By GREGG DRINNANIt is time to clean out the notebook as the Kamloops Blazers get ready to entertain the Lethbridge Hurricanes tonight at Interior Savings Centre . . .
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
THE SCHEDULE: The Hurricanes are 17-29-1 and struggling to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They are 12 points out of a playoff spot, so it’s unlikely that they will get there, especially in the loser-point era.
The Blazers (31-10-3) go in having won six in a row, including the first three on this four-game homestand. They are three points behind the Tri-City Americans (34-10-0), who lead the overall standings. The Blazers lead the B.C. Division by 11 points over the Vancouver Giants, who lost 6-3 to the visiting Hurricanes last night.
The Hurricanes, who got two goals and three assists from F Philip Tot last night, are the fourth of the WHL’s weak sisters to face the Blazers since Jan. 1. Kamloops beat the Prince George Cougars three times, and also dumped the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips in that stretch.
THE MASSEY RATINGS: If you are interested in a statistical analysis of the WHL and its teams, visit www.masseyratings.com.
This website rates the WHL’s 22 teams, taking into account such things as estimated team strength, offence, defence, home-ice advantage and strength of schedule.
The Blazers went into last night’s game ranked No. 2, behind the Americans. Kamloops is ranked highly in all categories except home-ice advantage (11th) and strength of schedule (20th).
The Blazers are 17-6-0 at home. And, as mentioned earlier, they have played some of the poorer teams of late, which has resulted in the strength of schedule ranking.
Interestingly, the Americans are ranked 21st in strength of schedule, with the Portland Winterhawks, who are third overall in the Massey Ratings, at No. 19.
ROAD, SWEET ROAD: The Blazers are making their points on the road, where they are 14-4-3, for a WHL-best .738 winning percentage. And that is easily the league’s top road record, with the Tri-City Americans next at .652. . . . There are five teams with better home winning percentages than Kamloops (17-6-0, .739). The Americans (19-2-0, .905) are No. 1. . . . After tonight’s game, Kamloops will have 12 home games remaining on its schedule and 15 away from home. . . . This is the Blazers’ last home game in January. They will play five road games before returning home to meet the Spokane Chiefs on Feb. 1.
POWERING UP: The Blazers are 2-for-15 on the power play over their last three games. So what’s up? “I don’t think we shoot enough,” head coach Guy Charron said after Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Everett Silvertips at ISC. “We have good puck movement. Our timing is off as far as when to shoot and when not to shoot. When we should shoot we pass and when we should pass we shoot.”
Charron said the recent lack of success isn’t a “big concern” because “I think we have the players to make it a successful power play.”
Left-winger Tim Bozon, who scored twice against Everett, including once on a power-play unit that went 1-for-5, also is of the opinion that more shots are needed.
“We need more one-two passes and shoot,” Bozon said, adding that the Blazers also need to do a better job of getting bodies to the front of the opposition’s net in those situations.
THE GOALTENDER: Cole Cheveldave is scheduled to start in goal for the Blazers tonight. This will be his seventh straight start and his 23rd in the last 25 games.
Since being a healthy scratch four times in the season’s first seven games, Cheveldave, 18, has started 30 of the club’s 37 games. He is 23-5-3, 2.39, .916.
Cheveldave has played 1,905 minutes, which is closing in on the 2,521 minutes he played last season with the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons. He was the AJHL’s rookie of the year after going 16-20 with six ties, 2.90, .917.
Cam Lanigan, who backs up Cheveldave, hasn’t played since Dec. 30 when he started a 6-3 loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen. Lanigan is 7-4-0, 3.26, .882.
After tonight, the Blazers go to Kent, Wash., for a Friday night engagement with the Thunderbirds. You have to wonder if Lanigan will get that start, with Cheveldave going Saturday against the host Americans.
MR. MOM: Lethbridge F Max Moline, who turns 19 on Jan. 30, and his fiancee, Kaylee Lyon, became parents on Sunday when Ronald James Winston Moline was born at 1:05 a.m. . . . Moline, who was acquired from the Tri-City Americans for a conditional 2012 fifth-round draft pick, is from Lethbridge. He has played three games this season but hasn’t played since Sept. 30 and the WHL’s latest injury report lists him as being out for at least another month with a lower body injury.
JUST NOTES: Game time is 7 p.m. . . . Lethbridge G Damien Ketlo made his 13th straight start Saturday as the Hurricanes lost 4-2 in Prince George. Last night, the Hurricanes gave Liam Liston his first start since Dec. 6 and he made 38 saves in winning in Vancouver. . . . Kamloops F Chase Schaber has scored six game-winning goals, leaving him one off the WHL lead held by F Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . F Brendan Ranford, Schaber’s long-time linemate, has five winners. . . . Bozon is on a seven-game point streak, with 12 points, six of them goals, in that stretch. . . . Colin Smith, who centres Bozon and J.C. Lipon, is the WHL’s player of the week. He had seven points, including three goals, and was plus-6 as the Blazers went 3-0-0 last week. . . . F J.T. Barnett, whom the Blazers dealt to Everett on Nov. 14, has had his season ended by a knee injury. Barnett, 19, played here Saturday despite tweaking a knee while doing some pregame stretching. It turns out that he tore a lateral collateral ligament in one knee. . . . D Brad Lukowich, who spent three seasons (1993-96) with the Blazers, played in his 1,000th professional game Monday as his Texas Stars dropped a 2-0 AHL decision to the host Rockford IceHogs. . . . G Braden Krogfoss of the Vancouver North West Giants is the B.C. Major Midget league’s player of the month for December. Krogfoss, a seventh-round selection by the Blazers in the 2010 bantam draft, was 3-0-0 with a 0.33 GAA and two shutouts last month. He is from Cloverdale.