ON THE ROAD: 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 13-46-2-3 record through 64 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 has taken the Blazers to the USA and now to Alberta. It will finish off in Victoria next weekend. The Blazers started their road trip playing three games in three nights last weekend in Portland, Seattle and Spokane. They finished that stretch with a 1-2-0-0 record with the lone win coming in Seattle via the shootout. The Blazers started their Alberta road trip with a loss in Red Deer on Wednesday night. This portion of the trip concludes tomorrow night in Medicine Hat. 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. Calgary – Last Season (2-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/14/12, at Calgary 2, Kamloops 5
Game 2: 12/11/12, at Calgary 2, Kamloops 3
Blazers were 2-0-0-0 in season series
Vs. Calgary – This Season (2-Game Series)
Game 1: 02/07/14, vs. Calgary 3, Kamloops 0
Game 2: 02/28/14, at Calgary, Kamloops
Blazers are 0-1-0-0 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 Hitmen will meet for the final time this season tonight. The Hitmen won the first meeting of the season earlier this month back in Kamloops shutting out the Blazers 3-0. Last season, the Blazers played two games in Calgary and won both meetings.
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 169 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 (7-23-0-1, 3.85, .889) 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.
CALGARY HITMEN ‘Who to Watch’: The Hitmen are built on size and depth with only two players under 6’0” and only three raw rookies on their roster that are playing their first year of junior hockey. Greg Chase is the offensive leader up front with 31 goals and a team leading 73 points. The Edmonton draft pick has a lot of support as 20-year-old Brady Brassart is cruising along with 72 points. Pavel Padakin and Connor Rankin are a pair of 19-year-olds that are good players with 48 and 46 points each. Jake Virtanen has a team leading 40 goals at only 17. He is a big powerful forward that will be selected early in the 2014 NHL Draft. The addition of 19-year-old Adam Tambellini from the NCAA has worked well as he has 15 goals and 29 points in 22 games. The Hitmen also picked up 19-year-old Mike Winther from Prince Albert to provide the Hitmen with some scoring depth. Players like Elliott Peterson, Chase Lang and Radel Fazleev are starting to chip in on a regular basis and will be players to look out for in the next few years. Other forwards on the roster include Joe Mahon and Linden Penner who are both big and play the game hard. The Hitmen also have two 16-year-old forwards in Cal Babych and Terrell Draude. The Hitmen are fairly balanced on the backend and led by two 20-year-olds Alex Roach and Jaynen Rissling. Roach is signed by the Los Angeles Kings and started the season in pro hockey before being returned to the Hitmen. Rissling is a draft pick of the Washington Capitals and is the team captain. Kenton Helgesen is a 19-year-old draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks who is strong at both ends of the ice. Colby Harmsworth is a steady stay at home defender. The Hitmen have a trio of 17-year-old defencemen in Michael Zipp, Ben Thomas and Travis Sanheim. Zipp was acquired from Everett at the trade deadline and is in his second season. Thomas and Sanheim are both having terrific seasons and are likely to be selected in the 2014 NHL Draft. Both Thomas and Sanheim played in the CHL Top Prospects game in January. In goal, two veterans are carrying the load as 19-year-old Chris Driedger is in his fourth WHL season and 18-year-old Mack Shields is in his second WHL season. Driedger is a draft pick of the Ottawa Senators and has been the Hitmen starter for three seasons now. Shields is playing more this season and is likely to take over next season as Driedger has a good chance to play pro hockey as a 20-year-old.
NHL DRAFT: Cole Ully (Dallas, 5th round, 131st overall in 2013).
INJURY REPORT: Luke Harrison, Upper Body, Indefinite, Tyson Ness, Upper Body, Indefinite, Justin Myles, Upper Body, Indefinite.Man games lost due to injury – 146.
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…