Saturday, December 31, 2011

Blazers Acquire Brandon Herrod from Prince Albert

I spoke with Blazer GM Craig Bonner this morning on today's deal:


Bones by keen941

Monday, December 26, 2011

1st rounder Thomson to make Blazer Debut

News Release:

The Kamloops Blazers will have 15-year-old Jordan Thomson in their line up following the Christmas break. Thomson is expected to make his Blazers debut in Vancouver on December 27th and will stay with the Blazers until January 2nd


Thomson was selected by the Blazers 4th overall in this past years WHL Bantam Draft. This year, Thomson has 3 goals and 12 assists in 20 games with the Southwest Cougars of the Manitoba Midget AAA League. Thomson has helped the Cougars to a 24-3-2 record so far this season. Thomson will wear #5 during his Blazers debut.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mid-Season Report Card

As mentioned a couple weeks back...it a mid-season update on the August 25th post Entitled "10 Things the Blazers Must Overcome" to have a strong season.

I'll keep in italics what was said in the August post as a reference...

Let's run down the list.....

1. Discipline:

Yes it might as well be the number one issue. Last year's team showed at times a complete lack of it. Leading the league in PIMS for a good chunk of the season, the Blazers finished with the 4th most in the WHL with 1500 as a team. Key players were also suspended for parts of the season including Chase Schaber, Brendan Ranford, and Jordan DePape. Players served a total of 22 games in suspensions and quite frankly the team was in no position to get a break from the officiating for most of the season. I know discipline will be stressed throughout camp by the coaching staff and will be a focal point of this team moving forward.


Mid-season:  A vast improvement. The Blazers have taken the least amount of penalties in the BC Division through the half-way point.  They've taken the third fewest PIMS in the Western Conference.  It's been a focal point of this team since camp opened.  The message from the coaching staff, and policing of the group from the players themselves has been the reason for the turnaround.  I think the fact the Blazers have been in most games has also added to the better numbers.  Really, through the first half, I can't think of too many bad, selfish, penalties. There was a few on the eastern swing to close off the first half, but that's about it. Suspensions are also way down with this group.  Josh Caron's three-gamer for a check to the head right before he was traded to Everett is the only one on record. 

2. Coaching Dynamic

The Blazers have not one, but two WHL head coaches on the bench this season. That is a good thing in my opinion but it poses some potential logistical problems. With the addition of Dave Hunchak as the team's Associate Coach, the Blazers will have to find a dynamic that works. Who controls what, who says what, and who puts their foot down. So far it's going well between Guy Charron and Dave Hunchak. I'm sure the two will be communicating their thoughts openly to get the best out of the scenario. Let's keep in mind, Guy felt Hunchak was the right guy for the job.

Mid-season: It's proving to be a great set-up for Guy Charron and Dave Hunchak.  Guy has allowed Hunchak to implement his beliefs, trusting on him with his experience in the WHL as both a head and assistant coach.  There isn't any reminisce of a power-struggle between the two either - they just aren't the type.  It's my belief that both feel they are putting a stamp on this year's team.  What a luxury to have two WHL Head Coaches on the bench.  Charron runs the forwards, Hunchak the back-end and there's no doubt it is where they are most comfortable.

3. Penalty Kill

This has been a point of contention for this hockey club and is exposed more by the lack of discipline discussed above. Last year's PK had a decent 2nd half of the season but still only killed off powerplays at 76.4% - 20th out of 22 teams. Two seasons ago the PK was at 75.3% - again 20th out of 22 teams. A year before that, 76.9%. You have to go back to the 06/07 season to find the last time the PK was over 80% and even that year it was only 80.2%.

Mid-season: The penalty-kill has seen considerable improvement so far...more so on a consistency basis.  It took a dip during the eastern road swing to finish the first half at 79.8% - 11th out of the 22 teams.  That's the lowest it's been pretty much all season though.  The PK has been good....it hasn't been lights out by any means.  The one thing the Blazers have added this season is a shorthanded goal threat.  Leading the WHL with 12 SH goals at the break, the Blazers scored only four shorthanded markers all of last season.  The shorthanded prowess is simply a by-product of increased team confidence.

4. Defense

The Blazers gave up the most goals in the Western Conference last season with 285 - 3rd most in the league ahead of only fellow non-playoff teams Regina and Lethbridge. Granted, the Blazer blueline is older this season, they still have to go out and prove themselves. Just because everyone is a year older, improvement doesn't just magically happen.


With six returning veterans in Austin Madaisky, Bronson Maschmeyer, Tyler Hansen, Josh Caron, Brady Gaudet and newly acquired Marek Hrbas, it'll be up to all of them to take the next step. Madaisky, Caron and Maschmeyer will have to specifically lead the back-end but it'll be strength in numbers if the Blazers want to be a winner.


Dave Hunchak has a proven track record of developing defenseman as a coach. We will see if he can continue the trend with the Blazers.

Mid-season: The team's defensive game has jumped by leaps and bounds this season.   The added experience and confidence from the core defenseman has made the Blazer blueline as good as any in the WHL.  I think both Tyler Hansen and Bronson Maschmeyer's games have seen the biggest improvement.  Again, a confidence thing.  Marek Hrbas and Tyler Bell have been excellent.   Austin Madaisky shows at times he can be that hard, number one guy the team needs.  Landon Cross when given the opportunity has excelled as well.  Brady Gaudet will need to keep pushing to get into games. 

I think the Blazers will look to add another defenseman at the deadline to compliment the group - especially after moving 20 year-old Josh Caron to Everett.  They are missing that pure powerplay QB on the back-end.  They're tough to find anyways.  F Chase Schaber showed some promise when moved to the point on the PP before getting hurt in Regina during the eastern swing. 

5. Fragile mindset

The Blazers lost a handful of games last season and gave up precious points because of late goals against in tie games. Too many times the Blazers gave up that heartbreaking last minute goal. It was a "playing not to lose" mentality and not an assertive attitude that was their demise. There's nothing worse than giving up that late goal. It adds doubt and can snowball in a hurry. The Blazers need to dictate the pace and flow in those situations and not sit back and react. It won't happen overnight, but every situation they overcome this season will build momentum in their favor.

Mid-season: This has been a work in progress since day one.  The Blazers haven't really had an incident to shake their confidence this year.  They've been good in close games, they've shown they can play with the lead and they've shown they can play from behind as well.  A fragile mindset can snowball... it's the "here we go again" syndrome.  Fortunately, it can snowball in the right direction as well.  That is seemingly what's happening with this group through 35 games.  The Blazers are playing to win, rather than playing "not to lose" like they did most of last season. 

6. Goaltending

The Blazers need to get quality goaltending all season long. They likely haven't had a legit game-stealing all-star goaltender since Devan Dubnyk in the 05/06 season. With the departure of Jeff Bosch, the Blazers will host an audition for the number one spot. Cam Lanigan and Cole Cheveldave are expected to battle it out in camp with Taran Kozun and Troy Trombley trying to push into a back-up role. As the saying goes...you only go as far as your goaltending.

Mid-season: Hello Cole Cheveldave.  He's nearly cemented himself as the number one 'tender.  He's gotten the start in the last eight games and 15 of the last 16.  Sounds like a #1 guy doesn't it?  His numbers are good too.  16-4-1-1 with a 2.74 GAA and .907 save %.  Last year's AJHL rookie of the year has certainly stepped up.  The coaching staff loves his compete level.  

Cam Lanigan has been good, but has struggled in his last two outings.  He won his last start but has been shaky in a pair of relief performances coming into the game cold in the 2nd period.  The Blazers will need Lanigan in the 2nd half if they want to hold onto their BC Division lead.  He will be called upon again there's no question. He'll have more opportunities.

