Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Coaching...Hired to be Fired

It's all about coaching today... Last night NL reporter Ian Douglas talked to Blazer Head Coach Guy Charron regarding the recent move to part ways with assistant coaches Scott Ferguson and Geoff Smith.

On the departure of Ferguson and Smith....

"It's a difficult situation for Scott and Geoff. These are things that happen. When you haven't been directly selected by your head coach coming in and you don't have success sometimes those decisions have to be made."

Ian asked Guy where they are in the process....

"I've been busy watching games. I was in Vernon and then in Kelowna last week. We haven't really sat down and discussed it much further. There's been been some resumes and applications coming in. The process will take some time.

It's important for me to go through the process. Together we will make the right decision for the hockey club. I think it's important to see the candidates and sit down with the individuals and see what their goals are and find out why they'd like to be an assistant coach at the WHL level.

The junior experience is new for me all over again. I'd be looking for someone to compliment me. I know where my strengths are and I know where I need some help. We will see who fits the bill. Apparently there's been about four or five applicants already. If there's a lot we will get it down to a short list and then you get into the interview process."

Personally I think it's still a bit early to be speculating on who and when but there are some names being thrown around. This week on Radio NL, Sports Director Rick "The Bear" Wile threw out the names of BCHL Head Coach/GM's Mark Ferner in Vernon and Tim Kehler in Salmon Arm. Another name was part-owner Daryl Sydor and perhaps former Blazer captain Ajay Baines.

The Blazers have time on their side. They could wait awhile on this one. After all, its only March. Let's not get carried away. As for Fergie and Smitty, the pair were great to work with in my first year with the team. They made me feel right at home and we had some fun over the course of the season together. I'll miss them. That's the business though. You don't have to explain it. They get it.

--------

Seattle is the first team to make a coaching change but if you talk to folks around the league, it's the first of several moves coming. I've heard four or five teams may be looking for a head coach by the time all is said and done with some teams waiting to see how much playoff success they have before making a move. I don't like to throw out names and destinations. Been there, done that. I've been burned and taken to task. I'll leave that process to someone else. It's coming though.

You can always tell when a coach is at the end of his rope. Their tone, their demeanor...it all changes. Some can't relax and appear visibly rattled and some put their hands up in the air as to say "what can I do?".

It's tough to keep it together when coming under fire. I'll always remember two coaches I talked with who were in "dead man walking" territory. Dale Derkatch of the Regina Pats at the end of the 08-09 season and Barry Smith of the Kamloops Blazers in November of 2009 when he came through Swift Current with his club.

I've seen it with team's I've worked with too. Randy Smith in Swift Current late in the 03/04 season. Rob Sumner in the 2nd half of the season gave me that vibe too. You could just sense they knew it was getting close to the end of the line. You feel a bit for these guys...but they know what they signed up for.

As I've said before...coaching, not for the faint of heart.

Jon

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rod Phillips Calls Final Oiler Game

With the Oilers at home to the LA Kings tonight, 37-year voice of the Oilers Rod Phillips will call his final game tonight.
The Oilers website has some great stuff on it leading up. Click here for a better look.

Jon
-------------

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blazers Make Coaching Changes

FERGUSON AND SMITH PART WAYS WITH BLAZERS

Kamloops, BC – The Kamloops Blazers have announced that Assistant Coaches Scott Ferguson and Geoff Smith will not be returning behind the bench this upcoming season.

Ferguson has decided to pursue Head Coaching opportunities. While part-time Assistant Coach Geoff Smith has decided not to return due to other time considerations.



Smith and Ferguson were both hired by the hockey club in July 2008 and spent the past three seasons with the Blazers. The Kamloops Blazers


organization would like to thank Scott and Geoff for their efforts and wish them nothing but success in their future endeavours.






















Friday, March 25, 2011

Blazers Extend Scouting Staff

Press Release:


BLAZERS EXTEND MATT RECCHI AND KEN FOX

Kamloops, BC – The Kamloops Blazers have announced the contract extensions of Director of Player Personnel, Matt Recchi and Head Scout Ken Fox. Recchi and Fox were both hired by the hockey club in July 2008.

Recchi has led the Blazers through two WHL Bantam Drafts in 2009 and 2010. Under Recchi, the Blazers have drafted and listed players such as Brady Gaudet (1st round 2009), Logan McVeigh (2nd round 2009), Dylan Willick (Listed player), Chase Souto (5th round 2009), Matthew Needham (1st round 2010) and Cole Ully (2nd round 2010).

Fox is a long-time WHL scout who will continue in his current role as the Blazers Head Scout. Fox, who lives in Holdfast, Saskatchewan, has been a key contributor in the Blazers last two WHL Bantam Drafts. He has helped the hockey club find quality players and prospects such as JC Lipon (Listed Player), Landon Cross (3rd round) and Taran Kozun (Listed Player).

