HOME HEAVY SCHEDULE ENDS: The Kamloops Blazers are into their 33rd season in the Western Hockey League and the 30th season as the Kamloops Blazers. The Blazers have a 13-44-2-3 record through 62 games. The hockey club just completed a home heavy stretch as they played 14 of 16 games on home ice between January 11th and February 15th. The Blazers are on a stretch of 10 straight road games. The road trip will take the Blazers to the USA, Alberta and Vancouver Island over the next month. The Blazers are playing three games in three nights for the second weekend in a row. The Blazers lost 4-2 in Portland Friday and won 3-2 in Seattle last night. From there, they will spend the next week in Alberta playing three games in Red Deer, Calgary and Medicine Hat. The Blazers home rink, the ISC, will be occupied with the Canadian Men’s Curling Championships for the next month.
Vs. Spokane – Last Season (4-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/12/12, vs. Spokane 1, Kamloops 5
Game 2: 11/09/12, at Spokane 5, Kamloops 2
Game 3: 02/01/13, vs. Spokane 4, Kamloops 7
Game 4: 02/23/13, at Spokane 2, Kamloops 0
Blazers were 2-2-0-0 in season series
Vs. Spokane – This Season (4-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/30/13, vs. Spokane 4, Kamloops 5
Game 2: 01/10/14, at Spokane 6, Kamloops 3
Game 3: 01/28/14, vs. Spokane 6, Kamloops 3
Game 4: 02/23/14, at Spokane, Kamloops
Blazers are 1-2-0-0 in season series
ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The Blazers roster currently sits at 24 players (3 goaltenders, 7 defensemen and 14 forwards). The roster includes nine players selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, one player from the free agent list, 12 players via trade, and one player selected from the CHL Import Draft. The roster breakdown by region includes 10 from B.C., eight players from Alberta, two from Saskatchewan, two from Manitoba, one from Switzerland and one from the USA.
THE MATCH UP: The Blazers and Chiefs are in their final game of four meetings this season. The Blazers and Chiefs split the season series in Kamloops with the Blazers winning 5-4 back in October and the Chiefs winning 6-3 on January 28th. On January 10th in Spokane, the Chiefs won 6-3 over the Blazers.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS ‘Who to Watch’: The Kamloops Blazers forwards have had to get the job done this year by committee. Cole Ully (29+34=63, Matt Needham (10+20=30) and Chase Souto (20+11=31) are guys in their third and fourth seasons that are the offensive leaders. The 18-year-old Ully is a 5th round draft pick by the Dallas Stars. Needham is the team captain at only 18, and Chase Souto is the longest tenured Blazer playing his 200th game November 23rd. The Blazers have lost the services of Tyson Ness (12+12=24) and Luke Harrison (4+0=4) for the season due to injuries. Trade deadline acquisitions Matt Bellerive (13+21=34) and Matt Revel (14+28 = 42) are two players that can contribute now and will also be impact players next season. Collin Shirley (12+11=23) was acquired in the Tim Bozon trade and has picked up his offensive totals in the second half. Joe Kornelsen, (9+9=18) and Carson Bolduc (5+6=11) make up the supporting cast for the Blazers as WHL veterans. There has been plenty of opportunity for the young forwards on the Blazers roster as Jesse Shynkaruk, (3+3=6) Eric Krienke, (2+4=6) and Nathan Looysen (1+7=8) are all 17-year-olds looking to prove themselves. They’ve improved as the season has carried on. Nick Chyzowski (2+7=9) is the lone 16-year-old on the roster and has been impressive at both ends of the ice. On defence, the Blazers have some young players taking on big roles this season. Sam Grist (2+11=13) is the oldest defenseman on the roster and has played a ton for the hockey club. Returnees Ryan Rehill (3+13=16) and Josh Connolly (10+33=43) have done nothing but impress as they have been thrust into impact roles this year. Connolly has had a great season after posting only one goal and six points in his first WHL season. Rehill is one of the tougher players in the WHL with 162 penalty minutes and is among the league leaders in fighting majors. Matt Thomas (0+2=2) is an 18-year-old defensive minded defenseman. Edson Harlacher (0+8=8) was selected by the Blazers in the import draft and has steadily improved playing in all situations for the Blazers. Connor Clouston (0+2=2) is getting a chance to play every night and is getting better. Austin Douglas (1+1=2) is a towering 6’6” defenseman that was acquired at the trade deadline from Seattle. In goal, the Blazers have 19-year-old Bolton Pouliot (7-22-0-1, 3.89, .888) and 18-year-old Justin Myles (11-6-0-0, 3.66, .889). Cole Kehler is up with the Blazers once again due to an injury to goaltender Justin Myles, who has yet to play a game with the Blazers.
