Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Defenceman Marek Hrbas works to chase down winger J.T. Barnett
in front of referee Dexter Rasmussen during the Kamloops Blazers'
intrasquad game Tuesday night.

(Photo by Hugo Yuen/Kamloops Daily News)

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
As intrasquad games go it was a good game of shinny.
Team White took over play in the second period and skated to a 4-2 victory over Team Blue in the Kamloops Blazers' annual intrasquad game before an estimated 500 fans at Interior Savings Centre
Following the game, the Blazers reassigned 17 players, taking their roster down to 29 - three goaltenders, 10 defencemen and 16 forwards.
There was a lot of skating in this game, but not much physical contact and nothing even close to a fight. Head coach Guy Charron and associate coach Dave Hunchak took it all in from the press box and likely didn't see anything that made the decision-making process any easier.
Six goaltenders saw action and all played well. Team White got 24 saves from Cole Cheveldave (11/12), Troy Trombley (5/5) and Scott Lapp (8/9), while Team Blue received 30 saves from Cam Lanigan (12/13), Taran Kozun (10/12) and Braden Krogfoss (8-8).
Later, Trombley, Lapp and Krogfoss were among the assignees. That means there weren't any goaltending surprises in camp, with, as expected, Cheveldave, Kozun and Lanigan left to scrap for playing time through the exhibition season.
Team White got its four goals from centres Matt McLeod, a 16-year-old from Saskatoon who returned home after the game, sophomore Logan McVeigh, and veterans Dylan Willick and Colin Smith, the latter into an empty net at 18:32 of the third period.
Veteran winger J.T. Barnett and centre Aspen Sterzer replied for Team Blue. Sterzer, who turns 17 on Sept. 9, is from Canal Flats; he got into 10 games with the Blazers last season.
Team Blue actually took a 1-0 lead midway in the first period on a big-league snap shot by Barnett that beat Cheveldave under the crossbar.
Barnett, a left-hand shot, scored 21 goals for the Vancouver Giants while patrolling right wing two seasons ago. Last season, with the Blazers, Barnett counted just 13 times as he spent most of his time on the left side.
Last night, he was back on the right side, as he has been through most of camp, and he was flying.
“I went in and told Guy that this year I'm not even going to worry about it,” said Barnett, 19. “If they want me to play left (wing), I'll figure out a way to play left. I'm not going to complain about that.
“I do feel more comfortable on right wing . . . but if they put me on left wing I'll deal with it.”
This summer, Barnett attended the New Jersey Devils' prospects camp. While there, he took a slapshot to his right cheek and ended up with fractures to the cheek and jaw.
“There were fractured bones,” he said, “but not displaced fractures. They were all just cracked but not separated. It's all good now.”
Barnett, an undrafted free agent, showed enough that he was invited to the Devils' main camp. And then it'll be back to Kamloops.
“I think we'll have a really good team,” he said. “Guys are coming together and feel really, really excited about the upcoming season.”
McLeod tied the score in the first period, and Team White added two second-period goals, from McVeigh and Willick, as it took control. Willick counted on a 5-on-3 power play as Team Blue ran into penalty trouble.
Willick brought a game-ending roar of laughter from the crowd when he fired a shot just over an empty net at the buzzer.
“Smith was having a really good time with his empty net goal,” a laughing Willick said, “and I didn't want to upstage him.
“There wasn't enough time left for (Team Blue) to do anything. . . . In the regular season that just isn't going to happen.”
Like Barnett, Willick, who will turn 19 on Oct. 19, likes what he saw in this training camp.
“It's been great,” he said. “There are a lot of good young kids coming up, really impressing the players and coaching staff. It's great to see.”
He also has noticed a change from the coaching staff.
“They're not accepting anything less than the best and . . . the guys are buying into it,” Willick said. “There aren't any passengers this year. Everybody's pushing in the same direction.”
JUST NOTES: Veteran F J.C. Lipon, playing for Blue, left in the third period favouring his left leg after a neutral zone collision. Trainer Colin Robinson said Lipon “will be fine.” . . . Goaltending coach Dan De Palma was behind Team White's bench, while Team Blue was under the watchful eyes of assistant coach Ed Patterson and Barry Dewar, the owner and GM of the junior B Kamloops Storm. Patterson, of course, spent a couple of seasons as the Storm's head coach. . . . F Matt Needham (elbow) and F Jordan DePape (hip) were scratched with injuries, while D Josh Caron and D Bronson Maschmeyer, both 20-year-olds, also sat out. . . . The Blazers are at home to the Victoria Royals on Friday in the first exhibition game of the new season. Starting time at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre will be 7 p.m. . . . Former Blazers F Mark Hall, who played last season with the BCHL's Penticton Vees, is off to the U of Lethbridge where he'll play for the Pronghorns. 
gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
     
gdrinnan.blogspot.com
     
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