Kamloops Blazers General Manager, Craig Bonner, "Both Matt and Ken compliment each other well, and have done a tremendous job through the last two drafts. They both work very hard and have done well in improving our 50 Player Protected List.”

Recchi and Fox’s next important task will be leading the Blazers through the WHL Bantam Draft on May 5, 2011. The Blazers won the draft lottery on Wednesday and will select 4th overall, the highest draft pick in franchise history.

Friday

- The WHL Playoffs kick-off tonight on six fronts as the four other BC division teams open up their 1st round series tonight. In Kelowna the Rockets will take on Prince George while Chilliwack will host Spokane and Vancouver plays in Tri-City. No one asked, but here's my 1st round predictions in the West...

Portland vs Everett - Unless G Kent Simpson (assuming he's healthy) can steal a game, this one is over quick. I'll say Portland in a sweep. Too many weapons, too much power for Everett to compete with.


Kelowna vs PG - Prince George is actually getting a lot of respect in this series going in. Some are even calling for PG in six but I'm not buying it. Kelowna is playing a good team game and have the best goaltender in the Western Conference going in. Adam Brown has been great most of the season. Tyson Barrie is a game-breaker and the Rockets have way more depth up front. Rockets in five.


Spokane vs Chilliwack - Spokane comes in waves and they are the best "team" going into the playoffs. Chilliwack has a great PP unit and D Brandon Manning will play 40 minutes in this one. Chilliwack will get worn down but Lucas Gore will steal a game or two before all is said and done. Spokane wins in six.


Tri City vs Vancouver - If these two teams match-up their top lines it would be quite the show. Tri-City's mobility on the back-end will be a difference maker. Tri-City has had the Giants number lately. Tri in five.



----------


How can you tell it's playoff time? The chatter amongst media is at a season high. Yesterday I was a guest on a pair of radio sports talks shows. Rod Pedersen's Sports Cage on Regina's 620 CKRM and Dan Russell's CKNW Sports Talk in Vancouver. All five BC division broadcasters joined Russell for the hour long segment. It was a lot of fun although I felt like I was at the prom without a date considering the other four broadcasters, and Dan with Shaw TV were all getting set to call a 1st round playoff series.



-----------


Speaking of playoffs, former Swift Current Bronco Assistant Coach Tim Kehler has his season on the line tonight in Salmon Arm with the BCHL's Silverbacks.


The Silverbacks and Vernon play game six of the Interior Conference Final tonight in S.A. After the Silverbacks won the first two games of the series, Vernon has come back to win the last three including a controversial OT win last night in Vernon. Vernon apparently was credited with a goal that was initially waved off. The officials converged and deemed it a good goal. Although I wasn't there, word is Kehler gave the gate at the bench a pretty good workout.


I'll head over to Salmon Arm tonight to see if T.K. can get the series to a game seven.


-----------


I think Blazer F Colin Smith has a really good chance of winning the WHL's Scholastic Player of the Year award in Calgary May 5th. He's up against last year's winner Adam Lowry of the Swift Current Broncos. Smith it appears had a higher average and just a slight edge in points. The WHL awards ceremony is a day before the WHL bantam draft.



-----------


Speaking of the bantam draft, it looks like I'll be heading to Calgary for the festivities. The Blazers will have their highest pick in franchise history thanks to winning the lottery earlier this week. Calgary has the #1 pick. Is Warman, SK defenseman Ryan Pilon the most coveted heading into the draft or have a few names caught up?



----------


Spokane vs Medicine Hat - that's my call for the WHL Championship series. A lot of people have Brandon upsetting the Tigers in the opening round. I don't see it. Medicine Hat and Saskatoon has the potential to be a great 2nd round series. I'm calling the 'Hat for the upset.



Enjoy the playoffs,


Jon


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Latest...GM Bonner Discusses Season

Today's WHL bantam draft lottery win was the big news out of today... for more details see the post below.

Other news included F Colin Smith getting the Western Conference nominee for the WHL's Scholastic Player of the Year. He will go up against the Eastern Conference nominee which will be announced tomorrow.

F Brendan Ranford was a 2nd team Western Conference All Star. Here's a look at the two all-star teams as announced today.


WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE ALL-STAR TEAMS

FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – James Reid (Calgary, AB), Spokane Chiefs
Defenceman – Tyson Barrie (Victoria, BC), Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Jared Cowen (Allan, SK), Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Brendan Gallagher (Delta, BC), Vancouver Giants
Forward – Tyler Johnson (Spokane, WA), Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Ryan Johansen (Port Moody, BC), Portland Winterhawks

SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Calvin Pickard (Winnipeg, MB), Seattle Thunderbirds
Defenceman – Brenden Kichton (Spruce Grove, AB), Spokane Chiefs
Defenceman – Ryan Murray (White City, SK), Everett Silvertips
Forward – Brendan Shinnimin (Winnipeg, MB), Tri-City Americans
Forward – Brendan Ranford (Edmonton, AB), Kamloops Blazers
Forward – Ryan Howse (Prince George, BC), Chilliwack Bruins

--------

I recently sat down with General Manger Craig Bonner to recap the disappointing season.

