GETTING INTO STRIDE: The Blazers have started the 2012-13 season with a 11-0-0-1 record. The Blazers have won their last nine games by a combined score of 42-16. The hockey club is in the middle of one of the toughest stretches of the year. They are playing five games in seven nights overall this week. The Blazers took the first game of their Central Division road trip with a 5-2 win in Calgary on Sunday night. The Blazers won their second game on Tuesday, 4-0 over the Red Deer Rebels. The Blazers won a thriller over the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday night, 5-4 in a shootout. Last night, the Blazers squeezed one out in overtime with a 5-4 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Following tonight’s game, the Blazers will head home for a much needed week off. The hockey club will play three games in three nights next week. The Blazers will be home to Brandon on Friday, October 26th and Victoria on Saturday, October 27th before travelling to Seattle for a game on Sunday, October 28th.
Vs. Kootenay – Last Season (1-Game Series)
Game 1: 11/23/11, vs. Kootenay 7, Kamloops 3
Blazers lost the season series 0-1-0-0
Vs. Kootenay – This Season (1-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/20/12, at Kootenay, Kamloops
Blazers are 0-0-0-0 in season series
ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The Blazers roster currently sits at 25 players (2 goaltenders, 9 defensemen and 14 forwards). The Blazers swung a deal with Tri-City last week to acquire 19-year-old rearguard Sam Grist. Grist is a 6’4”, 200lb defender who adds size and experience to the backend. The roster includes 12 players selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, eight players from the free agent list, four players via trade, and one player selected from the CHL Import Draft. The roster breakdown by region includes eight players from Alberta, six from B.C., five from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba, one from the USA, one from the Czech Republic, and one from Switzerland. There are 18 WHL veterans on the roster and seven WHL rookies. Four of those rookies spent time with the Blazers throughout the regular season and playoffs last season.
THE MATCH UP: The Blazers and Ice will only meet once again this season. This is the third consecutive season that these two B.C. teams will meet once. Last season, the Blazers hosted the Ice and lost 7-3 on home ice. Same Reinhart had a big night with a goal and three assists . In 2010-11, the Blazers were in Kootenay and beat the ice by a score of 8-5. These two teams were bitter B.C. Division rivals in the early 2000s meeting in the first round of the playoffs multiple times.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS ‘Who to Watch’: The Kamloops Blazers forward crop is arguably among the best in the WHL. The return of 20-year-old Brendan Ranford (7+12=19) is a big help for the Blazers. Ranford has led the Blazers in scoring the last two seasons with 86 points in 2010-11 and 92 in 2011-12. Ranford is joined by the trio of Colin Smith (8+17=25), Tim Bozon (9+9=18), and JC Lipon (11+17=28). Smith, who had 35 goals and 85 points last season, is the center on the dynamic line. Bozon, who had 36 goals last season, is slotted at left wing and tends to be the guy to finish. Lipon, who had 65 points last season, is the right winger whose grit and tenacity on the puck helps create chances. The Blazers also have 20-year-olds Dylan Willick (4+7=11) and Jordan DePape (1+1=2) up front. Both players are veteran 20-year-olds who have recorded 20+ goal seasons and averaged just under a point a game. A pair of 17-year-olds have taken on a bigger role and shown they are capable of handling it in the early stages of the season. Cole Ully (5+3=8) and Matt Needham (2+4=6) both had terrific rookie seasons and are providing offensive depth to the hockey club. Chase Souto (1+2=3) has played with Needham and Ully and has been solid in the early going. The depth continues as Aspen Sterzer (1+1=2) and Rob Trzonkowski (2+1=3) can skate and easily move up the line-up if needed. Both are veteran players who love to take the body on the forecheck. Add in rookies Brayden Gelsinger (0+0=0), Aaron Macklin (0+1=1) and Mitch Friesen (0+0=0), and the