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'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.


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 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.


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


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.


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!


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....


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.


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.



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.