THE SECOND HALF: The Blazers have a record of 26-10-2-2 and 56 points through 40 games so far this season. The first half was a busy one with the Blazers playing a league high 38 games, including 20 on the road. The second half schedule is much kinder with 20 of 32 remaining games against divisional opponents. The Blazers will play almost all of their remaining games in B.C. with only four road games left against U.S. Division opponents. The team suffered a 7-3 loss at the hands of the Kelowna Rockets coming back from the break. On Saturday night, the Blazers defeated the Vancouver Giants 9-5 at the ISC. After tonight’s game in Vancouver the Blazers will be home for two games against Seattle on January 4th and Tri-City on January 9th. The hockey club will then put their road boots on playing five straight on the road with stops in Prince George, Victoria and Tri-City.
Vs. Vancouver – Last Season (8-Game Series)
Game 1: 09/30/11, vs. Vancouver 2, Kamloops 6
Game 2: 12/27/11, at Vancouver 4, Kamloops 3 SO
Game 3: 12/28/11, vs. Vancouver 1, Kamloops 3
Game 4: 02/03/12, at Vancouver 7, Kamloops 5
Game 5: 02/24/12, at Vancouver 2, Kamloops 6
Game 6: 02/25/12, vs. Vancouver 5, Kamloops 3
Game 7: 03/09/12, at Vancouver 3, Kamloops 6
Game 8: 03/10/12, vs. Vancouver 3, Kamloops 2
Blazers were 4-3-0-1 in season series
Vs. Vancouver – This Season (8-Game Series)
Game 1: 11/23/12, vs. Vancouver 1, Kamloops 2
Game 2: 12/09/12, at Vancouver 1, Kamloops 4
Game 3: 12/29/12, vs. Vancouver 5, Kamloops 9
Game 4: 01/02/13, at Vancouver, Kamloops
Game 5: 02/13/13, at Vancouver, Kamloops
Game 6: 02/22/13, at Vancouver, Kamloops
Game 7: 02/27/13, vs. Vancouver, Kamloops
Game 8: 03/02/13, vs. Vancouver, Kamloops
Blazers are 3-0-0-0 in season series
ROSTER BREAKDOWN: The Blazers roster currently sits at 23 players (2 goaltenders, 8 defensemen and 13 forwards). The roster includes 11 players selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, six players from the free agent list, five players via trade, and one player selected from the CHL Import Draft. The roster breakdown by region includes eight players from Alberta, six from B.C., two from Saskatchewan, three from Manitoba, one from the USA, one from the Czech Republic, and one from Switzerland.
THE MATCH UP: The Blazers and Giants are meeting for the fourth of eight times this season. The Blazers won the first meeting on home ice by a 2-1 score. The Blazers went in to Vancouver on December 9th and won 4-1 over the Giants. On December 29th the Blazers won the contest 9-5 on home ice.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS ‘Who to Watch’: The Kamloops Blazers forward crop is led by 20-year-old and fifth year player Brendan Ranford (13+29=42). Ranford has led the Blazers in scoring the last two seasons with 86 points in 2010-11 and 92 in 2011-12. The trio of Colin Smith (27+39=66), Tim Bozon (24+29=53), and JC Lipon (22+35=57) has been dynamite this season. Smith and Lipon are 1st and 4th in the WHL scoring derby. The Blazers also have 20-year-old Dylan Willick (6+8=14) up front who is ready to return after missing the past two months due to injury. The addition of 19-year-old Joe Kornelsen (2+6=8) adds depth to the Blazers line-up. Two 17-year-olds have taken on a bigger role this season and will need to continue to produce. Cole Ully (11+8=19) and Matt Needham (5+13=18) both had terrific rookie seasons and are providing offensive depth to the hockey club. Chase Souto (8+9=17) is an 18-year-old into his third year with the team. The depth continues as Aspen Sterzer (2+5=7) and Rob Trzonkowski (3+2=5) can skate and contribute in many different ways for the Blazers when needed. Both are veteran players who love to take the body on the forecheck. Add in rookies Aaron Macklin (1+3=4) and Mitch Friesen (0+0=0), and the Blazers boast a formidable group of forwards. A quartet of 19-year-old defensemen lead the way as Tyler Hansen (2+12=14), Marek Hrbas (2+10=12), Sam Grist (3+12=15), and newly acquired Joel Edmundson (4+10=14) provide different dynamics to the back-end. Hansen was among the league leaders in +/- last season and is looked upon to shut down the opposition’s top players. Grist and Hrbas are expected to play in all situations. Edmundson is a steady two-way defender with size and strength. Landon Cross (1+8=9) is the lone 18-year-old into his second WHL season. Jordan Thomson (1+5=6) has had a great start to the season. The 16-year-old is a smart and steady presence for the Blazers. Josh Connolly (0+4=4) and Ryan Rehill (0+1=1) continue to develop and improve day in and day out. In goal, the Blazers are strong as Cole Cheveldave’s (19-7-1-1, 2.67, .899) stats prove. 18-year-old Taran Kozun (7-3-1-1, 2.45, .913) is the back-up.
