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 12-44-2-3 record through 61 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 last night in Portland and finish off the weekend in Spokane on Sunday. From there, they will spend the next week in Alberta playing three games. The Blazers home rink, the ISC, will be occupied with the Canadian Men’s Curling Championships for the next month.
Vs. Seattle – Last Season (4-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/05/12, vs. Seattle 2, Kamloops 7
Game 2: 10/28/12, at Seattle 3, Kamloops 4
Game 3: 12/02/12, at Seattle 3, Kamloops 1
Game 4: 01/04/13, vs. Seattle 1, Kamloops 6
Blazers are 3-1-0-0 in season series
Vs. Seattle – This Season (4-Game Series)
Game 1: 10/16/13, vs. Seattle 1, Kamloops 3
Game 2: 12/31/13, at Seattle 1, Kamloops 7
Game 3: 01/18/14, vs. Seattle 3, Kamloops 2
Game 4: 02/22/14, at Seattle, Kamloops
Blazers are 2-1-0-0 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 Thunderbirds are playing the final of four head-to-head match-ups tonight. The Blazers are 2-1-0-0 in the season series winning 3-1 in Kamloops on October 16th, and 7-1 in Seattle on December 31st. The Thunderbirds won the last matchup 3-2 in Kamloops back on January 18th.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS ‘Who to Watch’: The Kamloops Blazers forwards have had to get the job done this year by committee. Cole Ully (28+34=62), 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+27 = 41) are two players that can contribute now and will also be impact players next season. Collin Shirley (11+11=22) 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+10=12) 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 158 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.
SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS ‘Who to Watch’: The Thunderbirds are sitting fourth in the difficult Western Conference and only five points ahead of the Spokane Chiefs in the conference. Up front, they are dynamic a dynamic group with a lot of depth throughout their line-up. The most impressive player may be 16-year-old Mathew Barzal who has 45 points in 48 games. Barzal is a former 1st overall WHL Bantam Draft pick and is projected to go very early in the 2015 NHL Draft. Branden Troock is having a great year with 51 points in 48 games. Two returning European players in Alex Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs continue to be impact players with 24 and 31 goals apiece. Justin Hickman is the team captain and adds to the scoring depth. Russell Maxwell and Ryan Gropp are two other forwards up front. Maxwell is a 19-year-old acquired from Lethbridge and the trade deadline and Gropp is a former first round Bantam Draft pick who is playing his first WHL season. The depth just continues up front as Sam McKechnie and Jaimen Yakubowski are a pair of 19-year-old proven players that were acquired earlier this season from Lethbridge. Others up front include 20-year-old Mitch Elliot, 19-year-old forward Connor Honey who has missed most of the season due to injury and 16-year-old Keegan Kolesar. The Thunderbirds backend is one year older as they return six defenders. Shea Theodore is the leader on the backend and currently leads the team in scoring with 16 goals and 65 points. He is a first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks and contributes at both ends of the ice. Jared Hauf is a big rugged guy into his third year and continues getting better. Evan Wardley, Jerret Smith and Adam Henry are all experienced guys that play in all situations. Henry is having a career season with 22 points. Kevin Wolf is into his second year while Ethan Bear both enters his first WHL season. The Thunderbirds acquired 19-year-old Taran Kozun from the Blazers at the trade deadline. He has been spectacular for the Thunderbirds. Danny Mumaugh is his back-up and has played well in 32 games this season with a 14-9-2-3 record.
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 – 133.
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…