THE RACE TO THE FINISH: The Blazers have a record of 45-19-2-3 and 95 points through 69 games so far this season. The Blazers sit five points behind the Kelowna Rockets for first in the B.C. Division with only three games left to play. The Blazers and Rockets will conclude their 10-game season series tonight. Following tonight’s game, the Blazers will only have two games over the final 8 days of the WHL regular season. After a home-and-home series with Kelowna this weekend, the Blazers will play a home-and-home series against Prince George on March 15th and 16th to finish off the WHL regular season.
Vs. Kelowna – Last Season (8-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/16/11, vs. Kelowna 2, Kamloops 3
Game 2: 10/28/11, vs. Kelowna 2, Kamloops 5
Game 3: 10/29/11, at Kelowna 3, Kamloops 4
Game 4: 01/25/12, at Kelowna 3, Kamloops 2 SO
Game 5: 02/10/12, vs. Kelowna 4, Kamloops 5 OT
Game 6: 02/11/12, at Kelowna 2, Kamloops 3
Game 7: 03/02/12, vs. Kelowna 6, Kamloops 3
Game 8: 03/03/12, at Kelowna 4, Kamloops 3 OT
Blazers won the season series 5-1-1-1
Vs. Kelowna – This Season (10-Game Series)
Game 1: 09/21/12, vs. Kelowna 5, Kamloops 6 OT
Game 2: 09/22/12, at Kelowna 2, Kamloops 3
Game 3: 11/01/12, at Kelowna 3, Kamloops 0
Game 4: 12/27/12, at Kelowna 7, Kamloops 3
Game 5: 01/28/13, vs. Kelowna 5, Kamloops 6 OT
Game 6: 02/15/13, vs. Kelowna 2, Kamloops 4
Game 7: 02/16/13, at Kelowna 1, Kamloops 3
Game 8: 03/03/13, vs. Kelowna 0, Kamloops 3
Game 9: 03/08/13, vs. Kelowna 3, Kamloops 2
Game 10: 03/09/13, at Kelowna, Kamloops
Blazers are 6-3-0-0 in season series
ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The Blazers roster currently sits at 25 players (2 goaltenders, 9 defensemen and 14 forwards). The roster includes 13 players selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, six players from the free agent list, five players via trade, and one player selected from the CHL Import Draft. The roster breakdown by region includes nine from B.C., eight players from Alberta, three from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba, one from the USA, one from the Czech Republic, and one from Switzerland.
THE MATCH UP: The Blazers and Rockets are meeting for the final of ten games this season. The Blazers are 6-3-0-0 in the season series, while the Rockets are 3-4-2-0 so far.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS ‘Who to Watch’: The Kamloops Blazers forward crop is led by 20-year-old and fifth year player Brendan Ranford (20+60=80). Ranford has led the Blazers in scoring the last two seasons with 86 points in 2010-11 and 92 in 2011-12. The trio of Colin Smith (41+63=103), JC Lipon (36+52=88), and Tim Bozon (33+51=84) has been dynamite at times this season. The Blazers also have 20-year-old Dylan Willick (15+14=29) who is the team captain. The additions of 20-year-old Kale Kessy (19+21=40) and 19-year-old Joe Kornelsen (3+9=12) has added size and depth to the Blazers line-up. Two 17-year-olds have taken on a bigger role this season and have thrived. Cole Ully (20+26=46) and Matt Needham (12+21=33) both had terrific rookie seasons and are providing offensive depth to the hockey club. Chase Souto (14+15=29) is an 18-year-old into his third year with the team and has had a solid season. The Blazers have missed Aspen Sterzer (2+5=7) due to an injury in late December. Rookies Aaron Macklin (1+3=4), Mitch Friesen (0+0=0), and Josh Connolly (1+5=6), who is a converted defenseman, have all had to step up their games to add depth. A quartet of 19-year-old defensemen lead the way as Tyler Hansen (3+19=22), Marek Hrbas (8+16=24), Sam Grist (5+18=23), and acquired Joel Edmundson (9+16=25) provide different dynamics to the back-end. Hansen is a big and rugged defender who is looked upon to shut down the opposition’s top players. Grist and Hrbas are expected to play in all situations. Edmundson is a steady two-way defender with size, strength and a terrific shot. Landon Cross (1+14=15) is the lone 18-year-old into his second WHL season. Jordan Thomson (2+10=12) has been solid in the second half as a smart and steady presence. Ryan Rehill (0+1=1) continues to develop and improve day in and day out. 16-year-old defenseman Connor Clouston and 15-year-old forward Nick Chyzowski have been added to the roster for the rest of the season. In goal, the Blazers are strong as Cole Cheveldave (35-15-1-1, 2.39, .908) and 18-year-old Taran Kozun (10-4-1-2, 2.50, .908) carrying the load.