What's your take on the season... how it ended, and where you're at right now....

It's very disappointing, where we finished and with our expectations we had going in. As a group there's lots of reasons we didn't make the playoffs. The reality of suspensions and our injury situation at the end caught up with us. We just couldn't battle through it in the end.

Looking at it overall, the two biggest areas we need to drastically improve on is our defensive play as a team and our discipline. Those are going to be the main focuses going into next year. The teams that win are good defensively and are disciplined. It's not a formula that's hard to figure out it's getting your team to do it.

Training camp next year will be very intense, very challenging and jobs will be on the line. Anytime you don't make the playoffs there's changes and I anticipate there will be some changes around here.



What's the plans are far as moving forward? When will you evaluate your team and staff ?

The focus right now for Matt (Recchi, Director of Player Personnel) is the bantam draft. There's three more provinces to go to leading up to the draft in May. We continue to recruit for next year as well.

I'm sure the ownership group will be evaluating the entire organization, that's what happens every year especially when you don't make the playoffs, that's part of the business.

You're always being evaluated - players, coaches, myself...the business staff. That's the way it is.


Looking back at the start of the year the term "division title" was being thrown around. I know majority owner Tom Gaglardi has used the term "underachieve" when looking at the end result. Would you agree with that?

Yeah I think we have and as I said earlier I think there's reasons why we have. Some of those reasons you can control and some aren't. If you look at our defensive and discipline stats they're ugly. We are in the bottom three of most defensive and discipline stats.

When you lose your top line forwards to 12 games in suspensions, that's undisciplined play. That's 24 points on the line where you're missing your top guys for.


When you look at the roster for next season there won't be a lot of turnover... how do you get the players to improve and take these things to heart?

We are learning and we all have to improve from myself to the coaches. When you look at Guy (Charron), he's been removed from junior hockey for a long time and we are always learning.

We've talked a lot about different areas we need to improve in. We are going to have a lot of heart-to-heart meetings this spring and summer. it's no secret, we have to improve as an organization. To not make the playoffs is unacceptable for the ownership group down.

--------

Lightning Strikes...Blazers Win Draft Lottery

The Blazers had a 4.7% chance to win today's WHL bantam draft lottery....and good luck was smiling on them today.

The Blazers ball was drawn and they will jump from 6th to 4th in the bantam draft. 4th overall will be the highest pick in franchise history. Their previous highest pick ever was 5th overall in which they selected Jimmy Bubnick - 2006.

Blazers Director of Player Personnel Matt Recchi on winning today's lottery...

"It's pretty important. There's four or five elite players in this year's draft and after that there's a bunch of good players. With winning the lottery we put ourselves in a good position where we should get a real impact player in the draft."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Behind the Scenes Video

The Blazers have just posted a cool video of our trip to Whitehorse in February for Hockey Day in Canada.

Timmy O'Donovan in the Blazers office put it together. You can see it by clicking here.

Draft Lottery Tomorrow

The Blazers will go into tomorrow's WHL draft lottery knowing they will get a pick somewhere between 4th and 6th overall...

The Blazers will have just one ball of the 21 that will be in play in the lottery. Here's the breakdown:


Calgary Hitmen - Six balls
Swift Current Broncos - Five balls
Regina Pats - Four balls
Lethbridge Hurricanes - Three balls
Seattle Thunderbirds - Two balls
Kamloops Blazers - One ball

A team can move up a maximum of two positions in the Bantam Draft.


More than likely, the Blazers are looking at the 6th overall pick - they have a 4.7% chance to get the #4 pick.

The lottery takes place in Calgary at 10AM PST.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blazers put wraps on season

The Blazers returned home with Prince George late last night following a 5-1 loss to the Cougars to wrap up the season.

Here's our final post-game "After the Buzzer" with Head Coach Guy Charron...

video


I'll break down the season in the coming days and try to put a finger on some of the areas they struggled in. There's obvious disappointment around the hockey club as the team hold their exit meetings and prepare to disband for the year.

The month of March was extremely tough on this team going 0-6-0-2 to close off the year as they scored just 13 goals in the final month of play with the PP going 1/26.

On a personal note and as I said on the air last night... I want to thank the Blazer organization for welcoming me into the fold. Its a good group from the coaching staff to the office staff. I feel like I've been here for a couple of seasons already. Despite missing the playoffs, it'll go down as one of my most enjoyable seasons in the league. I look forward to many great years ahead working with the Blazers and Radio NL.