7. Getting everyone on board

Last season I think there were times when not everyone was on the same page. Perhaps some players were more or less motivated than others and the coaching staff said as much in our post-game shows. It's cliche but the Blazers will need everyone "pulling on the rope in the same direction" this season if they want to have the year they hope to have.

The leadership group has done an excellent job so far this season.  This is a tight team.  They are a "team".  You could look at the guys who wear letters as a big reason but it's unsung guys like Ryan Hanes that are the glue of this team.  The rookies are popular with the veterans and there's great camaraderie amongst the group.  From my perspective, they're all on board for the common goal. 


8. Better play within the BC Division

The Blazers lost every single head-to-head series in the BC division last season. A combined record of 10-19-1-2. Division games are always big ones...the Blazers gave up too many points to their division rivals leading to a last place finish in the BC division.

Mid-season: This perhaps has been the biggest turnaround year-over-year.  The Blazers are 12-2-0-0 against BC Division teams mid-season.  That's two more divisional wins than all of last year.  In fact, the Blazers are 9-0 combined against Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna.  Only PG has handed them a loss within the division.  The Blazers are 3-2 vs PG.

9. Being more resilient

The Blazers will have to show a bit more of it this season. Whether it's overcoming a bad call, bad goal or injury problems, this team will need to be able to handle adversity better. At times emotions get the best of this team and usually it had a negative effect. The Blazers will have to battle through it this season because adversity will come up several times over the course of a 72 game schedule.

Mid-season: The Blazers haven't had a ton of adversity this season.  Perhaps the only adversity has been the eastern-swing and the back-to-back losses to Regina and Prince Albert where both Chase Schaber and Matt Needham went down...two of the top three centermen.  What did the Blazers do? They responded with wins in Brandon (first since 1998) and Saskatoon.  They then went on to dominate Moose Jaw before losing 4-3 in a shootout to close off the first half.  So far, they've answered the bell...but more adversity is coming. It's simply inevitable.

10. Exorcising the playoff demons

The truth of the matter is this: No matter how good or bad of a regular season the Blazers have, their year will be judged on playoff success or lack thereof. The Blazers haven't won a playoff round since 1999 - the last time they went to the WHL Championship. Since then, they've amassed a 5-40 record in the playoffs with 10 straight series losses. It is the biggest issue dogging the Blazers and will be until this team gets through a round or two and takes a run at an Ed Chynoweth Cup.

See above.

The prognosis is good for the club moving forward.  With a move or two expected at the deadline to strengthen the group, and the potential early March return of F Jordan DePape from shoulder surgery, the Blazers only stand to get better.  They will have to be better too...because teams like Kelowna, Portland, Vancouver, Tri-City and Spokane only stand to improve as well. 

Jon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blazers Extend Contract of Guy Charron

Blazer News Release:

The Kamloops Blazers announced Tuesday that the hockey club has extended the contract of Head Coach, Guy Charron through the 2012-13 hockey season.

Charron joined the Blazers as the team’s Head Coach on November 23, 2009. During that time, Charron has guided the Blazers to a 72-64-4-3 record. This season, under Charron’s guidance, the Blazers have compiled a 22-8-1-0 record which is good for first place in the B.C. Division and second overall in the WHL.

“Guy and his coaching staff have done a terrific job with the hockey club this season,” General Manager, Craig Bonner commented. “As a group, we have been well prepared for games this season. We have seen major strides in the development of our players and the team structure. Our current record is an indication of the tremendous job that Guy and the coaching staff have done thus far.”

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Monday, December 05, 2011

All the right stuff...


Right now... the Blazers have it.

They're finding ways to win games when sometimes they're not the better team.  It's six in a row now and the Blazers haven't played great in any of the six...yet good enough to win.  With wins over Victoria (4-1), Seattle (8-2), Victoria (4-3), Victoria (6-5OT), PG (5-4), Victoria (4-2), the Blazers have ran their record to 20-7-1 and the 2nd best win percentage in the WHL at .732. 

There's was a lot of talk this weekend the Blazers wouldn't have won the two weekend games last year.  That team was finding ways to lose. 

The Blazers wrap up the home schedule of the first half Wednesday against the Everett Silvertips.  It's the return of former Blazers JT Barnett and Josh Caron, who were both dealt to the 'Tips for future draft picks.

Here's some news and notes from the weekend:

- I ran into Prince Albert GM Bruno Campese at the mall in Kamloops a few hours before the Blazers hosted Victoria Saturday night.  He took in the game but did so under a low profile.

- What happened with Charles Inglis and the Cougars following the game at ISC Friday night?  He was involved in an altercation with Chase Schaber at the end of the game. Did something carry over from that?  Something transpired post-game which had the Cougars sending Inglis home to await a trade. 

- The Blazers four wins this weekend should be enough to get them back into the CHL Top 10...take it for what it is though.  With the completion of Sunday's games, the Blazers have a better winning percentage/record than six of the 10 teams named in the Top Ten last week.

- I thought it was a good weekend for two rookie defenseman who saw more ice-time because of the Josh Caron trade and an injury to Brady Gaudet.

- Gaudet may play Wednesday. If not he'll be ready for the start of the East division road swing beginning Saturday in Swift Current.

- F Ryan Hanes 4th goal of the season turned out to be the game-winner Saturday night against Victoria.  Of all the guys out there, he's an easy one to root for.  Linemate Chase Souto had scored in two games in a row prior to Saturday and was looking to keep it going...."two's a fluke, three is a streak," he said in our pre-game show.  Any offense from the Blazers 4th line is a welcomed bonus.

- F Tim Bozon's goal celebrations have his teammates taking notice.  Bozon admitted he has been egged on a little by the guys which led for his "calling out to the fans to throw the bears" Friday night after he scored the Teddy Bear toss goal vs the Cougars.

- Remember this blog post back in August on the Ten Things the Blazers must overcome to have a successful season?  I'll be doing a follow-up  near mid-season report card post in the coming days.

- The Blazers six game winning streak is the longest since the 06/07 season.  That year they had two eight-game winning streaks near mid-season.

- Every team goes through adversity and a tough stretch during a season. My experience is that it's inevitable.  The Blazers haven't really had any substantial problems are stretches of poor play.  It's going to happen though.  When it does, let's hope it's short and they bounce back strong.

Jon

Friday, December 02, 2011

Blazers, Cougars & Teddy Bears

The Blazers return to home-ice tonight to host the Prince George Cougars in the annual Teddy Bear Toss Night at ISC... Here's some game notes and tidbits heading in.

- The Blazers will look to keep a four-game winning streak going while the Cougars are coming off back-to-back road wins through Seattle and Spokane. 

- The Blazers are 10-2 vs BC division opponents.  That equals the same amount of wins they picked up against the division in all of last year.  The Blazers only two losses have been against Prince George.  The season series is even at two wins apiece.  Tonight is game five of the 10 they will play head-to-head this year.

- Cam Lanigan is set to get the start in goal.  He hasn't started a game since November 12th against the Edmonton Oil Kings.  Cole Cheveldave has started the last seven games. 

- The Blazers will present captain Chase Schaber as the Radio NL Player of the Month for November.  Schaber scored eight goals including two game-winners and added three assists.  It was a very tight race between four or five players for the monthly honour.

- Tonight's game is also a Shaw TV broadcast.

- It's been a busy stretch for the Blazers after a pair of games in Victoria this week Tuesday and Wednesday.  The team travelled home yesterday arriving back in Kamloops at 3pm.  The team skated this morning in preparation for tonight's contest.  They will host Victoria tomorrow night to wrap up a four-game week.

- The Blazers leave for Saskatchewan in just six days for their longest road trip of the season as they play all six Eastern division teams from Dec 10-17. 

