Now . . . on to the real thing!
The Kamloops Blazers, with centre Matt Needham and left-winger Tim Bozon each picking up four points, completed their WHL exhbition season on Friday night with a 7-1 victory over the Cougars in Prince George.
The Blazers finished with a 2-2-1 record. Due to a shortage of players, they also cancelled a game with the Cougars that was to have been played in Kamloops on Wednesday.
The Blazers and Cougars, who finished the exhibition season at 1-3-1, are to open the regular season one week from tonight at Interior Savings Centre. Game time will be 7 o’clock.
Last night, the Blazers dressed 15 skaters, nine of them defencemen. The Cougars, with three players at NHL camps, had 16 skaters, two under the maximum, in uniform.
Needham, a 16-year-old prepping for his first full WHL season, scored twice and set up two others, while Bozon, a freshman from Switzerland, had a goal and three helpers.
The Blazers also got two goals from first-year winger Cole Ully, who finished the exhibition schedule with four goals, and one each from defencemen Brady Gaudet and Josh Connolly, who is from Prince George.
Spencer Asuchak, who is from Kamloops, had the Cougars’ lone goal, breaking goaltender Taran Kozun’s shutout bid at 14:11 of the second period. Kozun finished with 32 saves, five more than Drew Owsley of the Cougars.
Of the eight Kamloops players who attended NHL camps, only forward Dylan Willick (Minnesota Wild) was back in time to play last night. He set up two goals.
Right-winger Jordan DePape was to return from the Winnipegs Jets on Friday, while forwards Chase Schaber and Colin Smith are on their way back from the Edmonton Oilers.
Defenceman Austin Madaisky has moved up to main camp with the Columbus Blue Jackets, while right-winger J.T. Barnett is in main camp with the New Jersey Devils.
Left-winger Brendan Ranford played for the Philadelphia Flyers in a 3-2 rookie game victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday. The game, at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center, drew more than 10,000 fans.
Defenceman Josh Caron is with the Minnesota Wild but has what the team is calling a “minor injury.” He was to have been examined by doctors on Friday.
After last night’s game, the Blazers trimmed three defencemen from their roster.
Connolly, 16, was returned to the major midget Cariboo Cougars. Connolly, the younger brother of forward Brett Connolly, who was the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first selection in the NHL’s 2010 draft, was a third-round pick by the Blazers in the WHL’s 2010 bantam draft.
The Blazers also returned Jordan Thomson, 15, and Ryan Rehill, 16, to their midget AAA teams. Both were brought in late in the week to help the Blazers get through last night’s game.
The moves leave the Blazers with 25 players, including three goaltenders and 14 forwards.
JUST NOTES: The Blazers scratched F Ryan Hanes (charleyhorse), F Chase Souto (concussion) and F Logan McVeigh (concussion). . . . The Cougars were without F Brett Connolly (Tampa Bay), D Martin Marincin (Edmonton) and F Charles Inglis (San Jose Sharks). Inglis has returned but didn’t play.
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