think our start was much better," says head coach Shaun Clouston. "I think we picked up where we left off from the night before. Our energy was a little better. Positioning was really good, our first forechecker was all over the puck, putting pressure on their defenceman. And when we had the puck in the offensive zone, I thought we hung onto it, did a really good job of possessing it and making them defend."
In the second period, Ryan Hughes added his 10th of the year, this one also coming on a power play, to extend the Blazers lead to three.
Daylan Kuefler rounded out the scoring for the Blazers, notching his first career WHL goal in the third period when he ripped a wrist shot past Joel Hofer.
"That was probably the best reaction we've had on the bench all year," said Zane Franklin, who finished with a pair of assists. "(Kuefler) can't say enough good things about that guy. He comes to work, he's got a smile on his face always and he scored on an NHL drafted goalie, so that's a good start for him."
The Winterhawks managed to spoil Dylan Garand's shutout bid late, when Reece Newkirk beat him on the power play, but Portland never really threatened to come back in this one. Kamloops dominated possession and outshot the Winterhawks 46-31.
The Blazers went 2-for-7 with the man advantage, while Portland went 1-for-5.
Tonight marked Kamloops final home game for almost a month. The Blazers head east for six games before the Christmas break. Kamloops is just 5-7 on the road this season.
"We haven't played as well on the road. We have a terrific home record but in lots of different areas (on the road) we haven't been as good," says Clouston. "We're going to have to challenge ourselves here and see if we can turn that around."
They won't be back at the Sandman Centre until they host the Everett Silvertips on Dec. 28.
However, the team will be at Royal Inland Hospital on Monday evening (Dec. 2), distributing some of the teddy bears collected tonight.