Jon

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blazers Deal Caron

As reported earlier on our post-game show tonight following the Blazers 4-3 win in Victoria, the Blazers have dealt Josh Caron for a 4th round bantam pick in 2014.

Here's the news release:


BLAZERS SEND CARON TO SILVERTIPS


Kamloops, BC – The Kamloops Blazers announced Tuesday evening that they have sent 20-year-old defenseman Josh Caron to the Everett Silvertips in exchange for a 4th round draft pick.

Caron spent three and a half seasons with the Blazers and played 128 games. He racked up 375 penalty minutes in that time.
“With eight defensemen on the roster, we felt the need to give more ice time to our younger defensemen,” General Manager Craig Bonner said. “We’d also like to thank Josh for his time as a Blazer and wish him the best of luck.”

The Kamloops Blazers are back on home ice this weekend as they host the Prince George Cougars on Friday night and Victoria Royals on Saturday. Friday night is the annual Teddy Bear / Toque Toss. For tickets, call the Box Office

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blazers Host Ice

 It's the only meeting of the season between the Blazers and Kootenay Ice as they meet at Interior Savings Center. (6:30pm pre-game, 7pm face-off on Radio NL).

- The Ice come in as the defending Ed Chynoweth Cup Champions and so far have picked up where they left off...they lead the tough Central division with a record of 16-5-1-2.  They've won all three games on this BC Division swing with stops in Victoria, Vancouver and Prince George. After tonight's game, they conclude the trip Friday night in Kelowna.  Tonight's game will be their fourth in five nights.

- Ice G Nathan Lieuwen leads the Eastern Conference in both GAA (1.82) and save % (.936).  He will most likely get the start. The Ice threw back-up 'tender Mackenzie Skapski between the pipes last night in Prince George in a 3-2 win.

- The Blazers open up a three-game homestand and enter tonight's contest picking up points in the last three games.  They sit 2nd in the BC division at 14-6-1 - two points behind Vancouver but holding four games in-hand.

- Last year the Blazers won 8-5 in Cranbrook last season in their only meeting of the season.  It was the final game of a February Central division trip where they Blazers picked up 9/10 points.

- Former Blazer captain Ajay Baines will join the broadcast in the 1st intermission.  He's part of tonight's "Blazer Indo-Canadian Night"

- Blazers majority owner Tom Gaglardi will be our 2nd period guest. We spoke with Tom earlier this week following the completion of his purchase of the Dallas Stars.

- Blazer "Hockey Talk" is set for tomorrow evening on Radio NL.  We'll be on the air from 5:30pm to 7pm and invite your questions by email at blazerhockeytalk@hotmail.com.  Tweet me @JonKeenNLSports or call the show tomorrow 250-374-5345.  Guests include Guy Charron, Dave Hunchak, Craig Bonner and D Bronson Maschmeyer.

Jon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dallas Stars Introduce Tom Gaglardi as Owner Today


Here's the link to the news conference today.

He chuckled off the top after catching himself calling the Stars the "Blazers" in his opening remarks. Also Commisioner Gary Bettman delivered a good line off the top too.  Give it a watch.

Jon

Blazers prove they're for real / Weekend stories

     The most common phrase heading into two road games in Spokane and Tri-City was "measuring stick weekend".  After all, the Blazers were heading into Spokane (9-1 at home) and Tri-City - the top team in the Western Conference and 3rd ranked team in the Nation if you choose to put stock in the weekly CHL Top 10.  It was built as an opportunity to see how much progress the team has made this season after a strong start.

     The Blazers hadn't won in Spokane since November 2008, and haven't escaped Tri-City with two points since December 2008. While the winless streak in Tri-City will continue following a 3-2 OT loss, the Blazers 2-1 win in Spokane at least gave the Blazers a chance for a perfect weekend south of the border heading into the contest against the Americans. 

   Saturday night the Americans came out hard as expected and controlled the first period.  A 5-on-3 PP goal from Adam Hughesman was followed 30 seconds later with a breakaway goal from Malte Stromwall after a gaffe from D Bronson Maschmeyer.  The Blazers found their game in the 2nd period but didn't gain any ground on the Americans two-goal lead.  A Chase Schaber PP goal early in the 3rd period brought the Blazers within one.  A Matt Needham shot from the left side boards deflected in with just over six minutes to play to even the game 2-2.

    The Blazers had to kill a late penalty with 2:58 to play which sent the game to overtime.  OT started 3-on-3 because of coincidental penalties to Maschmeyer and Mason Wilgosh at 19:57 of the 3rd.  As expected, the teams never got back to 4-on-4 as Justin Feser scored on a rebound after an Americans 2-on-1 with Feser and Derek Ryckman. 

Goaltender Cole Cheveldave was especially solid in both games this weekend.  He made sure the Blazer deficit stayed at 2-0 vs Tri-City.  He allowed his team the comeback bid, even if the Blazers did have to settle for the single point.

I caught up with F Dylan Willick after the two-game swing.  For the most part he thinks they accomplished what they set out to do.


Willick1 by keen941

As for settling for three out of a possible four points?

Willick2 by keen941

The Blazers had Sunday off after arriving back in Kamloops just after 7am from Kennewick, WA.  They now get set for three home games this weekend beginning with the defending Ed Chynoweth Cup Champion Kootenay Ice Wednesday night.

The Ice will be playing their fourth game of a BC swing.  They've started with a pair of wins in Victoria (8-3) and Vancouver (4-1).  The Ice play in Prince George Tuesday before visiting Kamloops the next night.

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Here's what else is on my mind today......

- Spokane Chiefs Head Coach Don Nachbaur had some colorful quotes following the Blazers 2-1 win in Spokane. Nachbaur told Dave Trimmer of the Spokesman-Review “Just so the fans know, I was booing them too. We had four fourth-lines tonight.”
“Too long of layoff is an excuse. We worked hard all week, come into the game and we don’t work. We stand around and watch. We did not skate. The bottom line with our hockey team is we’re not a hard-working team, we’re a lazy team. We played lazy.”



- Spokane is a good team even if they're missing offensive catalysts Tyler Johnson and Levko Koper from last season.  Spokane will have a chance to win in their building every night though, and that's saying a lot with division rivals Portland and Tri-City in their division.

- Friday's win was especially sweet for G Cole Cheveldave.  Cheveldave attended Chiefs training camp twice as a 15 and 16 year-old after they listed him following the 2008 bantam draft. In may not be as simple as saying they chose G Mac Engel over him, but that's the way it shakes out. Engel has proven to be a capable 'tender in this league as well.  His coming out party was last year when starter James Reid got injured in the 2nd half.  Engel used the opportunity to be named the WHL goaltender of the month back in February.

-While we're on the topic...has Cheveldave turned into the go-to guy for the Blazers between the pipes?  Head Coach Guy Charron was asked that question Saturday night in our post-game show following back-to-back starts from the 18 year-old 'tender.  Guy doesn't want to put labels on #1 or #2.  He fully expects to use both goaltenders in crucial games heading into the Christmas break.

- WHL fight fans are gonna love this story from the weekend..... I talked to Blazer D Josh Caron following his heavyweight scrap with the Chiefs Darren Kramer.  You can watch that scrap here -  Caron vs Kramer

During warm-ups Caron and Kramer exchanged words by the bench.  Kramer asked Caron if it was going to be round two with Chiefs D Cobin Baldwin tonight (following their epic center-ice tilt in Kamloops last month). Josh replied "nope, this time I want you."  Kramer eventually agreed...but on his terms.  Josh wanted it right off the hop...but Kramer wanted to pick his spot.  I guess they met somewhere in the middle as they shed their gear in the 2nd period.  Ironically, the fight wasn't included in the highlights package posted later on the Chiefs website. They did however show Steve Kuhn and Colin Smith's tilt.  It turned out to be a one-sided affair in Kuhn's affair. 

