Friday April 18, 2014






Blazers looking to stay unbeaten

The Kamloops Blazers will attempt to run the preseason table tonight.

The Blazers are 4-0 in the WHL's exhibition season, which they close out tonight against the Prince George Cougars (3-1) at Interior Savings Centre. Game time is 7 o'clock.

Kamloops has twice beaten the Victoria Royals (4-2, 5-3) and the Vancouver Giants (7-4, 5-4 in overtime), but hasn't played in a week. It was a week ago tonight when the Blazers overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat the Giants in OT in Ladner.

Right-winger J.C. Lipon, who scored the winner in that game, appeared to pull up lame late in Thursday's practice and was only an observer during the final drill. Head coach Guy Charron said later that he thinks any injury to Lipon is minor, but that the veteran will get checked out today.

Lipon has seven points, including four goals, in three exhibition games.

As for who starts in goal tonight, Charron said last night he had yet to make a decision.

Cole Cheveldave is undoubtedly the team's starter, with Taran Kozun, 18, in a backup role. Each has gone the distance in two games - Cheveldave is 2.89, .898; Kozun is 3.50, .870.

The Blazers are carrying nine defencemen, but one of those is Austin Madaisky, 20, who is expected to go to training camp with the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets. Madaisky is under contract to the Blue Jackets.

The Blazers are to open the regular season at home to the Kelowna Rockets on Sept. 21.

The Cougars, meanwhile, won their first three games, including a 3-1 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday. The Oil Kings, the WHL's defending champions, came back the next night for a 4-1 victory.

The Cougars are carrying 25 players, including goaltenders Devon Fordyce and Brett Zarowny. Fordyce, 18, backed up the graduated Drew Owsley last season, while Zarowny was with the midget AAA Leduc Oil Kings.

The Prince George roster includes eight defencemen, all of whom are likely to open the season there. Dan Gibb and Dallas Ehrhardt anchor the back end - both are 20 - while Latvian Rinalds Rosinskis, 18, could prove an interesting addition.

Rosinskis won't play tonight, however, as he serves a one-game suspension after taking a clipping major and game misconduct on Saturday.

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The Blazers aren't about to have their defencemen wear Shot Blockers, plastic guards that fit over the top of skate boots and offer more protection from flying pucks.

The Saskatoon Blades have mandated that their defencemen all will use them.

"It's a situation where we expect our players to pay a price and part of that is blocking shots," Lorne Molleken, the Blades' GM/head coach, told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. "It's a huge part of the game today. We're hoping that this will prevent any type of foot injury."

Dave Hunchak, the Blazers' associate coach who handles the defence, said he experimented with Shot Blockers while he was head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors. He said some players found that they restricted their skating a bit.

"It's a good idea," Hunchak said, "but I think that is a player's decision."

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Former Kamloops F J.T. Barnett is on the move again, this time to the Kelowna Rockets.

Barnett, 20, was placed on waivers by the Everett Silvertips this week and claimed yesterday by the Rockets. They will pay the $1,000 waiver fee should Barnett play for them in the regular season.

Barnett began his career with the Vancouver Giants in 2008-09, before being dealt to the Blazers prior to 2010-11. The Blazers sent him to Everett early last season in exchange for a third-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft.

Barnett played just 20 games with Everett last season as he suffered a knee injury while warming up for a game in Kamloops on Jan. 14. He went ahead and played in that game, scoring a goal and setting up another in a 5-2 Blazers victory, but didn't play again until the playoffs.

In 220 regular-season games, he has 104 points, including 43 goals.

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The Rockets also picked up F Dylen McKinlay, 20, from the Kootenay Ice, giving up a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft in return.

McKinlay had 39 points, including 15 goals, and 37 penalty minutes in 66 games with the Ice last season. Prior to that, he spent three seasons with the Chilliwack Bruins.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca

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