Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blazers focusing on preparation

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
There was bewilderment and frustration in defenceman Austin Madaisky’s voice as he talked about what happened to the Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday night.
Coming off three straight road victories, the Blazers surrendered five goals before the second period was five minutes old and went on to drop a 6-4 decision to the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings.
That decision dropped the Blazers’ record at Interior Savings Centre to a less than mediocre 2-5-1. Away from home, however, they are a scintillating 5-2-0.
The Blazers (7-7-1) get a chance to turn things around at home tonight against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Game time is 7 o’clock.
Madaisky wondered aloud if the Blazers weren’t a little overconfident going into the game against Brandon. After all, the home boys had won three in a row while Brandon came in having lost nine of its last 10.
“I think we took them a little lightly,” Madaisky said.
After the game, Kamloops head coach Guy Charron admitted: “There was concern about our attitude going into this game here.”
Starting tonight, Madaisky said, “We have to play the hockey we’re capable of playing. This can’t continue.”
Asked to analyze the Blazers’ play at home and on the road, the 18-year-old Madaisky, a fifth-round selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL’s 2010 draft, pointed to a couple of things.
“On the road,” he said, “we simplify our game and don’t try to do too much. We get into the ISC and we’re too fancy instead of simplifying our game.”
The other thing that concerns him, he said, is pregame preparation.
“That is definitely something we have to take into consideration,” he said.
As Madaisky pointed out, when a team is on the road, the players are together almost all the time. So they don’t do a whole lot that doesn’t involve thinking, eating or sleeping hockey.
It’s a different story at home, with all kinds of distractions that can get in the way of a player trying to focus on preparing for a game.
Madaisky even went so far as to wonder if players “aren’t getting enough rest at home,” suggesting perhaps such things as computer games might be getting in the way of pregame preparation.
The Blazers will want to be rested tonight because they are certain to be leaned on by perhaps the WHL’s largest team.
The Thunderbirds’ roster lists eight of 14 forwards at 6-foot-2 or taller, with five of eight defencemen at better than 6-foot-3.
“They’re bigger which could mean that they’re not as mobile as some teams,” Madaisky reasoned. “We have a defence that is big and mobile. Up front, we’re quick.”
The Blazers, then, will want to get the puck in behind the Seattle goal line and work on those big defencemen. That is something that Brandon’s forwards did to the Blazers’ defencemen with some effectiveness in the first half of Wednesday’s game.
“Yeah,” Madaisky said, “in the first intermission (Wednesday), guys were asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They were taking it to us.”
Charron wants to see some of the lesser lights contribute on a more regular basis.
“As a group when you win games you’ve had contributions from all four lines,” he said. “(Too often) we’ve had to depend too much on the same people to do it for us. There are other guys who have to chip in here and there. If they don’t, it makes our team just an average team.”
The Blazers have scored 49 goals, with 24 of them coming from the line of Brendan Ranford (13), Chase Schaber (6) and JT Barnett (5).
JUST NOTES: The Thunderbirds dropped a 2-0 decision to the visiting Prince George Cougars last night. . . . The Blazers are at home again Wednesday, with the Kelowna Rockets providing the opposition. Kamloops then will head back to Alberta for games in Calgary and Lethbridge. . . . Seattle D Austin Baecker, who is from Kelowna, had his junior A rights traded this week from the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm to the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Baecker is listed at 6-foot-6 and 242 pounds. Earlier this season, Grande Prairie acquired his rights from the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials.

SCOUTING REPORT:
    Key injuries: Seattle — LW Justin Hickman (broken hand, out); RW Branden Troock (ill, out); D Erik Fleming (knee, doubtful); Kamloops — D Josh Caron (collarbone).
    Overview: While the Blazers enjoyed a rare Friday night off, the Thunderbirds were at home to the Prince George Cougars. . . . Kamloops LW Brendan Ranford is on an 11-game point streak, with 10 goals and eight assists over that stretch. Only Vancouver Giants F Brendan Gallagher (16) and Prince George Cougars F Brett Connolly (14) are on longer streaks. . . . RW Burke Gallimore leads Seattle in goals (7), while D Brendon Dillon is tops in assists (9). . . .Gallimore, Dillon and C Colin Jacobs lead with nine points apiece. . . . Ranford and Gallimore were linemates with the bantam AAA Edmonton CAC Canadians. . . . German RW Marcel Noebels has seven points in 10 games. He and Kamloops LW Bernhard Keil are former teammates. Keil has one goal in 11 games. He has been a healthy scratch the last two games. . . . Kamloops F Logan McVeigh, 16, has been a healthy scratch in four of the last five games, while D Brady Gaudet, 16, has sat out nine of 15. The WHL mandates that 16-year-olds get into at least 40 games. . . . Kamloops RW Jordan DePape has five points over his last three games. . . . After eight home games, the Blazers’ average attendance is at 4,001. That’s down from 4,339 after eight games last season. . . . Seattle D Scott Ramsay suffered a concussion while in camp with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. Ramsay, 20, played last night for the first time since Oct. 15. . . . Calvin Pickard, the WHL’s top goaltender, has started each of Seattle’s first 10 games. He is 5-2-3, 2.58, .923. . . . Jon Groenheyde, who has started each of the last four Kamloops games on the bench, may be on the ice to open this one. . . . Six of 10 Seattle games have gone to OT or a shootout.
— GREGG DRINNAN

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
gdrinnan.blogspot.com
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