- WHL broadcasters are all homers, it's part of the job. It's a word that doesn't offend me in the least.  The homerism gets turned up seven notches during a scrap.

- It's the tough guys in the league I respect the most.  Imagine dropping your gloves and skating to center-ice in front of 5000 people.  Theses guys put their pride and reputation on the line.  Further to my chat with Caron...He also told me there's nothing like it.  Nothing compares to the feeling he gets when he squares-off with someone at center-ice and he feels the energy in the building rise all around him.  It's especially true in the U.S. markets where fans go bananas for that action. 

- Blazer Head Coach Guy Charron found his way to the broadcast booth in Spokane after a little bit of an adventure.  "I was in the freight elevator, and had to try and figure out how to operate that first," he explained on our post-game show."Then I jumped in another elevator to get me up here...and once you're up here...you still have a ways to go...it's a maze.  Any visitor who's ventured up to the press-area at the Spokane Arena can attest to Guy's take. 

I wrapped up our interview wishing him luck finding his way down...."thank-you I'll try, but if I don't make it please come look for me."  Guy is an easy guy to root for.

- It was good to catch-up with Regina Pats broadcaster Dan Plaster Thursday night in downtown Spokane.  The Pats travelled through the night departing Wednesday at midnight.  They stopped in Cranbrook for a morning practice and then continued on from there.   Dan is always up for some fun.  Good guy. He's in his 2nd year with the Pats but we go back all the way to the late 90's when we were both in Lethbridge together.  Dan has come a long ways in his short time in the WHL.  It's scary to think how good he could get at calling games. 

- A lot of things impressed me in Tri-City Saturday night.  First and foremost the atmosphere was electric thanks to over 5400 packed into the Toyota Center. It was certainly the largest crowd I've seen in my seven or eight visits in my time.  It's loud, and the fans are into it.

- Americans F Patrick Holland controlled the game each time he was on the ice.  Often rushing the puck up ice and through two or three players.  Poise is a word that best describes the 19 year-old.

- I was given a celebratory cupcake Saturday in honor of Craig West calling his 1000th game with the Americans earlier this month.  I later tweeted "I just had a celebratory cupcake in honor of Craig West...it tasted dry and sarcastic".   I told Westie later, he loved it. He used on his facebook status later in the evening and followed it up by saying "Kamloops is the most improved team I've seen so far".

- A reminder of our 2nd edition of Blazer Hockey Talk coming up Thursday night on Radio NL.  We are still finalizing guests.  We will hit the airwaves around 5:30pm.  I should know our line-up in the next day or two.  You can get a question or comment to us by emailing blazerhockeytalk@hotmail.com.  Or send me a tweet @JonKeenNLSports.

- The Blazers just missed an earthquake by a few hours in Northern Washington and the South Okanagan on their way south. It was measured at 4.6. The Blazers passed through the epicenter of the quake about 12 hours before it happened.

- The Blazers practiced in Osoyoos Thursday morning.  It was nice to break up the trip to Spokane by stopping in such a nice place.  Thanks to KIJHL Osoyoos Coyotes owner Randy Bedard for the hospitality.  Randy has a radio background and calls the road games too. They're trying to make a go of it in Osoyoos and it sounds like the 2nd year Junior "B" franchise is more than holding its own.  This after a league championship in their first season.


Jon

Monday, November 14, 2011

GM Bonner on today's moves

Blazer General Manager Craig Bonner spoke with Radio NL this afternoon on the moves...

On trading JT Barnett to the Everett Silvertips for a 3rd round pick in 2013:

Onbarnett by keen941


On acquiring F Brock Balson and getting him into the line-up:

Bonneronbalson by keen941


Brock Balson is expected to join the Blazers at practice tomorrow.  The Blazers depart for Spokane Thursday morning for weekend games in Spokane Friday night and Tri-City Saturday.

Jon

Barnett Traded to Everett, Balson Recalled & Random Thoughts

- The Blazers dealt 19 year-old F JT Barnett to the Everett Silvertips for a 3rd round bantam pick in 2013 today.  The move gives the Blazers a bargaining chip for later this season and frees up a spot for someone else amongst the forward group to take an increased role.

From JT's perspective, it's an opportunity for him in a new place to get an important year kick-started.  Barnett has scored four goals this season - three of them came in consecutive games on a Central division road swing.  Barnett scored goals in Red Deer, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat on the swing.  It appeared as if he was finding his groove.

It never materialized back on home ice though.  The Blazers acquired Barnett from the Vancouver Giants for a 2nd round pick back in July of 2010.

- The Blazers also recalled F Brock Balson from the BCHL's Salmon Arm Silverbacks.  He was recently listed by the Blazers after being dropped by Prince Albert.  In two seasons with the Raiders he scored once and added two assists in 50 games.  The Kamloops native had scored nine goals and added 11 assists in 20 games for the Silverbacks this season.
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- Despite only winning one of two weekend home games, I thought it was a great two nights at Interior Savings Center from an entertainment and atmosphere perspective.  Fans are making some noise and have been energized by the team's play this year.  Fans are having fun, making some noise and it continues to build.  The Blazers won't play at home now until Wednesday the 23rd when they welcome the Kootenay Ice.

- Blazer F Colin Smith is off to Regina to take part in the Subway Super Series game vs the Russian Selects Wednesday night.  Initially left off the team, Smith was added early last week.  He'll rejoin the team for a pair of weekend games in Spokane and Tri-City this weekend.

- The Blazers are again featured in the latest WHL Plays of the Week.  You can watch it here.

- The Blazers have received some good mileage from their 4th line recently.  Ryan Hanes, Aspen Sterzer and Chase Souto "set the tone" Saturday night against Edmonton according to Head Coach Guy Charron.  If you talk about the Blazers best player this past weekend, Hanes would be in the discussion.

- The  Blazers will head south to Spokane Thursday to play the Chiefs Friday and then Tri-City Saturday.  It was tough sledding in those two barns last season.  The Blazers were 0/4 combined and outscored 32-9.  32 goals against in four games....that's eight goals allowed per game.  That's a lot. It'll be a tough place this year too. Both the Chiefs and Americans are out to great starts.  Spokane is 9-1 at home this year, Tri-City is 7-2 at the Toyota Center.  In many ways these two games can be used to see how much progress the Blazers have made.

- I ran into Gregg Drinnan of the Daily News Friday night...literally.  We collided in the media box as I was stepping into the hallway behind the radio booth. He definitely caught me on  my blindside, I may have delivered a blow to the head.  Suspensions are tbd.

- For the Swift Current Bronco folks who still check in here from time-to-time... you can bet this Sunday night in Vancouver is the place to be.  Former Bronco teammates and friends Dale Weise and Zack Smith collide as the Canucks host the Ottawa Senators.  Both represented by the same agent, they're trying to get as many as tickets as possible for this one for family and friends.  Personally, this one might be worth the drive over the Coquihalla for. 

- It's good to see former Bronco D Aaron Rome beginning to blossom with the Canucks.  He had three points in last night's 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders at Rogers Arena  He's on a roll lately. I've said it before...Rome was one of my favorite d-men over the years on and off the ice.  The swagger meter was always at a 10.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blazers Host Rebels on Remembrance Day

The Blazers and Rebels play a matinee game this afternoon at Interior Savings Center as they meet for a 2nd time this season.  In the first meeting just over three weeks ago, the Rebels scored two goals within a minute in the third period and G Patrik Bartosak made 30 saves as the Rebels picked up a 4-2 win in Red Deer.