Jon

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Blazers conclude season tonight

Greetings from Prince George where the Blazers will put a wrap to a dismal month of March tonight in the final game of the regular season.

Missing the playoffs wasn't in the cards this season but that's how it'll go into the books when all is said and done. Going 0-5-0-2 this month in what you could call a collapse is just one of the reasons this team will miss the playoffs for only the 2nd time in franchise history.

I'll have some observations early next week as to why the Blazers will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs start next weekend. For now, we'll just wrap up the season tonight, sleep on it and then get into the full breakdown later.

-----------

The Blazers arrived in PG shortly after 4am. The trip up was uneventful but the same can't be said for their Cougar counterparts. They had bus problems and broke down near Williams Lake, BC. They booked in there overnight before a Kamloops bus company sent a bus to pick them up this morning so they could continue their trip home.

The Cougars are still playing for something. They would love a 7th place in the conference to play Kelowna rather than battling a Portland or Spokane in the opening round of the playoffs.

-----------

The Blazers will have exit meetings Sunday and Monday at ISC before going their separate ways for the summer....

More tonight from the CN Center........

Jon

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blazers Playoff Hopes Dashed....

A 3-2 shootout loss to the Prince George Cougars ends the Blazer hopes for the post-season tonight at ISC.

More later....

Season on the line tonight...

Yep...

The old "do or die" cliche applies tonight as the Blazers host the Prince George Cougars. A win would extend the Blazers playoff hopes to tomorrow night in PG while a loss would officially eliminate the Blazers from post-season contention.

With the suspension to F Brendan Ranford, the Blazers will likely insert 15 year-old Matt Needham onto the top line alongside Chase Schaber and Jordan DePape.

It'll push Dylan Willick back to the third line alongside Dalibor Bortnak and likely JC Lipon.

The Blazers have lost six in a row entering the game tonight and five straight against the Cougars in the season series (Blazers 1-5 vs PG this season).

So...as you can see, the Blazers need to turn the tides on a couple of different things tonight if they want to live to play another day.


----------

The Blazers will depart for PG following the game knowing full well they may be spending a few days up north. If it gets to a tie-breaker between the teams, the Cougars would have home-ice advantage on Tuesday night in the one-game playoff.

While we are talking a tie-breaker scenario, if the Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds tie for the final playoff spot, the Blazers would host that game Tuesday based on more wins and having the edge in the season series.


---------

The Blazers will hand out their season awards on the ice prior to tonight's game. It's also Fan Appreciation Night and the club will be giving away as many as 124 prizes ranging from t-shirts, jerseys and a trip for 2 to Mexico. It will also be Cougar Night; all “Cougars” 19 years or older will get into the game for only $10.



Jon

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

At Practice Today


Needham's new look....


The cage comes off and the visor goes on as 15 year-old F Matt Needham was on the ice today. The 1st round bantam pick will play this weekend for the Blazers and any potential games after that.


Needham has already played 11 games this season collecting three goals and four assists.


-----


Also at practice, the Blazers had newly signed 16 year-old F Dallas Calvin on the ice. At first glance, you see a big bodied 6'4 forward with some raw talent but a bit rough around the edges.


He'll get a good experience with the Blazers this week before some off-season training. I'd expect he can come into next season and have a good shot at making the hockey team.


-----


Another new face at practice was 17 year-old G Cole Cheveldave. The Calgary native was the AJHL's Rookie of the Year, Goaltender of the Year and a runner-up for MVP in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Drumheller Dragons.


Cheveldave hasn't signed with the team but is in this week for a look around. I spoke with him briefly after practice. You can hear our chat prior to Friday's game as the Blazers host the Prince George Cougars.


What I got from our conversation is that he's leaning towards the Blazers for next season. He knows there could be a potential opportunity for him here.

At 5'10 he's a bit smaller in the crease but looks very agile and quick. He described himself as a "hybrid" goaltender.

The jump from Junior "A" to Major Junior is a significant one though. Often success in one league doesn't translate into the other.

It would be nice to see Cheveldave come to camp and compete for a spot next season.


Jon




Blazers Sign Calvin

News Release:

The Kamloops Blazers have announced the signing of sixteen year old forward Dallas Calvin to a WHL contract. Calvin is a native of Trail, BC and was listed by the Blazers in September 2010.

The hulking 6’3”, 205lb forward played this season in Jr. B with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).. He had a strong year scoring 17 times, and adding 23 assists for 40 points in 40 games. Calvin was even better in the playoffs where he had 17 points in 12 games for the Nitehawks.

"Dallas has had a great season,” said Director of Player Personnel Matt Recchi. “He already has a year of junior hockey under his belt, and we believe he has the tools to become an impact player and make our team next season.”

Calvin has a late birthday which means he isn’t eligible for the NHL Draft until 2013. He will be practicing with the Blazers for the rest of the week.

