Now Blazers are hunters

GREGG DRINNAN / Kamloops Daily News
January 28, 2013 01:00 AM

Talk about role reversal!

On Nov. 1, the Kamloops Blazers rode a 14-game WHL winning streak into Kelowna's Prospera Place for a date with the Rockets.

At the time, the Blazers were the hunted. They were 16-0-1 and leading the B.C. Division by 15 points over the Rockets, who were 8-6-2.

However, the Rockets won that night, 3-0. One night later, the Blazers lost forward Dylan Willick for two months with a broken ankle. Shortly after that, winger Jorden DePape had his Blazers career ended by shoulder problems and, just like that, momentum left the Kamloops dressing room.

Tonight, when the Rockets skate onto the Interior Savings Centre ice surface, they will be in the role of the hunted.

Kelowna has gone 29-4-1 since October ended, while the Blazers are 16-14-4.

So when the teams meet tonight, it's the Rockets (37-10-3) who are atop the B.C. Division, with the Blazers (32-14-5) eight points in arrears.

The Rockets, who will be playing their fourth game in five nights, have won six straight games and are 14-0-1 in their last 15 outings. At home, they've been all but invincible, having put up 21 straight victories, three shy of the franchise record that was set when they played out of Tacoma.

This rush up the standings has gotten Kelowna to within four points of the Portland Winterhawks, who lead the overall standings.

While the Blazers opened the regular season by sweeping a home-and-home series from the Rockets - winning 6-5 in overtime here and 3-2 in the Little Apple - Kelowna has taken the last two meetings, 3-0 and 7-3, both at home.

The Blazers have 21 games remaining, with six of those against the Rockets. In fact, starting on Feb. 15, five of Kamloops' last 14 regular-seson games will be versus Kelowna.

Of late, the Blazers have shown signs of shaking off the cobwebs or whatever it was that was hampering their game.

They have won their last two games and three of four, including a solid 4-1 triumph over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on Friday night.

Kamloops has everyone back and, with the exception of centre Aspen Sterzer, all are healthy. Sterzer is out week-to-week with an undisclosed injury.

The Blazers will open tonight with Cole Cheveldave in goal for a third straight game. His performances in the last two games - victories over the visiting Everett Silvertips (4-3 in OT) and the Raiders - would seem to indicate his confidence in his game has been restored.

Cheveldave (22-11-2) will be opposed by Jordon Cooke (27-8-2), who leads all WHL goals in victories. Cooke, a 19-year-old from Leduc, Alta., is 20-0-0 since losing 3-2 to the host Tri-City Americans on Nov. 17.

JUST NOTES: The Blazers have a tough travel week ahead of them. They will play in Portland on Wednesday, before returning home to face the Spokane Chiefs on Friday. Kamloops then has to get to Everett for a Saturday date with the Silvertips. . . . The Rockets began their weekend with an 8-0 victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds on Thursday, then got past Seattle 4-3 in overtime the next night in Kent, Wash.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca

gdrinnan.blogspot.com

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