If the Czech import Bartosak starts today, it's shaping up to be a good battle of rookie goaltenders who are emerging for their club.  The Blazers will go with Cole Cheveldave between the pipes

Bartosak's numbers are impressive at 12-3 with a save % of .934 and a 2.04 GAA.  Cheveldave's early numbers have been great too - 6-1 with a save % of .926 and a 2.27 GAA.

The Rebels don't have a lot of scoring.  They are not an explosive team, rather a patient and well structured group.  Bartosak and strong coaching is probably the two biggest aspects of their impressive 12-4-0-1 start.

They have also been strong on special teams.  The Rebels penalty-kill is ranked 1st in the WHL at 86.3 % while their PP is 4th best at 24.6 %.

The Rebels are playing game two of a four-game BC division swing.  They defeated Kelowna 6-4 Tuesday in the first game of the trip.  They will play back-to-back nights in Victoria tomorrow and Sunday before heading back to Alberta. 

The Blazers enter having lost two of their last three.  They dropped a 3-1 decision in Prince George Saturday in their last game.  JT Barnett practiced with Brendan Ranford and Chase Schaber this week at practice and I'd expect that trio to be reunited. 

At 12-5, the Blazers lead the BC division but their lead has shrunk to just a single point over the Vancouver Giants who have come on recently.  The Blazers do hold three games in-hand. 

It's the 2nd time the Blazers have played the afternoon 2pm game this season.  Back on Thanksgiving Day, they blew a 4-1 2nd period lead and lost to Medicine Hat 5-4.

We're on the air with our Radio NL pre-game show at 1:30pm, the play-by-play at 2pm.

Jon




Monday, October 31, 2011

Jordan DePape prepares for surgery


Blazer F Jordan DePape will have shoulder surgery Thursday. He joined us over the weekend from his home in Winnipeg.


Jordan depape (newsbooth) by keen941

Sunday, October 30, 2011

So long October...it's been a blast

(photo by Tricia Mercuri)

- What a month for the hockey club and what a start to the season.  The Blazers closed off the month with four wins in a row for a record of 10-2 and 11-3 overall.  It's likely the best month for this hockey club in years.

- The Blazers start is the best start of any team in the BC Division since the 08/09 Vancouver Giants.  They were 11-0-0-3 through 14 games and didn't lost a game in regulation until a 3-2 loss against Chilliwack 18 games into the regular season

- There was a lot of great individual performances but the biggest contribution was the "team" aspect.  The month featured nine different players with game winning goals and a great 1-2 punch in goal with Cam Lanigan and Cole Cheveldave playing well off each-other as the two continue their competition for ice. 

- Since Radio NL does award a "Player of the Month" (announced Wednesday night vs Portland) let's look at two finalists:  Tyler Hansen, according to the WHL stats I use is leading the league with a +16 rating and contributed eight assists.  He's been a bit of an unsung hero this month.  Colin Smith led the Blazers with eight goals and 10 assists and a +8 rating.  His line along with JC Lipon and Tim Bozon was probably the teams most consistent trio during the month.

- Dylan Willick has had the hottest stick in the last stretch with nine goals in his last 10 games.  Brendan Ranford has also found his goal scoring touch. After missing the first three games of the season due to suspension, Ranford's lit it up for nine goals in 11 games.

- One phrase I'm trying to rid myself of when talking about the Blazers this season is "last year". Last year is well...last year. Although comparisons are easy and often very contrasting to show the turnaround of the club, the two teams really have nothing in common.  It seems we the media will point out the good start but it's always side-noted with "but last year they (missed the playoffs, took too many penalties, gave up too many goals, etc." I think we've heard enough about it, haven't we?

- Rookie 16 year-old F Matt Needham is learning a lesson that things won't come easy.  The Penticton native was set to perform in front of friends, family and a bundle of people from the Okanagan Hockey Academy Saturday night in Kelowna.  There was one problem, Matt was a healthy scratch after what the coaching staff felt was a lacklustre effort against Kelowna the night before at ISC.  A tough lesson I'm sure for the Blazer 1st round bantam pick.

- Kelowna's Prospera Place is always an electric place to watch a game.  It's a great facility and the building is full no matter what.  The Rockets have done a great job over the years of retaining their fan base.

- With a bouquet comes a beef. What's with the Rockets goal song this year? The Isley Brothers "You Make Me Wanna Shout"...I wasn't really feeling the song from 1959 the other night. I liked the old one... I think it was the hook from Def Leppard's "Rocket". Really though, whatever song they use I just hope I don't hear it very often with the Blazers four visits to Prospera Place this season.

- The Portland Winterhawks kick-off a busy month of November for the Blazers.  They visit ISC Wednesday night.  They just concluded a Central division swing going 2-3-0-1.  They'll have a couple days off to gather their bearings before playing here Wednesday and then Kelowna for back-to-back nights Friday and Saturday.  Nine games and two and a half weeks on the road for the Hawks....

- The Blazers play 12 games in November, six on the road, six at home.  The month includes a weekend road-trip in Tri-City and Spokane who have been two dominant U.S. division teams to date. The Blazers will also head to the Island for a pair of games at the end of the month against the Victoria Royals.

Jon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blazer Prospect Jordan Thomson



Kamloops Blazers 1st overall pick (4th overall) in this summer's bantam draft spoke with Brandon Wheat Kings broadcaster Bruce Luebke following a practice in Souris, MB before the U-16 Challenge in Moose Jaw.

Thomson was chosen as the captain of Team Manitoba.
Jordan thomson - honoured by the c by keen941

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blazer Hockey Talk Thursday Night

Our first live edition of "Blazer Hockey Talk" is set for Thursday night beginning at 5:30pm on Radio NL.

Join Rick "The Bear" Wile and myself for the 90 minute show with special guests Tom Gaglardi from the Blazer ownership group, General Manager Craig Bonner, Head Coach Guy Charron and Associate Coach Dave Hunchak.

You're invited to email your questions to blazerhockeytalk@hotmail.com or give us a call at 250-374-5345.  The show runs from 5:30pm to 7pm.  There should be plenty to talk about after the Blazers 9-3 start to the season.

Blazer Hockey Talk... Thursday night on Radio NL.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blazers Marching Forward

The club arrived back in Kamloops shortly after 8am this morning following the long trek through the Rockies.  There was a small mechanical issue somewhere along the trail near Revelstoke but it was handled and the team rolled on home...

Here's a few thoughts after the Blazers won two of three this week in the Central division to remain atop the BC division with a record of 9-3.

- Last night's win in Medicine Hat was a statement win.  JT Barnett's wrap-around goal off the rush three minutes into the third period stood up as the winner as the Blazers locked it down pretty good in the final 17 minutes.  The Tigers had three PP chances to tie it up, but any scoring opportunity was nullified by G Cam Lanigan who finished the evening with 28 saves in the 2-1 win.  The Blazers taking the battle of division leaders to conclude a three-game Central division swing.

- Through 12 games, the Blazers have shown depth in all positions.  They have six players who have scored four goals or more (Smith, Ranford, Barnett, Willick, Schaber and Lipon). The Blazer defenders have done a good job at limiting scoring opportunities led by Tyler Hansen's +11 rating and the play of Austin Madaisky.  Both goaltenders Cole Cheveldave and Cam Lanigan have taken turns showing the coaching staff why they should be the #1 guy. 

- The Blazers are getting strong contributions from their rookie crop.  Tim Bozon, Matt Needham and Cole Ully have contributed and played in key situations.  Ully may have had a coming out party the past couple nights logging increased ice-time against Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. He scored his first and second ever WHL goals in Lethbridge Friday night.  On defense, Tyler Bell and Landon Cross have played steady and have done pretty much all that's been asked.  Let's remember the 4-0 Cole Cheveldave is still a rookie as well.