SPOKANE CHIEFS ‘Who to Watch’: The Chiefs are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot with a record of 35-21-3-3 record. They’ve relied on two players to do most of their scoring this year as 20-year-olds Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani have had outstanding seasons. Holmberg leads the WHL in goals and is second in points with 54 and 103 through 62 games this season. He is trailing Nic Petan for the WHL scoring lead by two points. Aviani is 19th in the WHL scoring race with 32 goals and 70 points. After Holmberg and Aviani, the offense drops off up front. Linemate Adam Helewka is having a great sophomore season with 20 goals and 43 points in 52 games. Liam Stewart, Connor Chartier and Riley Wittingham are all returning forwards who provide secondary scoring for the Chiefs. Carter Proft and Marcus Messier add a veteran element to the line-up for the Chiefs. Rookies like Markson Bechtold, Keanu Yamamoto, and Blair Oneschuk have stepped up and contributed so far. The Chiefs also boast to 17-year-old European forwards in Adam Hascic and Dominic Zwerger. Zwerger has 12 goals and 21 points in 43 games this year. The defence has been solid this season by committee. Reid Gow is into his fourth WHL season and has shown his offensive ability recording 48 assists in only 55 games. Jason Fram has also stepped up with more power play time and has 43 points this season. Veterans Jeremy McIntosh and Cole Wedman provide the defence some size and stability. Colton Bobyk is a big, mobile defenseman who is into his first year and will contribute at both ends of the rink. Jeff Rayman and Matt Sozanski are also both entering their first seasons in the WHL. The Chiefs have terrific goaltending with Eric Williams boasting a .908 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average so far this season. Garret Hughson has also played well in goal this season appearing in 18 games.
NHL DRAFT: Cole Ully (Dallas, 5th round, 131st overall in 2013).
INJURY REPORT: Chase Souto, Upper Body, day-to-day, Luke Harrison, Upper Body, Indefinite, Tyson Ness, Upper Body, Indefinite, Justin Myles, Upper Body, Indefinite.Man games lost due to injury – 138.
DID YOU KNOW… Matt Revel was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades on January 8th… Matt Bellerive was acquired from the Red Deer Rebels on January 9th… Collin Shirley and Matt Thomas were acquired from the Kootenay Ice on October 22nd… Connor Clouston is the son of current Medicine Hat Tigers GM/Head Coach Shaun Clouston and the nephew of current Prince Albert Raiders Head Coach Cory Clouston… Ryan Rehill was ranked #98 among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings… Nick Chyzowski won a Silver Medal with Team Pacific at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge… 18-year-old Matt Needham is the youngest captain since Ajay Baines was named team captain as an 18-year-old in 1996-97 season… Associate Coach Mark Ferner is entering his second stint with the Blazers after serving as an Assistant, Associate and Head Coach with the Blazers from 2002-2006… Matt Needham’s father Mike played for the Blazers from 1986-1990… Nick Chyzowski’s father Dave played for the Blazers from 1987-1990… Guy Charron took over as Head Coach of the hockey club on January 11…