------------

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ranford Gets Six Games

The WHL has suspended Brendan Ranford for six games for his weekend altercaton with a WHL linesman.

It puts the Blazers man games lost to suspension this season to 28 games.

Ranford Decision Expected Today; Needham Joins Club

(photo credit Tricia Mercuri)


It's expected the WHL will rule on the length of Brendan Ranford's suspension today following an altercation with linesman Kris Hartley Friday night at ISC.

Ranford spoke with WHL Vice-President of Hockey Richard Doerksen yesterday regarding the incident. With two games to go in the regular season, Ranford has already sat one game. The Blazers are moving forward likely knowing Ranford will be unavailable to them this weekend.

---------

15 year-old F Matt Needham will join the team on a full-time basis today. The 1st round pick will join the club for weekend games vs Prince George and for any potential playoff games.

Needham has already played 11 games collecting three goals and four assists.

--------

The Blazers will also bring in a pair of potential recruits for next season - both were awarded Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues.


17 year-old goaltender Cole Cheveldave of the AJHL's Drumheller Dragons will come in for a few days to get a taste of things. The Calgary born puckstopper had a great year in Drumheller and even received some consideration for the AJHL's MVP.





16 year-old Dallas Calvin will also come in. The Trail, BC was awarded the Neil Murdoch Division Rookie of the Year Award in the KIJHL.

Calvin played in 40 games this year with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and finished 3rd in team scoring with 17 goals, 23 assists and 40 points


-------------

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's Shakin'

It's a Sunday afternoon and the Blazers are now in a watch and wait mode. This after a hard fought scoreless 65 minute game in Kelowna last night as the Blazers left it in the hands of the shootout.

Both teams were 4-1 in shootouts this season but Kelowna's two goals to just the one from Thomas Frazee gave the Rockets the two points. The single point keeps the Blazers playoff hopes alive as they will now hope for a little help on the scoreboard.

Tonight, Prince George finishes up a three-game-in-three night stretch in Tri-City against the Americans. A PG win would put them out of reach for the Blazers with next weekend's home-and-home set between the two teams.

The Blazers have closed within two points of the struggling Everett Silvertips. The 'Tips have lost seven in a row after falling 2-1 on home ice to Portland. Everett does have two games in hand and will make up one of those games Wednesday when they play in Tri City.

Everett closes off the season playing three games next weekend - all on the road, with stops in Portland, Chilliwack and Vancouver.

Let's not forget about Seattle. They hold two games in hand on the Blazers and are two points back. They host Kelowna Wednesday before playing three games in the final weekend at Spokane, vs Portland and vs Tri-City.

Take that information as you will. The Blazers need to win both games next weekend and look for some help from other teams in the process. To quote Lloyd Christmas in the movie Dumb and Dumber "so you're sayin' there's a chance..."

--------------

Western Conference, take note. I like the Kelowna Rockets chances to make some playoff noise. They are playing a really good style of game right now. They will get forwards Colton Sissons and Brett Bulmer off injury to add some scoring punch. Throw in G Adam Brown who is playing his best of the year and the game-breaking ability of Tyson Barrie and the Rockets could be a force in the playoffs.

Do they have the horses to compete with the likes of Portland, Spokane and Tri-City?

------------

Kelowna Rockets General Manager, Governor and owner Bruce Hamilton joined our broadcast for the 2nd intermission. He talked a little about the on-going situation in Chilliwack. As the Chairman of the Board of Governors he didn't believe the sale of the Bruins was a "done deal". He says WHL Commissioner Ron Robison is working closely with the Bruins ownership group to try and come to a resolution.

He also feels too much has been played out in the media and it's best if they can resolve the situation in confidence.

Hamilton did admit Victoria is an attractive market and have shown they will support major junior hockey. Like the league's stance, he doesn't believe in further expansion into 23 or 24 teams.

-------------

How about Dan De Palma? The Blazers goaltending consultant made the trip with the team to Kelowna last night and saddled up on our broadcast for color commentary on our Radio NL broadcast.

Goaltenders do make for great game analyzers. He was outstanding. Perhaps it was fitting that both goaltenders posted shutouts through 65 minutes.

------------

Blazer F Brendan Ranford didn't make the trip last night after getting into an altercation with a WHL linesman Friday night at ISC. He's awaiting further word from the WHL. With two crucial games left in the regular season will the Blazers have to make the playoffs in order to see him back this season?

We will find out likely Tuesday what the verdict is.

------------

The heart and determination award for the Blazers could easily go to JC Lipon this season. He's battled a bad ankle for the last couple months. Last night he played through a shoulder injury after hurting it Tuesday against Tri-City.

------------

The Blazers should be fresh for their final two games of the regular season. They will not play a mid-week game for the first time since mid-November not counting the Christmas break.

