By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
As the Kamloops Blazers open their exhibition schedule tonight, their roster features 28 names.
Only two of those are goaltenders.
Taran Kozun, 16, left for Prince Albert on Wednesday. Kozun, who is from Nipawin, Sask., had a pre-booked flight and wanted to get settled in Prince Albert where he will play for the midget AAA Mintos this season.
His departure left the Blazers with veteran Jon Groenheyde, 19, and Troy Trombley, 16, a 6-foot-6, 187-pounder from Sherwood Park, Alta.
"We're going to get through this weekend and evaluate where we're at then," Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner said. "There's no doubt that Groenheyde and Trombley struggled in the Blue-White game but I thought, before that, they played all right. It was the Blue-White game, so I'm not going to panic.”
The Blazers and Chilliwack Bruins are to clash today, 7 p.m., at the Art Holding Memorial Arena in Chase. The same two teams are to face each other again on Saturday in Mission.
"There'll be an evaluation after the weekend and we'll see where they're at then," Bonner said.
Bonner knows full well that he’ll be walking a razor's edge if he tries to run the six-game preseason gamut with just two goaltenders, so there almost certainly will be some help on the way.
“If we needed a guy, Kozun would come back,” said Bonner, who will watch tonight‘s game in Chase and then head to Edmonton to watch the Oil Kings, Prince George Cougars, Medicine Hat Tigers and Swift Current Broncos. “Or Braden Krogfoss probably would. That's not the ideal situation, but . . .“
Krogfoss, from Cloverdale, was a seventh-round pick in the 2010 bantam draft. Like the other 15-year-olds who were left, he went home after Tuesday’s intrasquad game.
As for Kozun’s departure, Bonner said people shouldn’t read anything into it.
“Kozun was happy with everything,” Bonner said. “There's no recruiting issue. It's more that he, mentally, wasn't ready. He wanted to get to P.A., and get moved there and get settled.“
Kozun, who played bantam last season, is to play with the Mintos, whose lineup also will include his brother, Tad, a 17-year-old forward.
Meanwhile, the Blazers go into exhibition play with 10 defencemen on their roster — six WHL veterans, an NCAA defector, and three fresh-faced, eager youngsters in Brandon Cross, Brady Gaudet and Max Mowat. Cross, 16, signed on Wednesday, while Gaudet was the Blazers’ first pick in the 2009 draft and Mowat, a list player from Coldstream, got a taste with the big club last season.
Corey Fienhage, who joined the Blazers after two seasons at the U of North Dakota, has been the talk of camp because the 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, a third-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL draft, looks to be the real deal.
“There are a lot of things that have impressed me,” head coach Guy Charron said. “One is his attitude. He’s a very upbeat young man. He’s happy to be here. It hasn’t been a difficult adjustment for him towards his teammates or his teammates towards him. He’s a real team-oriented guy and that’s probably from the program he played in at North Dakota.
“He’s also very strong. We have to be excited to have a player like him in our lineup.”
Fienhage, the only 20-year-old on the roster, will be here when the season starts. But there are three 19-year-olds back there — Josh Caron, Bronson Maschmeyer and Linden Saip — and an adjustment may have to be made if there is to be room for a 16-year-old or two.
The Blazers are carrying 16 forwards and are likely to give all of them a long, hard look deep into the exhibition schedule. Of particular interest will be the play of speedy Rhyse Dieno, a 17-year-old who didn’t score in 16 games last season but had four goals in the Blue-White game.
Chase Souto, a 16-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., was one of the top players in training camp and the coaching staff loves his in-your-face game, while Lyndon Martell, 17, from Prince George has impressed with his knack of being around the puck.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers and Bruins also will play Saturday, this time in Mission. The Blazers are expected to take Sunday off and then go off Monday on a team-building exercise near the Enchanted Forest between Sicamous and Revelstoke. . . . A six-team tournament opens today in Everett with the spotlight game featuring the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds against the host Silvertips at 7 p.m.