VANCOUVER GIANTS ‘Who to Watch’: The Giants are in rebuilding mode this season which was shown early on dealing some of their top end talent including David Musil and Nathan Burns getting a healthy return of young players and draft picks. One of the Giants best players, Marek Tvrdon, is out for the season due to injury. Up front 17-year-old Jackson Houck leads a young group and is part of the leadership group in Vancouver. Veterans Kale Kessy and Trevor Cheek are two 20-year-olds the Giants have counted on for some leadership and offence. Dalton Sward has taken on a bigger role and a healthy Cain Franson is a dynamic piece to the Giants offense. 17-year-olds Anthony Ast and Carter Popoff are getting plenty of opportunity and are a big part of the youth movement. So are 16-year-old forwards Taylor Vickerman and Thomas Foster. On the back end, Wes Vannieuwenhuizen is the captain and leader of the team. Brett Kulak is a steady rearguard that plays a lot of minutes for an 18-year-old. Mason Geersten is a 17-year-old who was acquired for Musil earlier this season. He is a big, rangy, stay at home defender who will be a big part of their team in a couple seasons. Reid Zalitcah is a 16-year-old who is also part of the youth movement. In goal, the Giants currently have two goaltenders with 16-year-old Payton Lee the best so far. 17-year-old Tyler Fuhr has been up and down, while 19-year-old Liam Liston has just parted ways with the team. Lee is away from the Giants with Team Pacific at the U-17 World Challenge in Quebec.
NHL DRAFT: Tim Bozon (Montreal, 3th round, 64th overall in 2012), Colin Smith (Colorado, 7th round, 192nd overall in 2012), Joel Edmundson (St. Louis, 2nd round, 46th overall in 2011).
INJURY REPORT: Dylan Willick (Lower Body, Day-to-Day). Man games lost due to injury – 60.
DID YOU KNOW… Colin Smith leads the WHL in scoring with 27 goals, 39 assists and 66 points… Forward JC Lipon was selected to Canada’s National Junior Team and is currently competing in the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia… Brendan Ranford is the longest serving Blazer playing his 317th game tonight which has him 4th all-time… he has 312 points all with the Blazers which puts him 9th in Blazers all-time scoring tied with Zac Boyer … JC Lipon was the WHL’s Player of the Month for September/October with 40 points in 17 games… Ranford needs to play 27 more games this season to surpass C.J. Stretch’s record of 341 career games in a Blazer uniform… Dylan Willick is the Blazers captain with Colin Smith, Tyler Hansen, Brendan Ranford serving as assistant captains… The Blazers boast three of the WHL’s top snipers as Colin Smith (1st – 66 points), JC Lipon (4th – 57 points) and Tim Bozon (6th – 53 points) have had solid starts to the season… The Blazers have been ranked #4 in the latest BMO CHL MasterCard Top 10 Rankings… The Blazers set a franchise record 14-game winning streak between September 30th and October 30th… Brendan Ranford is only the 6th player all-time to play in 300 games with the hockey club… Ranford has more than 300 career points and is the first Blazer to accomplish that feat since Hnat Domenichelli in 1995-96… Marek Hrbas is currently with the Czech Republic for the upcoming World Junior Tournament in Ufa, Russia… Defenseman Jordan Thomson is away with Team West at the U-17 World Challenge in Quebec.