Blazers boast a formidable group of forwards. The Blazers return six WHL veterans on defence and have three rookies on the back-end. A pair of 19-year-old defensemen will lead the way as Tyler Hansen (0+3=3) and Marek Hrbas (1+4=5) provide two different dynamics to the back-end. Hansen was among the league leaders in +/- last season and is looked upon to shut down the opposition’s top players. Hrbas is expected to play in all situations. The addition of 19-year-old Sam Grist (0+5=5) adds more size and grit to the back-end. A trio of 18-year-olds have stepped up their game this season led by third-year rearguard Brady Gaudet (0+5=5). Along with Gaudet, Tyler Bell (0+1=1) and Landon Cross (1+3=4) are both into their second seasons. Jordan Thomson (1+4=5) has had a great start to the season. The 16-year-old is a smart and steady presence for the Blazers. Josh Connolly (0+0=0) and Ryan Rehill (0+1=1) continue to develop and improve day in and day out. In goal, the Blazers are strong. Cole Cheveldave (7-0-0-0, 1.94, .929) is expected to make a bulk of the starts this season. The 19-year-old was a second team Western Conference All-Star last season. 18-year-old Taran Kozun (4-0-0-1, 2.44, .919) is the back-up. Kozun has already got his feet wet with some playing time early on this season and he has been sharp with a shutout already. The 18-year-old spent some time with the Blazers during the start of the regular season and in the playoffs last season.
KOOTENAY ‘Who to Watch’: The Ice are a young team this year, two seasons removed from winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2010-11. The most talented player on the ice is 17-year-old forward Sam Reinhart. Reinhart was the WHL Rookie of the Year last season and is the face of the Ice. Brock Montgomery is a big 20-year-old forward who is leading the Ice in goals with 7 and is tied with the team in lead in points 11. Drew Czerwonka is another veteran Ice player into his fifth season with the team. Besides Reinhart and Montgomery, the Ice is a young team with no other player scoring more than two goals or having more than five points. Luke Philip and Jaedon Descheneau are a pair of 17-year-old forwards to watch. The backend is led by 20-year-old Joey Leach and 19-year-old Jagger Dirk. Both players are rugged veterans in to their fourth and fifth seasons. In goal, gone is 20-year-old veteran Nathan Lieuwen and 18-year-old Mackenzie Skapski is the go to guy. His back-up is 17-year-old Wyatt Hoflin who has suited up for three games this season.
NHL DRAFT: Tim Bozon (Montreal, 3th round, 64th overall in 2012), Colin Smith (Colorado, 7th round, 192nd overall in 2012)
INJURY REPORT: Jordan DePape (Upper body, one week). Man games lost due to injury – 15.
DID YOU KNOW… Rob Trzonkowski is the first Blazer to ever wear #37… First year defenseman Jordan Thomson leads all WHL rookies with a +8 rating this season… JC Lipon leads the Blazers and the WHL in scoring with 11 goals, 17 assists and 28 points… Dylan Willick takes over the Blazers current iron man streak playing in his 199th consecutive game tonight after Bronson Maschmeyer played in 216 consecutive games to finish his junior career… Brendan Ranford is the longest serving Blazer and has played 288 WHL games and has 289 points all with the Blazers which puts him 10th in Blazers all-time scoring after passing Robin Bawa’s 287 points last night… Ranford needs to play 54 more games this season to surpass C.J. Stretch’s record of 341 career games in a Blazer uniform… Colin Smith, Tyler Hansen and Dylan Willick are the Blazers Alternate Captains, with a Captain yet to be named… The Blazers boast three players who scored 35+ goals last season in Brendan Ranford (40), Colin Smith (35) and Tim Bozon (36)… Forward JC Lipon is the WHL and CHL Player of the Week for the second week in a row after putting up 6 goals, 4 assists in three games last week… JC Lipon has 23 points in his last eight games, including eleven goals… Colin Smith is riding a season opening 12-game point streak in which he has compiled 25 points… Defenseman Josh Connolly is the younger brother of former Prince George Cougar Brett Connolly… The Blazers have nine different players who have scored the game winning goal in eleven wins so far this season.