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 13-45-2-3 record through 63 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 this past weekend for the second week in a row. The Blazers finished 1-2-0-0 in the stretch with the lone win coming in Seattle via the shootout. The Blazers are now in Alberta and will finish off the week with games in Calgary on Friday and Medicine Hat on Saturday. The hockey club will return home for a few days before playing in Vancouver on March 5th and in Victoria March 7th and 8th to close out 10 straight games on the road. The Blazers home rink, the ISC, will be occupied with the Canadian Men’s Curling Championships from March 1st – March 9th.
Vs. Red Deer – Last Season (2-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/16/12, at Red Deer 0, Kamloops 4
Game 2: 02/09/13, vs. Red Deer 3, Kamloops 5
Blazers were 2-0-0-0 in season series
Vs. Red Deer – This Season (2-Game Series)
Game 1: 11/05/13, vs. Red Deer 1, Kamloops 4
Game 2: 02/26/14, at Red Deer, Kamloops
Blazers are 1-0-0-0 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 Rebels will meet twice this season after meeting twice last season as well. The Blazers beat the Rebels back in Kamloops on November 5th by a score of 4-1. This season, the Blazers will be in Red Deer to close the season series out on February 26th. The Blazers won both games of the season series last season including a 4-0 victory in Red Deer back on October 16, 2012.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS ‘Who to Watch’: The Kamloops Blazers forwards have had to get the job done this year by committee. Cole Ully (29+36=65), 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 (15+22=37) and Matt Revel (14+28 = 42) are two players that can contribute now and will also be impact players next season. Collin Shirley (13+12=25) 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+13=15) is the oldest defenseman on the roster and has played a ton for the hockey club. Returnees Ryan Rehill (3+15=18) and Josh Connolly (11+33=44) 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 164 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.
RED DEER REBELS ‘Who to Watch’: The Rebels are currently in a battle for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference with the Prince Albert Raiders. The Rebels sit one point behind the Raiders for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Up front, 17-year-old Conner Bleackley has led the way with 27 goals and 64 points so far this season. Bleackley is likely to be selected early in the 2014 NHL Draft. Rhyse Dieno, Aspen Sterzer and Brooks Maxwell are other up front the Rebels rely on to score goals. Dieno is a point-per-game player, Sterzer was acquired from the Blazers at the trade deadline and has 25 goal, and is a third year player. The Rebels recently lost the service of 20-year-old Lukas Sutter due to a season-ending injury. He is a second-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets. Presten Kopeck has been a good pick up from the Portland Winterhawks as he has 17 points in 18 games with the Rebels. Two 16-year-olds have had good years for the Rebels as Adam Musil and Grayson Pawlenchuk both have shown they can be impact players. Wyatt Johnson and Scott Feser are both 18-year-olds into their second WHL seasons and provide secondary scoring. Others young players up front include Evan Polei, Vukie Mpofu, Cole Chorney and Nell Meyer. On the back end, Haydn Fleury has emerged as a leader in his second WHL season as a 17-year-old. Fleury will likely be selected early in the 2014 NHL Draft and has 41 points in 61 games for the Rebels. Brady Gaudet is now 19 and the former Kamloops Blazers defender is the veteran defender that the Rebels have counted on in all situations. Kayle Doetzel and Devan Fafard are veterans that play in all situations for the Rebels. Other young players include Kolton Dixon, Kirk Bear and Nick Charif. In goal, the Rebels have the reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year in Patrik Bartosak. The 20-year-old who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings has a .920 save percentage. Taz Burman is the back-up and will need to learn plenty from Bartosak as he likely will be counted on next season with Bartosak unable to return. Burman is a 16-year-old getting his first taste of the WHL and has appeared in 17 games this season.
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 – 142.
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…