For the second year in a row, Taran Kozun will be in the Kamloops Blazers' goal on opening night.
This time, however, Kozun will be the Blazers' starter.
Kozun, a 19-year-old native of Nipawin, Sask., will be between the pipes tonight when puck drops on the Blazers' WHL regular season. Kamloops is scheduled to open against the Kelowna Rockets at Interior Savings Centre.
He is the Blazers' guy right now, despite the team's trade to acquire 19-year-old Bolton Pouliot from the Red Deer Rebels earlier this month.
"It's pretty exciting," said Kozun, who went 11-4-3 with two shutouts last season, his first in the WHL. "All the boys seem to be ready to go and it's time to get this show on the road."
This won't be Kozun's first appearance in a season-opening game. In last season's opener, he was called into action before the third period after starter Cole Cheveldave suffered a lower-body injury.
Kozun allowed two goals on 11 shots in the third period and was in goal when Tim Bozon scored the overtime goal in what was a 6-5 Kamloops victory.
With the opening-game injury to Cheveldave, who was traded to the Prince Albert Raiders in the offseason, Kozun started the next two games for Kamloops.
But this is different - once Cheveldave healed, he started six straight games and Kozun was back on the bench. This is Kozun's turn to be the go-to guy.
"Taran's been our No. 1 goalie all along," said Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak. "When we brought in Bolton, we wanted him to push Taran, and he did that. But Taran's a returning guy and it's the first home game, so he deserves the opportunity to start for us."
Kozun put up solid numbers last season, despite playing sparingly, especially late. His goals-against average was 2.36, and his save percentage was .914.
But as time wore on, Cheveldave was getting the call more and more often. Kozun appeared in just eight games after Christmas, but allowed two or fewer goals in six of them. He even posted a 31-save shutout in the last game of the regular season, a 7-0 victory over the Cougars in Prince George.
That's ancient history - now, Kozun's focused on the home-opener and the grind of being a starter.
"Once you start the season, every practice and every game, you have to look at them the same," he said. "Whether it's the first game or whatever, you have to battle and be the hardest working team out there."
Hunchak said he hadn't decided who will start Saturday's rematch in Kelowna. Pouliot, who is 18 days older than Kozun, was 5-10-2, 3.60, .902 with the Rebels last season.
Although they are competing for the same spot in the Blazers' goal, Kozun and Pouliot appear to be getting along nicely.
"We're both going to get some games and we're both going to try to do our best," Kozun said. "Whoever's going to win is going to play. I think we'll be confident with whoever goes in - but we're going to push each other."
JUST NOTES: Game time is 7 p.m. . . . G Jordon Cooke, 20, is expected to get the start for Kelowna. . . . Last year's opener was the first time the Blazers and Rockets had met in a season-opener. The teams played a home-and-home set to start last season, with the Blazers winning the rematch 3-2 in Kelowna. . . . The Blazers still have 25 players, including 16 forwards. A complete list is in Scoreboard. . . . The Columbus Blue Jackets sent former Blazers D Austin Madaisky down to the AHL's Springfield Falcons on Thursday. Madaisky spent part of his injury-riddled 2012-13 season in Springfield; he played six games with the Falcons and 11 with the ECHL's Evansville's Icemen but missed most of the season with a wrist injury.