More blogging later this week...

Jon

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blazers Unravelling

The Blazers playoff chances were dimmed further last night following a self-implode at the hands of a disciplined Kelowna Rockets squad.

The Blazers - frustrated by some big saves from Kelowna goaltender Adam Brown in the 1st period, took some unwarranted penalties in which the Rockets capitalized on.

A 5-on-3 PP for a full two minutes saw the Rockets cash in twice midway through the 2nd period to put the visitors up 3-0.

Later, Brendan Ranford's frustration boiled over when he shoved linesman Kris Hartley while being led to the penalty box. A decision that led to a game misconduct and likely supplemental discipline by the WHL.

In the end the Rockets were 4/9 on the PP for a 5-1 win. It was the Blazers 5th straight loss as they continue to head in the wrong direction in their playoff push.

Last night may have been their undoing. Even winning the last three games starting in Kelowna tonight may not be enough.

We will see what the Blazers have to offer tonight, but all signs are pointing to an earlier than expected off-season.

We're on the air tonight at 6:30pm with the pre-game show, play-by-play at 7pm.

Jon

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Notes, Blazers Host Rockets


It's game day for the Blazers as they host the division leading Kelowna Rockets tonight. While the Blazers fight their playoff lives, the Rockets need only two wins or combined Vancouver losses to sew up the BC Division title.

Up front the Blazers will get some help. Ryan Hanes returns after serving a one-game suspension while Chase Souto will play coming off a concussion. JC Lipon will likely be a game-time decision after suffering a sprained shoulder Tuesday vs Tri-City.

- The Blazers will try to even the season series with the Rockets. Kelowna is 4-3 vs the Blazers this season with this weekend home-and-home set ahead. The Blazers have lost four in a row entering the game while the Rockets have won six of their last seven games.

- The Blazers are 10-18-1-0 vs the BC Division this season while conversely the Rockets are 17-11-0-1 against division opponents.

- Its TRU night at the game. For complete details check this link.

- There will be plenty of scoreboard watching going on tonight. The Prince George Cougars are in Vancouver to play the Giants while Seattle plays the Chilliwack Bruins. The Bruins are the hottest team in the WHL right now with six straight wins.

- Here's Kamloops This Week's take on tonight's game from Marty Hastings.

- There is a lot of playoff chatter going on around the league. I joined Regina/Saskatoon's News Talk CJME's Sports Night with Jamie Nye and Drew Remenda last night to talk WHL Playoffs. You can hear our chat here.

- Thanks to Guy Flaming from Coming Down the Pipe (link on the right) for pointing out the fact the Blazer's celebration has caught on with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. You can see an example here.


- We're on the air tonight at 6:30pm with the pre-game show, play-by-play on Radio NL at 7pm.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Blazers Celebration Legacy?

It appears the Blazers "NHL 94" celebration from earlier this season has created a following.

Several copycat celebrations have appeared in the U.S. and Canada. Here's some other celebrations from college to minor hockey that have hit youtube.... yes the power of the internet at work.










The Broken Hearts Club

No, it's not the romantic comedy movie from about 10 year ago... this would be the tale of the Kamloops Blazers.

More than any teen-age girl or country music song, the Blazers have had more than their share of heartbreak this season.

It's those late goals that hurt the most. The ones that snatch defeat in the jaws of victory, those goals where your heart hits the floor and you can't help but slump in your seat. If you've been around sports, you know exact feeling I'm talking about.

For the Blazers, that feeling has been more than prevalent this season. Here's a quick synopsis or autopsy if you will...

December 15th - Portland 5 Blazers 4

The Blazers only dress nine forwards and battle the Conference leading Winterhawks all night long in the Rose Garden. Brendan Ranford's goal with just over five minutes to play in the 2nd period knots the game at 4-4.

The teams play a back-and-forth brand in the third period. A late penalty vs the Blazers put the Hawks on the PP. Sven Bartschi's goal on the ensuing PP with 3:39 to play in regulation would be the game winner.

December 17th - Prince George 3 Blazers 2

It's the final weekend before the Christmas break and the Blazers and Cougars are playing the first of two games in PG. Tied late in the 3rd period, it appears the two teams are headed for overtime.

A turnover just inside of the Blazer blueline in the final minute and a shot by Greg Fraser that gets through G Jeff Bosch gives the Cougars the go-ahead goal with just :27 seconds to play.

Ouch.

February 2nd - Everett 3 Blazers 2

A crucial Western Conference game has the Blazers hosting the Everett Silvertips at ISC. The Blazers are outshooting and outchancing the 'Tips who are hanging in there but get better as the game progresses.

Tied 2-2 in the third period, Tyler Maxwell gets room and space on a late PP and wires one upstairs on Bosch with 3:31 to play. Game-over.

