Thursday, September 2, 2010

Blazers make roster, schedule adjustments

Daily News Sports Editor
Talk about a busy day in the camp of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers . . .
For starters, they got down to two goaltenders when one of the last three standing chose to go home.
The Blazers also signed four players and announced a scheduling change involving Whitehorse and a Russian team.
First things first . . .
Goaltender Taran Kozun, a 16-year-old from Nipawin, Sask., chose to leave the team after playing in Wednesday night’s Blue-White intrasquad game. Kozun played the second half, stopping 14 of 16 shots, and was the winning goaltender as Team Blue erased a 7-5 third-period deficit and won, 10-8.
Kozun and Troy Trombley, a 6-foot-6, 187-pounder from Sherwood Park, Alta., were in competition for the backup spot behind veteran Jon Groenheyde. Trombley, who started for Team Blue, stopped 10 of 16 shots.
Trombley, a third-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft, has signed with the Blazers; Kozun, who was added to the Blazers’ list last season, hasn’t. Kozun left, apparently because he doesn’t feel he is ready to compete at this level.
This, of course, means that the Blazers appear likely to go into the exhibition season, which starts Friday, with Groenheyde and Trombley as their goaltenders. General manager Craig Bonner, however, is believed to be combing WHL rosters in search of a capable goaltender with at least some experience in the league.
While they didn’t sign Kozun, the Blazers were able to sign four other players, including forward Matthew Needham of Penticton, their first pick in the 2010 bantam draft.
They also signed defenceman Joshua Connolly, a third-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft, and two picks from the 2009 draft — defenceman Landon Cross, a third-round pick, and forward Chase Souto, who was taken in the fifth round.
Needham, the eighth overall selection, is the son of former Blazers forward Mike Needham. Matthew had 253 points in 57 games with the bantam AAA Penticton Vees last season. This season, he will play for the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
Connolly, the younger brother of Prince George Cougars star and Tampa Bay Lightning first-round NHL draft pick Brett Connolly, had 20 points last season with a bantam AAA team in Prince George.
Cross, from Brandon, had 14 points in 44 games with the midget AAA Wheat Kings last season.
Souto, from Yorba Linda, Calif., had back-to-back three-goal games in main camp scrimmages earlier this week and added another goal in Wednesday’s intrasquad game. He had 20 points in 35 games with the midget AAA Los Angeles Kings, an under-16 team, last season.
Cross and Souto are eligible to play with the Blazers this season; Needham and Connolly are allowed by WHL rules to play five games for the Blazers before their regular teams have their seasons come to an end.
Meanwhile, the Blazers, as expected, announced that they are taking their Feb. 12 home game against the Vancouver Giants to Whitehorse. In exchange, the Blazers will play host to a Subway Super Series game between a touring Russian side and Team WHL on Nov. 17.
Season-ticket holders will receive tickets to the Nov. 17 game to replace the Feb. 12 contest.
The Super Series game in Kamloops will be the fifth in this season’s tour, which will wrap up the following night in Prince George.
The series is to open in Saint John, N.B., on Nov. 8, and continue in Drummondville, Que., on Nov. 10. It continues in London on Nov. 11 and Sudbury on Nov. 15, before heading into B.C. All six games will be televised on Rogers Sportsnet.
Team WHL has a 13-1 record in the series’ seven-year history, including an 8-1 victory at Interior Savings Centre on Nov. 30, 2006. The WHL outshot the Russians 45-23 that night, before an announced crowd of 4,136.
Overall, the CHL’s three leagues hold a 36-6 edge in the series. The WHL has beaten the Russians 13 times in 14 games, outscoring the visitors 65-21 in the process.
The Feb. 12 game in Whitehorse is to start at 4 p.m. PT, in the Canada Games Complex.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers, now with 28 players on their roster, meet the Chilliwack Bruins in Chase on Friday, 7 p.m. The same two teams are to play Saturday in Mission. . . . F Ryan Hanes drew three assists in Wednesday’s intrasquad game. . . . A comment posted at “Taran Kozun is from Nipawin where Gord Trombley, Troy’s dad, played junior with the Nipawin Hawks. Small world.”


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