|Tim Bozon (15) of the Kamloops Blazers says he and his linemates continue|
to get the chances but the puck has quit going in over the last few games.
(CHRISTOPHER MAST / MASTIMAGES.COM)
Daily News Sports EditorTim Bozon could have spent part of December in France.
Instead, he’ll be on a bus, touring around the WHL’s Central Division with his Kamloops Blazers teammates.
Bozon, an 18-year-old left winger who plays on the Blazers’ top line, has turned down an invitation to play for France in the IIHF U20 Division 1 Group A championship next month. That tournament, featuring Austria, Belarus, Denmark, France, Norway and Slovakia, is to be played in Amiens, France, Dec. 9-15.
“I really wanted to go,” Bozon said following Thursday’s practice at Interior Savings Centre. “At the beginning of the season, I wanted to go. But I didn’t know that I was going to miss that many games.”
Bozon said that were he to play for France, he would have missed six to 10 Blazers games, including a four-game swing into Alberta.
“I really wanted to go, but my agent (Rollie Thompson) didn’t think it was a good thing for my development,” Bozon added.
He also said that the fact the tournament isn’t a major championship, like the one in which Canada’s national junior team plays, “it’s a lot better for my development to play in the WHL and do what I’m doing with Kamloops.”
Bozon said he also consulted with the Montreal Canadiens, who selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 2012 draft.
“It was my decision,” Bozon said. “I really wanted to go because it’s in France and I have a lot of friends because I played under-18 with them.”
Bozon was born in St. Louis, while his father, Philippe, was playing with the Blues. Philippe played internationally for France, and Tim has done the same, although the family now lives in Switzerland.
At practice yesterday, Bozon was skating alongside Cole Ully and Chase Souto, but that was because Colin Smith and JC Lipon were in Victoria where they played with Team WHL against a Russian side in the Subway Super Series.
The three will be back together tonight when the Blazers (17-5-1) entertain the Portland Winterhawks (16-3-1), who are bringing a 12-game winning streak to town. The Winterhawks, who trail the WHL-leading Blazers by two points, beat Kamloops 3-1 in Portland on Sunday.
Lipon, with 43 points, and Smith (42) remain 1-2 in the WHL’s scoring race, with Bozon (32) in sixth spot. But points have been hard to come by of late as the Blazers have lost four straight games and five of six.
“Especially on the road it’s tough with the matchups,” Bozon said, pointing out that his line always faces the other team’s best defensive pairing on the road.
Still, Bozon was being positive, saying that “we still have a lot of chances” like they had on their recent 14-game winning streak. “But,” he added, “they’re not going in. I think we had the same chances and we’re even working harder to put the puck in but it doesn’t go in.
“October went well but now it is not.”
Bozon also has noticed that when the Blazers are on the road, his line faces forward combinations that don’t even “try to score . . . they just want to shut us down.”
“They don’t even care if they score goals against us,” he said. “They just want to play physical and make sure we don’t see the puck. We can create but it’s really tough.”
At the same time, he said, “It’s a good experience to help get ready for the next level. I can’t complain about that.”
The key against Portland is the big four on the back end — Seth Jones, Derrick Pouliot, Troy Rutkowski and Tyler Wotherspoon.
“Their defence is really good with the puck,” Bozon said. “We have to get in behind them and play hard . . . just like in the playoffs.”
The underdog Blazers took the Winterhawks to seven games in the second round of last spring’s playoffs, finally losing Game 7, 3-0, in Portland.
“Now we are going to play at home,” Bozon said, “and now we are going to have the matchups.”
On Saturday night, the Prince George Cougars (7-10-3), including former Blazers forward Ryan Hanes, will be at the ISC. The Cougars added Hanes to their roster Wednesday, bringing him in from the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“That’ll be fun,” Bozon said. “I know Hanesy is really excited to play in the WHL again and to play here in Kamloops.”
Bozon said he and his teammates are “really happy” for Hanes but added that good feeling only goes so far.
“Hopefully, he’s not going to score against us and we can have a good game and win,” a smiling Bozon said.
JUST NOTES: Game time both nights is 7 o’clock. . . . The Blazers will be without F Dylan Willick (broken ankle) and F Jordan DePape (shoulder) tonight. DePape, who was injured Sunday, has a history of shoulder problems, but the seriousness of this latest one has yet to be determined. . . . Kamloops will start G Cole Cheveldave (12-4-0, 2.19, .915), with Portland expected to counter with Mac Carruth (9-0-0, 0.97, .963). . . . Blazers F Brendan Ranford will play in his 300th regular-season game tonight. Only F C.J. Stretch (341), D Aaron Gionet (324), F Donnie Kinney (319), D Greg Hawgood (310) and F Erik Christensen (304) have reached that milestone with the Blazers. . . . Rutkowski also will play in his 300th regular-season game tonight.
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