February 12th - Vancouver 3 Blazers 2 - Whitehorse, YK

It's the Hockey Day in Canada game and the Blazers appear to be trying to get the game to overtime tied 2-2 in the third period. The Giants are coming on. They aren't content to sit back and play for OT.

Tied 2-2, the Giants are pressing. A deflected shot by Brendan Gallagher with just 2:45 to play in the third period proves to be the winner.

March 8th - Tri-City 5 Blazers 4

Last night, the Blazers and the Americans engage in a highly entertaining game that get's better as the games go on.

Tied 3-3 early in the third, the teams swap goals midway through. First Tyler Schmidt at 9:55 followed by Bronson Maschmeyer's tying goal just 1:10 later. The teams would continue to get scoring chances into the final minute.

On a 2-on-2 rush, Justin Feser's shot from the left circle gets through an outstretched glove of Jeff Bosch with :55 seconds to play. 5-4 final.

------------

What will the last four games of the season hold? Of course the ultimate heartbreak would be missing the playoffs. It's up to the Blazers to avoid that.

Jon

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday

Blazers practice Monday afternoon at ISC

- So what's it going to take for the Blazers to get into the playoffs? Do they need to win 4 of their last five games? All five?

Certainly no one would have thought the Blazers would return off their successful Central Division road swing with three straight losses - two of which on home ice. The tables have certainly turned in the last week. The focus has shifted from Chilliwack to Prince George as far as playoff battles go.

Here's what each team has left:

Blazers (5 games) vs Tri-City, Vs Kelowna, @ Kelowna, vs PG, @ PG

Cougars (6 games) vs RD, @ Van, @ Seattle, @ Tri-City, @ Kam, vs Kam

As you can see the final weekend of the season, the home-and-home between the Blazers and Cougars will likely decide things. Let's not discount Seattle who have played themselves within striking distance from the 10th spot.

The Cougars have to be equally as unimpressed as the Blazers. Let's remember they were LEADING the BC division at the Christmas break. Now they are tied with Kamloops for 5th.

Why are the Blazers in this battle for their playoff lives? It's fairly easy to see. It's their 10-18-1-0 record vs the BC division. Here's how they've stacked up against their BC division rivals.

vs Vancouver 3-5-0-0

vs Kelowna 3-4-0-0

vs Chilliwack 3-4-1-0

vs Prince George 1-5-0-0

-----------

- The Blazers could be without F Ryan Hanes for tomorrow night's game vs the Tri-City Americans. His checking-from-behind major penalty vs Chilliwack also drew an automatic game misconduct. The player hit was D Zach Habscheid. Habscheid stayed in the game.

- Where has the offense gone? After scoring 14 goals in the final two games of their Central swing, the Blazers have scored just four goals in the last three games. For the most part they are getting chances, but it's just not happening.

- The Blazers will need more from their top six forwards. It's an old adage, but their best players will have to be their best players. Otherwise... I don't really want to think about the consequences.

------------

- The River 97.5 FM, Radio NL's sister station, produced a video from last Wednesday's Stanley Cup/First Nations game night vs Kelowna. You can see that video here.




- This Friday's game vs Kelowna is Thompson Rivers University Night. A pretty good deal to be had. It will also be the 2nd last regular season home game.

The "Sleeveless Tease" feature lead singer Mallory Johnson, who is also the Blazers in-stand announcer.











------------
- Maybe it's just me but I don't really think the "Rich Preston incident" is worth all the talk and promotion. I watch the video and my reaction is "big deal".
Learning the circumstances of why Preston was upset I can only agree with him. To have a goal taken away on a penalty call from the linesman only to have the opposition then score on the ensuing PP would have me up in arms too. As for Preston's reaction? I just don't see it as a big deal. Just my opinion.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Iggy Stops By the Booth


Schaber Back Tonight



After missing 17 games with a leg injury it's the much anticipated return of Blazer Captain Chase Schaber tonight as the Blazers host the Lethbridge Hurricanes.




"I've been chomping at the bit to get going here...and finally it's time to get back it," commented Chase before Thursday's practice at ISC.

"My time away was both good and bad. I took the time to study our play, study the game a lot. To be honest with you I studied Brendan Ranford a lot and his tendencies. I think I can learn things about him and his game so when we get back on the ice (tonight) we will be better together."


Let's hope the two can find the chemistry they had before Christmas. It's no secret Ranford's scoring pace has cooled without playing beside Schaber.


The other piece to the puzzle could be getting Jordan DePape back on the top unit. He's impressed on defense and has offered a different component back there in the last four games.

It may also depend on the availability of D Brandon Underwood who is set to get back into the line-up after missing over a month with a knee injury. He'll be a game-time decision.

---------
Tonight is Jarome Iginla bobblehead night. The first 3000 fans coming to the game will get the limited edition Iginla bobblehead. Some people go crazy over these things...so get there early.

