Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Defenceman Brandon Underwood (left) of the Kamloops Blazers,
here battling Vancouver forward Greg Lamoureux on the night the
visiting Giants forgot their jerseys, will miss up to six weeks
with a knee injury. (Photo by Murray Mitchell/Kamloops Daily News)

Daily News Sports Editor
The Kamloops Blazers confirmed Monday that they have lost two 18-year-old defencemen to long-term injuries.
Austin Madaisky’s WHL season is over, thanks to a fracture to the seventh cervical vertebrae in his neck, while Brandon Underwood has a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee and could be gone for up to six weeks.
Both players were injured during Friday’s 2-1 victory over the visiting Chilliwack Bruins.
Madaisky, a fifth-round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL’s 2010 draft, has been fitted for a cervical collar and has returned home to Surrey. He won’t play again this season, not even in the playoffs, should the Blazers qualify.
According to the Blazers, Underwood “is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks.”
“It’s a little sore,” Underwood said Monday, adding that the knee is in a brace. “I’m resting it, not doing too much.”
For now, he said, the prescription is rest and “try to stay off it a little bit.”
Underwood was injured on his second shift of the first period when he stepped up by the Blazers bench to hit a Chilliwack player.
“Right as I went to make contact I think the outside of his knee hit the outside of mine,” Underwood recalled. “It bent inward. Right away, I felt it. I knew right away it wasn’t good.
“I couldn’t even walk on it. It hurt really bad. I knew right away something was wrong.”
This is the first knee injury of Underwood’s career  and he admitted to having thoughts of Mark Hall, a former Blazers forward who missed all of the 2008-09 season with a knee injury.
“I was pretty scared at first,” said Underwood, who has nine assists and 97 penalty minutes in 51 games. He also is zero in the plus-minus department, which is rather impressive on a team that has surrendered 50 more goals than it has scored.
“Me and Madaisky kind of became the shutdown pair over the last couple of weeks,” Underwood said. “We were playing quite a bit. We were starting to really jell and feeling pretty good playing together. We were both playing pretty well. It’s really disappointing that we both not only are out but probably for the season.”
The Blazers have 16 games remaining in the regular season, which ends March 20. It would seem that in order for Underwood, who is from Carlsbad, Calif., to have any chance of returning this season, the Blazers will have to make the playoffs.
Without Madaisky, who had 27 points and 104 penalty minutes in 55 games, and Underwood, the Blazers are down to five defencemen and, with the trade deadline long gone, there won’t be anyone riding in on a white horse to save the day.
Between the two of them, Madaisky and Underwood were playing around 40 minutes per game. Those minutes now will have to be spread among the survivors and perhaps a forward or two, like right-winger Jordan DePape, who could be rotated back there on occasion.
Two of the five remaining defenders — Corey Fienhage, 20, and Brady Gaudet, 16 — are in their first WHL seasons. Fienhage, in fact, played a total of 51 games over the previous three seasons while with the USHL’s Indiana Ice and the NCAA’s North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
This will mean an increased workload for veteran Bronson Maschmeyer, 19, and sophomore Tyler Hansen, 17, who was a healthy scratch for a game last week.
It also means that Josh Caron, who sat out 41 games with a broken collarbone, won’t be afforded the luxury of being gradually reintroduced to a heavy role.
The Blazers’ protected list included nine defencemen, as of Feb. 1. Two of those — Landon Cross of the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings and Max Mowat of the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers — have some experience with the Blazers.
Madaisky and Underwood both were missing Saturday, when the Blazers lost 4-3 to the Bruins in Chilliwack. The next test comes Wednesday against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds.
The Blazers are 23-30-3 and have won two of their last four games, but have just three victories in their last 14 games. They are clinging to the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. Kamloops is one point ahead of the Bruins (22-26-4), who hold four games in hand, and two up on the Thunderbirds (19-26-9), who are 1-8-1 in their last 10 outings.
The Thunderbirds halted a nine-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Silvertips in Everett on Friday. Seattle welcomed back veteran defencemen Travis Bobbee and Ryan Button from shoulder injuries for that game. Those two have combined to play in 537 regular-season games.
With Bobbee out, the Thunderbirds were 1-9-1. Without Button, they were 0-6-0.
Madaisky and Underwood have played in a combined 310 regular-season games. That experience will be impossible to replace at this time of the season.
JUST NOTES: After Wednesday’s game, the Blazers next will play Saturday when they meet the Vancouver Giants in Whitehorse. . . . The Tri-City Americans make their first visit of the season to Interior Savings Centre on Feb. 15, after which the Blazers will go into the Central Division for five games. . . . The Blazers’ Dash for Cash promotion on Friday night raised $2,140 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops.
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