Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blazers fighting to earn respect

Daily News Sports Editor
The Kamloops Blazers are learning that respect once lost is tougher to replace than one of your front teeth.
Despite their terrific start to this WHL season, no Blazers were selected Thursday to play for the WHL against a touring Russian side in the Subway Super Series on Nov. 16 (Regina) and Nov. 17 (Moose Jaw).
The WHL’s roster for the game in Regina includes 17 players, nine from the Western Conference. The Moose Jaw roster includes 18 players, four of them from the Western Conference.
The WHL players were selected, according to a news release, “by a special committee of WHL general managers, along with Kevin Prendergast, Hockey Canada’s head scout . . . as part of the selection process for the 2012 World Junior Championship.”
A few additions will be made at a later date, so there perhaps will be room for someone like Kamloops defenceman Austin Madaisky, left-winger Brendan Ranford or centre Colin Smith, who leads the club in goals (8) and points (16).
“Last year I was a late invite,” Ranford said after Thursday’s practice at Interior Savings Centre, “and, hopefully, I’ll work hard these next two weeks and I could get added on late. And if I don’t, I’ll still work hard all the time.”
A year ago, when the games were played in Kamloops and Prince George, Madaisky and centre Chase Schaber were named to the WHL roster for the game here. Ranford was a late addition.
“We weren’t nearly as good a team last year and we had three guys in the game,” Madaisky pointed out. “It’s out of our hands at the end of the day . . . none of the guys really worry about it.
“I think the guys who didn’t make it are a little disappointed but right now I think we’re more concerned with what’s going on inside our dressing room. We’ve got a good thing going on in there and, if we keep our focus on that, the season will continue to be a good one for all of us.”
Ranford agreed, saying that the Super Series is “part of the process in going to world juniors. But we’re having a great season and it’s been a lot of fun. We’re playing hard. I’m not really worried about Canada-Russia, I’m just worried about our team here going far.”
When it was suggested to Kamloops head coach Guy Charron that his club being shunned despite its 9-3-0 record might be construed as a lack of respect, he quickly replied: “That’s exactly what it is.”
The Blazers, then, will continue their march to respectability tonight, 7 o’clock, when they meet the Kelowna Rockets at the ISC. The Rockets (5-7-1), coming off a 2-1 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars on Wednesday, are seven points behind the B.C. Division-leading Blazers.
“We always know what to expect from Kelowna,” Madaisky said. “They bring a gritty game and they’re quick. We know who their key guys are so we’re going to have to be hard on them.”
The Blazers last played Saturday when they beat the Tigers 2-1 in Medicine Hat.
“That was huge for us, to get that win,” said Madaisky, who has 11 points — six of them on the power play — and is plus-5 in 12 games. “Everybody is finally buying in. We have one game plan and one identity that we are trying to establish for ourselves. We really take pride in that and we are starting to show it consistently, night in and night out.”
The Blazers have been successful when they have played the majority of the time in the other team’s zone, something they will be wanting to do again tonight.
“Get it in deep and go get it,” Madaisky stated. “That’s when we’re playing our best, when we’re cycling in the offensive zone. That’s when our skill takes over.”
A lot of the time it begins with a good first pass coming out of the Kamloops zone.
“That’s one of the strengths of our back end,” Madaisky said. “We’re all able to get the puck and we’re all pretty good at moving it to the forwards. Once we do that, they get it in deep and do their jobs, and it’s fun. It’s fun for everyone.
“Winning is fun.”
JUST NOTES: The Blazers will play in Kelowna on Saturday night. . . . Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave puts his unbeaten record (4-0-0) on the line as he gets the start tonight. . . . Don’t be surprised if Charron goes with the same skaters he used in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Tigers in Medicine Hat, meaning D Brady Gaudet, F Logan McVeigh and F Chase Souto are scratched. Souto, who has been nursing a hand injury, has been cleared to play. . . . Kelowna F Colton Sissons was chosen to play for the WHL in the Super Series game in Regina. . . . The Rockets have been without D Jesse Lees (undisclosed), F Jesse Astles (concussion), F Carter Rigby (concussion) and D Kevin Smith (shoulder). As well, F Brett Bulmer remains with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. . . . D Joe Hicketts of Kamloops, whose WHL rights belong to the Victoria Royals, has been named captain of Team B.C. at the U-16 Challenge Cup in Moose Jaw. . . . D Jordan Thomson, the Blazers’ first pick in the 2011 bantam draft, was named captain of the Manitoba team.
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