I believe the Blazers will also make some available for sale as well.


--------
Kudos to Dave Chyzowski and the Blazers staff for pulling off the Stanley Cup promotion and First Nations Night Wednesday. It was the Blazers biggest crowd in a year at 5527.

There's word that up to $10,000 has been raised for 10 year-old Mitch Harlock and family. Mitch has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

The Stanley Cup after-party at Earls was a lot of fun. Thanks to the staff at Earls for taking care of everyone.

At the stroke of midnight, the cup was safely secured and whisked away by cup handler Mike Bolt.
It was a good chance for me to meet a few more people associated with the team and sponsors. I also heard some good comments about this blog too. Thanks to those who stop by for a glance from time to time.
----------

Just a quick word on the Hurricanes....
This is the the third meeting of the season between the two teams. Both teams have each won a game and both have been in Lethbridge.

"We've outplayed them for 40 minutes both games," commented Brendan Ranford.

Both times though they've come back in the third period. The first time they scored three and beat us 5-4. Last game we got the overtime win after being up 4-1 but we have to be aware and play a full 60."

The Hurricanes and battling for their playoff lives with Prince Albert. They trail the Raiders by two points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

This will be the Hurricanes 2nd game of a three game BC road swing. They play in Kelowna Friday night before heading back home.

Jon

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Redenbach Interview

Former WHL scoring champion and Kamloops native Tyler Redenbach was our guest last night during the intermission. Back in the 2003/04 season, he put up 105 points to win the WHL scoring title while playing with the Swift Current Broncos.

Redenbach started his WHL career in Prince George and was later traded to Swift Current. He played there until his 20 year old season and was part of a deadline deal that sent him to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for D R.J. Larochelle, F David Murray and over-age F Justin Cruse.


video

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Game Day

The Blazers will shoot for their 4th straight win tonight when they host the division leading Kelowna Rockets tonight at ISC. Here's a few tidbits leading into tonight's game.

- As discussed on Blazer Hockey Talk last night from the Ramada Rooftop Lounge, The Blazers have recalled 15 year-old Matt Needham. He will slide into the line-up with F Chase Souto being listed as out with a concussion.




- Blazer G Jeff Bosch is the Blazers Player of the Month for February. He was 7-3-1 in the month with a GAA of 3.09 and a save % of .905. He played every minute of every game and won both shootouts he was in. He joined us last night for our talk show.

- D Josh Caron will make his return back in after a three game suspension. Even with Caron back, the Blazers intend to keep F Jordan DePape on the blueline to give them six defenseman for tonight's game.

- Brandon Underwood and Chase Schaber are listed as day-to-day on the WHL injury report. I'd expect one or both back for the weekend.

- The much anticipated visit of the Stanley Cup is tonight for First Nation's Night. Doors open early at 5pm and the cup will be in the Lounge prior to and during the game. Afterwards, it'll be the special guest at Earl's for the Stanley Cup after party. Tickets are for sale on the concourse and at Earls. This event will be sold out. The night is being used as a fundraiser for Mitch Harlock and family. He's a local 10 year-old boy with a rare form of cancer.

- Kamloops native and former WHL scoring champion Tyler Redenbach will join us during the broadcast in the intermission. Redenbach, who played in Prince George, Swift Current and Lethbridge is back in Kamloops after breaking his wrist playing for
SaiPa Lappeenranta of the Finnish Elite League. Redenbach won a scoring title in Swift Current in my first year of play-by-play with the club in 2003-04 putting up 105 points.




- Game-time at 7pm at ISC, our pre game show begins at 6:30pm on Radio NL.



See you there....



Jon

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Jarome Iginla Bobblehead Night Friday



The Kamloops Blazers will have their first ever Bobblehead Night on Friday, March 4th when the Lethbridge Hurricanes come to town. Former Kamloops Blazer and current NHL star Jarome Iginla will be featured in a Blazers jersey for Bobblehead Night.

Iginla played in 183 games with the Blazers and had 102 goals, 134 assists for 236 points from 1993-96. The Edmonton native also won 2 Memorial Cups with the Blazers in 1994 and 1995.

Originally a 1st round draft pick of the Dallas Stars, Iginla has played his entire NHL career with the Calgary Flames. He has played 1088 games for the franchise and has 466 goals and 978 points, all team records, in 14 seasons with the Flames. He has also spent the last 8 seasons as the team captain

Hockey Talk Tonight

Join us from 5:30-6:30 from the Ramada Rooftop Lounge this evening for our 4th installment of Blazer Hockey Talk.

You can email questions to blazerhockeytalk@hotmail.com or give us a call at 250-374-5345. For those out of town, you can listen online at www.radionl.com.

Guests include General Manager Craig Bonner, Head Coach Guy Charron and goaltender Jeff Bosch.