- From being around the team the last two seasons I can see this group as a tighter one than last year.  Winning can bring teams closer but I think the groundwork for this team unity we're seeing was laid during training camp.

- It took the Blazers 18 games to record their ninth win last season.  This year they've done it in 12 games.  F JC Lipon's shorthanded goal last night was his 6th of the season doubling his total of last year when he played 65 games.

- Speaking of shorthanded goals, Lipon's goal was the Blazers league leading 5th shorty of the season. Last year the team only tallied four.

- There's no room for this team to get complacent.  Other teams around the league will only improve.  The Blazers will have to keep getting better to stay ahead of the curve.

- "I had no choice" was the words F Timmy Bozon said to me post-game after being involved in his first ever WHL fight.  He held his own against Tiger D Dylan Busenius as they got tied up behind the play.

- Colin Smith took a hard hit last night from Tigers F Kale Kessey.  There to instantly step up for a teammate was D Josh Caron as you can see here....Josh Caron vs Kale Kessey

- Blazer D Tyler Bell tells me he often suffers a case of mistaken identity.  He tells me some of the opposition players this year think he's Myles Bell from the Kelowna Rockets - the former Regina Pat defenseman.  Some of the broadcasters have made that mistake as well.

- Take it with a grain of salt... but the Blazers will likely crack the CHL Top 10 rankings when they're released in the next couple days.  I've never put much stock in the rankings as I believe it's a bit of a flawed system..

- If you'd like to see some pics of the  Blazers on the road this week then check out the Blazer blog here.


Jon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alberta Bound


The Blazers are pulling out of ISC this morning and headed to Alberta for a trio of games beginning Wednesday in Red Deer against the RNH-less Rebels.  Here's a few thoughts and opinions heading into the swing....

- There's not too many things the Blazers want to carry over from last season but one thing they'd love is for their success in Alberta to continue.   Last year the Blazers were 7-1-1 in wild rose country including a 1-0 win in Red Deer and a 4-3 OT loss.  The only game the Blazers lost in the province in regulation was a 5-4 decision to Lethbridge.  The Blazers led that game 4-1 in 3rd period as well until the 'Canes scored three times in a span of five minutes to tie it up and eventually win it.

- Here's a stat dug-up from Blazers Director of Communications Tim O'Donovan.  In the seven Blazer wins this season...the Blazers have seven different players with game-winning goals.

-Apparently the media in Edmonton are on the Blazer bandwagon.  Check out this link here for more on that.

- Reassigning G Taran Kozun was really the only conceivable option. Granted, he's the goalie of the future but for now G Cam Lanigan has appeared to come back this season re-focused and committed to the task. 18 year-old rookie Cole Cheveldave is showing why he was the top goaltender in the AJHL last season in his four starts in goal for the Blazers.  Taran's time will come...if not later this season.

- You never asked but I'll tell you what's surprised me so far this year....there's actually a couple things. 
1)The commitment of the guys to the "team" concept has been a lot stronger
2) Import F Tim Bozon He's come in and hasn't really missed a beat.  He's only going to get better as the year goes on.  Speed, size, vision and involvement in the play has all been excellent. You really never know what you're getting in the import draft.  Most times you're going on the word of a player agent.  Bozon can play.  He will get drafted this summer if he keeps his game going.

- The most exciting line to watch has been the Bozon/Smith/Lipon line.  They've created a lot of offense and have found some chemistry.

- The crowds at ISC have been down in the opening seven games home games...and to some extent I think it was expected with the hangover looming from last season.  The folks that have been there this year have been thoroughly entertained and there's a lot of positive energy in the building as the guys leave the ice at the end of periods and games. It's been great to see and hear.

 I'm confident word will spread...and the fans will come back to see what everyone's talking about.  It won't happen overnight though.  Being in Kamloops for over a year now I've sensed a cynical mood in the community when it comes to the team's past performances.  Some if it has been fueled by media but for the most part lacklustre play and a failure to make a run (or win a game) in the playoffs for years now.

Here's what I propose:  Don't listen to what you've been hearing or reading...grab some tickets and check it out for yourself and form your own opinion. The Blazers next home game will be a doozy.  The Kelowna Rockets come back for a rematch October 28th

-
- Is WHL Trade-ageddon over with for the time being?  There's been a flurry of moves this week as teams look to fill some holes and clean out some dead weight.  The Blazers haven't been involved to this point and seem to be happy with the early chemistry.

- We had Medicine Hat Tigers GM Brad McEwen join us for an intermission Sunday night.  He says teams are out there sniffing around...there's deals to be had.  Lethbridge is undergoing a fire sale and there will always be GM's looking to take advantage of some blow-out pricing.  When team's panic, that's when rash decisions are made.

- The Vancouver Giants also shook things up in a two-for-two swap with Prince Albert.  The Giants attempting to add some size and toughness with Austin Connor.

- We're on the air Wednesday night from the Red Deer Centrium with our Radio NL pre-game show at 5:30 and the pbp at 6pm. The team is looking forward to spending a few nights on the road and getting out of town for awhile.  Let's hope they can grab some points along the way...

- For the latest info from the road check out twitter @JonKeenNLSports

Jon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blazers Down to Pair of 'Tenders

News Release:

The Kamloops Blazers have re-assigned 17-year-old goaltender Taran Kozun to the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.


Kozun appeared in two games with the Blazers and had a 1-1-0-0 record with a 3.53 goals against average and an .857 save percentage.

“It is important for Taran to play more games at his age to further his development,” commented General Manager, Craig Bonner. “We think Taran has a bright future with the Kamloops Blazers and in the WHL.”

The Kamloops Blazers roster now sits at 23 players, including 13 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Can the Blazers Close the Deal?



That's the big question entering tonight's home game against the Kelowna Rockets.

The Blazers have a chance to complete the perfect weekend with three wins in three nights as they play division rival Kelowna for the first time this season.  The Blazers have won six of their last seven games while the suddenly struggling Rockets have lost five in a row (0-4-1-0) after an overtime loss in Victoria last night.

Friday, the Blazers posted a 5-4 OT win in Portland thanks to Brendan Ranford's career four-goal game.  Last night, goaltender Cole Cheveldave made 26 saves for the shutout in a 3-0 win over Prince George back at Interior Savings Center.  A win tonight to close off the weekend would really set the Blazers up well as they attempt to gain some separation from the .500 pack that seems to be emerging within the division and conference.  For the first time since October 20th, 2009, the Blazers are four games over .500. 

It's sounding like the Blazers will break the goaltender rotation we've seen for the first three weeks and go back to Cole Cheveldave tonight.   Cheveldave's numbers are impressive in his first three starts in the WHL.  He's 3-0 with a 1.43 GAA and a .943 save %. 

We will likely see both D Josh Caron and F Matt Needham back into the line-up after being scratches last night.  F Chase Souto suffered a finger/hand injury in a scrap and left last night's game.  He did return later after a few stitches.  We'll see if he's back in the line-up for the game.

The Rockets on the other hand travel in from Victoria today.  A tweet from Rockets broadcaster Regan Bartel talked about the long travel day they have ahead "6:40am wake-up call to catch the ferry back for a 6pm game in Kamloops tonight"

After a 3-0 start, the Rockets are going through a  bit of a slide.  They lost both games on the island this weekend to the Victoria Royals.  Goals against seems to be their issue lately.  Jordan Cooke played last night for the Rockets in goal.  It could mean they throw 20 year-old Adam Brown against the Blazers tonight.  Brown seemingly saves his best games for the Blazers.  He was the best player on both teams in last year's season series.  The Rockets won six of nine meetings.  The Blazers were 3-5-0-1 head-to-head.

This is a crucial stretch for Kelowna.  They are in the midst of nine straight games against BC division opponents. 

It's a 6pm face-off.  The Blazers will look to keep it rolling right along before heading out to Alberta for three games next week beginning in Red Deer Wednesday.

Radio NL is on the air with the pre-game show at 5:30, play-by-play at 6pm.


Jon


Friday, October 14, 2011

DePape to have surgery

Tough blow for the Blazers and Jordan DePape.  Perhaps the timing of this helps as hopefully he'll be back and recovered for a final playoff push and the post-season.....

Here's the release today:

The Kamloops Blazers will be without 19-year-old forward Jordan DePape for most of the 2011-12 WHL season. The Winnipeg native’s injury will require surgery. He is expected to miss the next four months and will be continually re-evaluated during the coming months.

DePape, who was acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings in December 2009, had 21 goals and 48 points in 54 games last season. This season, he had 3 goals and 5 points in 6 games.

The Kamloops Blazers roster now sits at 24 players, including 13 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 3 goaltenders.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blazers Add Blog

The Blazer organization is now operating a blog... you can find it over on the right under my blog roll or you can click here to check it out.

Blades to Host 2013 Memorial Cup

Maybe a bit of an upset today but full marks to the Saskatoon Blades bid presentation for closing the deal with the WHL's Board of Governors today.  Red Deer was looked at as the front-runner going in but the Blades and Saskatoon's history of hosting major events won over.

Saskatoon will do a great job as hosts....looking forward to attending in late May 2013.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blazers Host Tigers Today

(photo courtesy Chris Mast)

- The Blazers take on the Medicine Hat Tigers for the first and only time this season.  Last year they played twice with the road team winning on both occasions.  The Blazers won a memorable contest vs the Tigers back in February as they rallied back from a 5-1 third period hole for a memorable 6-5 shootout win dubbed "The Medicine Hat Miracle".

- The Blazers chase their 5th win in a row while the Tigers come in playing game four of a five game BC division swing.  They are 2-1 so far with a win and loss in Victoria and a shootout win in Vancouver Saturday night.  They conclude the trip in Kelowna Wednesday night.


- The Tigers look a little different up front with the loss of WHL scoring champion Vinden Vey.  Power forward Tyler Pitlick has graduated to the pro ranks and last year's captain Wacey Hamilton has graduated on. On the back-end they move on without Jace Coyle, Thomas Carr and import D Sebastian Owuya.

- The Tigers boast the WHL's leading goal scorer in Emerson Etem.  His 11 goals lead the league. He's scored six on this trip alone.  Hunter Shinkaruk is a good young player up front and Kellan Tochkin is a proven scorer although he's yet to find the back of the net this season.

- The Tigers captain this year is former Blazer Cole Grbvac.  You can bet he'll be ready to play against his former club today.

- The Blazers seek their fifth win in a row as they get back on home ice following a 5-2 win in Everett Saturday night.  So far this season the Blazers have outshot their opponent in 12/15 periods. 

- If you're going by the Blazers current goalie rotation, it means 17 year-old Taran Kozun will start in goal for the Blazers tonight.  He won in his first appearance in an 8-2 win over Victoria.

- Face-off at 2pm today at ISC. Happy Thanksgiving!

Jon



Sunday, October 09, 2011

It's Early But....


Here's a few random thoughts coming off the Blazers 4th straight win - something they didn't do all of last season:  It's early but.....

- I really like the way this team is conducting themselves but on and off the ice.  There's a noticeable "good vibe" around the team and it's a good atmosphere to be part of.

- Last night's 5-2 win in Everett kept the ball rolling.  The team played well and deserved the two points. Every night it seemingly someone else leading the way.  Dylan Willick and Matt Needham stepped up with a pair of big goals and D Austin Madaisky was a force on the back-end.  G Cole Cheveldave wasn't overly busy, but made some great timely saves to keep the Silvertips at bay

- This team is more of a "team" this year.  There's a great mix of young guys and veterans off the ice.  Everyone is playing for each other for the greater good on the ice.

- I've also noticed the Blazers ability to not sweat the small stuff.  In a way, they've created a bubble within the team, and they won't let negative influences enter the bubble.  It's a calm, cool and confident approach from the coaching staff on down.  From negative media to a little adversity on the ice, the Blazers have tuned out all things they don't have control over. Last year, adversity and negativity would fester amongst the group.  This year, they barely know what's going on outside the dressing room walls.  They don't focus on the opposition.  For now, it's all about what they do and trying to keep the energy level up.

- The Blazers have a loud and boisterous off-ice warm-up before the game this year.  Their "jump-around" echos throughout the building. Come to a game early and you'll likely hear their almost tribal ritual before taking to the ice.  Last night's warm-up bellowed through Comcast Arena from underneath the stands. If you're the other team, it's hard not to take notice. I'd be lying if I said the volume level wasn't by design.

- The Blazers will look to run their winning streak to five tomorrow afternoon when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers at ISC for a special Thanksgiving Day Monday Matinee.  Face-off is at 2pm.  The Tigers are 2-1 on their BC division swing so far.  F Emerson Etem is on a tear.  He has a league leading 11 goals.  That's four more than any other player in the race.  He possesses great speed and loves to use it going wide on defenders.  The Blazers will have to make sure they know when he's on the ice.

Other notes:

- The Blazers and Victoria Royals couldn't have timed things any better...or worse.  The teams arrived at the Olive Garden in Bellingham at the exact same time yesterday for pre-game meals.  In fact we met the Royals coaching staff just steps away from the restaurant door.  Victoria played last night in Seattle.  If you think of the timing of crossing the border, and not knowing how long that'll take, I don't think it's something that could be duplicated.

- Referee Trevor Hansen took a hard fall last night on the Comcast Arena ice and was slow in getting up. It happened behind the play at the end of the 2nd period.  Apparently he got his back all twisted up.  The fans blew the roof off the place.  I got to know Trevor in Whitehorse last year. He's a good guy and has a good rapport with the players on the ice. He returned for the third period and was good to go.  I'm thinking he might be feeling a little banged up today though.

- The fight Friday between heavyweights Josh Caron and Spokane's Corbin Baldwin is an early candidate for fight of the year.  It was a marathon slug fest.  At 6'5" an an 80's style mullet, Baldwin is an imposing and intimidating figure.  It turns out his summer job back in Winnipeg is grave digging at a cemetery.  Basically he's the "Undertaker" in the summer months.  It only adds to his image. I think the Chiefs could sitting on a marketing gold mine here....



Jon

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Blazers to Wear Doris Rubel Patch


The Blazers will honor long-time billet coordinator Doris Rubel with this patch all season long.

You may also notice the warm-up pucks spelling out "DR" all season long at Interior Savings Center before each home game.

Jon

Monday, October 03, 2011

Blazers Have "Good" Problems

Granted it was only a weekend's worth of games but the Blazers are smiling after a pair of dominating performances on home ice Friday and Sunday.

The Blazers won't play now until Friday night when they host the Spokane Chiefs and there's a couple of potential issues with the line-up on the horizon. With Brendan Ranford set to come back from a six-game suspension dating back to last season and F JT Barnett likely healthy enough to play, the Blazers will have to make some room.

So what do you?

 It makes sense to put Ranford back on the top line with Chase Schaber and Jordan DePape to see if they can re-capture the chemistry they had last season which at times made them one of the best lines in all the WHL.  I would think this is also the plan of the coaching staff. 

What about JT Barnett?  The early production from guys like JC Lipon, Colin Smith ,Tim Bozon & Logan McVeigh has bought them more ice-time.  Dylan Willick has played well. He's generating chances but just doesn't have anything to show for it.

Ryan Hanes has played some of his best hockey in his last couple games while Matt Needham and Aspen Sterzer have been fine. Chase Souto popped a pair of goals Friday night as well. Plus 16 year-old Cole Ully needs games to develop. 

The Blazers dressed 11 forwards and seven defenseman last night.  Inserting Ranford and Barnett into the mix makes for a tough decision of who to sit.

And then there's the blueline.

There's eight defenseman on the roster...and they're all healthy right now. It means Landon Cross, Brady Gaudet and Tyler Bell are in an early rotation for game action.  Not an ideal scenario but one that will have to work for now.

Don't forget goaltending.... the Blazers have started all three of their goaltenders in the first three games.  Cam Lanigan lost on opening night 1-0 to PG and played well. He ran into the misfortune of a game-stealing performance from PG's Drew Owsley.

Cole Cheveldave played well in a 6-2 win Friday vs Vancouver.and Taran Kozun was steady in last night's 8-2 win.  It's early, but I think Kozun can be a serviceable back-up goaltender at 17 and get into 15-20 games at least.  So then a decision will have to be made between Lanigan and Cheveldave.  Problem is, they aren't making it an easy decision.  Perhaps the Blazers can ride out three goaltenders into late October to get a better feel before making the call.  There's a few teams out there looking for some quality goaltending.  I'm not sure the Blazer phone is ringing off the hook though for what are three unproven goaltenders.

Decisions...decisions...

Jon

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Blazers Host Royals

- The Blazers will look to build off a 6-2 home ice win Friday night over Vancouver as they host the suddenly streaking Victoria Royals.  The Royals won both games in PG this weekend and have won three in a row.  Last night the Royals held leads of 5-0 and 6-2 before holding on to a 6-5 win.  The Royals will play their third game in as many nights

- The Royals may have lost defenseman Tyler Stahl after taking a hard elbow from the Cougars Charles Inglis last night in the third period period. Stahl had to be helped off the ice and didn't return.  Inglis is likely facing a suspension as the Cougars take-off for their eastern road swing.

- No word on who will get the start for the Blazers in goal tonight.  Cole Cheveldave is coming off his first career start in a 6-2 win Friday.  Cam Lanigan played in the season opener.  Taran Kozun dressed Friday to back-up Cheveldave.

- Brendan Ranford serves his 6th and final game of his suspension dating back to late last season.  He'll make his season debut Friday vs Spokane.

- Blazer legend Mark Recchi joins our Radio NL broadcast tonight during the 2nd period for some color commentary.  Also, Radio NL's Jeremy Bosch will join me in the booth tonight.  The pre-game show begins at 5:30, play-by-play at 6pm.

- The Blazers have done well with special teams through two games.  The PK is a perfect 10/10.  The PP is 2/13 after an 0/7 night in the season opener. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blazers Have Big Night Planned.

News Release:

Mark Recchi, Vintage jerseys TRU Night all set:

The Kamloops Blazers will be hosting TRU Night  when the Blazers host the Vancouver Giants tonight. The game entertainment will be geared to TRU students who are able to purchase tickets for only $10!

TRU students will be eligible for some great prizes throughout the game. Paul Filek will be playing a post-game concert in the Parkside Lounge which is included in the ticket. The ticket to the game also includes FREE cover into the Commodore Grand Café and Lounge, and Cactus Jacks Saloon Night Club.

The hockey club will also be unveiling their new vintage jersey on Friday night. The team will wear the jersey throughout the 2011-12 hockey season.

There will also be a ceremonial puck drop with Kamloops legend and Blazers co-owner Mark Recchi prior to the game. Recchi’s NHL career, which spanned 22-seasons, culminated this past June with his third Stanley Cup Championship with the Boston Bruins. A limited edition picture will be handed out at the front doors for the first 4000 people to enter the building.

The hockey club will also be honouring long-time volunteer and off-ice official, Fred Nicoloson, who passed away this past April. The Blazers will also have a moment of silence to honour long-time Billet Coordinator, Doris Rubel, who passed away yesterday.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reaction to the passing of Doris Rubel

Radio NL's Rick "the Bear" Wile gathering some reaction to the passing of longtime billet coordinator Doris Rubel today. She was 75.

Former General Manager Bob Brown

Bob brown by keen941

Former Head Coach Ken Hitchcok:

Hitchcock by keen941

From the Radio NL archives, here's Doris Rubel last year after her election into the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame:

Doris by keen941

Sad News Today...

BLAZERS LONG-TIME BILLET COORDINATOR PASSES AWAY

News Release:


 The Kamloops Blazers announce with heavy hearts the passing of long-time billet coordinator, Doris Rubel. Doris passed away this morning with family by her side.

Doris was a billet in Kamloops for well over 40 years, making a significant impact on the lives of many young hockey players who have come through Kamloops. In Kamloops alone her service originates to the 1960’s in which she worked with the Craft Kings, Braves, Rockets, Chiefs, Jr. Oilers and the Blazers. She not only was busy caring for her own family, but coordinating the overall effort of finding a roof for every other player on every junior hockey team in Kamloops.

In 2004, Doris was awarded the first ever WHL Distinguished Service Award. The award is presented annually to recognize a person who has made an extraordinary contribution over extended period of time at the WHL level. Her contributions also are extended outside of the city of Kamloops. She has helped teams such as the Vancouver Giants, and the Chilliwack Bruins start their successful billet programs

Doris’ contribution to the Kamloops sports scene is immeasurable. The impact she has left on many young and aspiring hockey players is incredible. In 2005, Doris was selected as a Kamloops Blazers legend. In 2010, she was selected to the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame for her long-time contributions to the Kamloops hockey scene.

“The passing of Doris is extremely difficult to hear,” says General Manager, Craig Bonner. “Doris has impacted myself personally, and the hundreds of young junior hockey players that have played in Kamloops. She was a remarkable person, and will be dearly missed by the organization and every junior hockey player who has been through Kamloops.”

Doris continued her role as the Kamloops Blazers Billet Coordinator up until her passing. The legacy and impact she has left will always be remembered. Funeral services have yet to be determined.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Concussions Under the WHL Microscope

As promised earlier...I sat down with Blazers Trainer Colin "Toledo" Robinson regarding the WHL's Seven Point Plan to reduce head blows and concussions.

He's on a committee responsible for tracking concussions this season in order to compile data to better understand what they're dealing with, and then take the necessary steps in prevention.

I asked Colin about the committee that has been put together:

T1 by keen941

And it's a thorough collection of data...

T2 by keen941

As for what they plan on finding out? He hopes they can answer some questions.

T3 by keen941

I asked him about the new equipment the players are using such as soft cap shoulder and elbow pads.

T4 by keen941

Toledo explains it as a CHL wide effort:

T5 by keen941

He stresses they hope to get answers but concussions can be very hard to put your finger on and eliminate.

T6 by keen941

The Latest

Blazer F Logan McVeigh is back practicing full-contact again will likely get into the line-up Friday night vs Vancouver  giving the Blazers a full compliment of forwards.  It also means Bronson Maschmeyer will go back to defense after taking a turn up front for the season opener.

Blazer captain Chase Schaber spoke about the week of practice leading up to the weekend after opening the season with a 1-0 loss on home ice to Prince George.  He says they can't wait to get back at it.





F JT Barnett was back on the ice after a slight knee injury. It's the first time skating since hurting the knee back with New Jersey during a pre-season game.

As promised, later tonight, more with Blazer trainer Colin "Toledo" Robinson on the Seven Point Plan unveiled by the WHL to help reduce head blows and concussions.