KELOWNA ROCKETS ‘Who to Watch’: The Rockets are having a terrific season and sit in first place in the B.C. Division. Up front they are led by Myles Bell. The converted defenseman who is now a forward sits in the top 10 in WHL scoring this season. Zach Franko, Colton Sissons and Dylen McKinlay are also big parts of an offensive attack that is well balanced. Other forwards like Ryan Olsen, Tyson Baillie, JT Barnett and Cody Fowlie add tons of scoring depth to a team full of players that have a great +/- rating. Others to watch up front include 16-year-old Rourke Chartier, Tyrell Goulbourne, Colten Heffley, Cole Linaker, and import Henrik Nyberg. The Rockets backend is a young strong group that has had to move Bell up front due to the number of defenseman. Damon Severson and Madison Bowey are two exciting players to watch. Severson is a draft pick of the New Jersey Devils and Bowey is expected to go in the top two rounds of the NHL Draft this year. Others that continue to impress are Colten Martin, Jesse Lees, the steady MacKenzie Johnston and 16-year-old Riley Stadel. Jordon Cooke has been consistent this season with a .905 save percentage. Jackson Whistle has been terrific with fourteen wins this season. The Rockets are as balanced as any team out there getting contributions up and down the line-up.
NHL DRAFT: Tim Bozon (Montreal, 3th round, 64th overall in 2012), Colin Smith (Colorado, 7th round, 192nd overall in 2012), Joel Edmundson (St. Louis, 2nd round, 46th overall in 2011), Kale Kessy (Phoenix, 4th round, 111th overall in 2011).
INJURY REPORT: Aspen Sterzer (upper body, week-to-week), Matt Needham (upper body, one week), Joe Kornelsen (lower body, day-to-day). Man games lost due to injury – 102.
DID YOU KNOW… Colin Smith is third in the WHL in scoring with 41 goals, 62 assists and 103 points… Brendan Ranford is the longest serving Blazer playing his 346th game tonight… Ranford set the new franchise record this past Saturday night passing C.J. Stretch’s (2005-2010) 341 career games… he has 350 points all with the Blazers which has alone in 6th on the Blazers all-time scoring. He one point ahead of Hnat Domenichelli … Dylan Willick is the Blazers captain with Colin Smith, Tyler Hansen, and Brendan Ranford serving as assistant captains… The Blazers boast four of the WHL’s top snipers as Colin Smith (3rd – 103 points), JC Lipon (7th – 88 points), Tim Bozon (11th – 84 points), Brendan Ranford (15th – 80 points)… The Blazers are rated 8th in the latest BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings… The Blazers set a franchise record 14-game winning streak between September 30th and October 30th… Head Coach Guy Charron has 142 career wins with the Blazers which is two shy of Don Hay (144) for second on the Blazers all-time coaching list… The Blazers have won 40+ games back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1994-95 and 1995-96… Cole Cheveldave is the first Blazer goaltender with back-to-back 30+ win seasons since Daryl Reaugh in 1983-84 and 1984-85… 17-year-old forward Cole Ully has 12 goals and 32 points in his last 29 outings since Christmas… JC Lipon (96) and Cole Ully (97) were both ranked among NHL Central Scouting’s North American skaters for the upcoming 2013 NHL Entry Draft… Cole Cheveldave has ten career shutouts which is third in franchise history behind Devan Dubnyk (15) and Corey Hirsch (13)… Defenseman Joel Edmundson has signed an entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues.