By MARK HUNTER
Daily News Sports Reporter
One of Cole Cheveldave’s lasting memories of Kamloops will be the near-daily trek to the Interior Savings Centre.
“I’ll always remember driving to the rink over the Red Bridge,” Cheveldave said Wednesday from his home in Calgary.
Cheveldave, the Kamloops Blazers’ starting goaltender the past two seasons, was traded to the Prince Albert Raiders yesterday. The Blazers also sent a 2015 fourth-round WHL bantam draft pick to the Raiders in exchange for 15-year-old forward Jake Kryski and a 2014 seventh-round selection.
Few players have been as valuable to their teams as Cheveldave has been to the Blazers over the past two seasons. He has been one of the big reasons for the team’s big turnaround, taking them from an also-ran to a front-runner.
But, with Taran Kozun heading into his 19-year-old season and Cheveldave now 20, the Blazers decided to make a move.
“There was some talk (about a trade) at the end of the season, so it’s not as big a shock,” Cheveldave said. “But it’s still pretty surprising. I would have liked to have been a Blazer for my last season.”
Kozun, a native of Nipawin, Sask., who played midget in Prince Albert, started two games with the Blazers early in 2011-12 before being sent to the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. Last season, he played in 20 games, going 11-4-3, 2.36, .914.
Beyond Kozun, the Blazers’ goaltending picture is a little murky. There are some prospects — Cameron Pateman of Regina and Kamloops’ Liam McLeod are going into their 17-year-old seasons, while Ryan Ternes of Cochrane, Alta., and Cole Kehler of Altona, Man., are both 16 years old — but none of those goaltenders has played a WHL game.
Where Cheveldave ended up, however, is a team on the rise. Prince Albert went 37-28-7 last season, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference, but lost starting goaltender Luke Siemens, who has used up his junior eligibility.
“I’m pretty excited about where I’m going,” Cheveldave said. “They’re an older team and it should be a good year.”
The Raiders, who have a new head coach in Cory Clouston, are feeling the same way as Cheveldave.
“If you don’t think you have an opportunity to contend or be very, very competitive, you’re not going to do this deal,” Raiders general manager Bruno Campese told Perry Bergson of the Prince Albert Daily Herald. “We feel that we have an opportunity to be very competitive this year.”
Although the Blazers gave up a lot, they got a top prospect in Kryski, whom the Raiders took with the 13th selection in May’s bantam draft. Kryski played last season with the Burnaby Winter Club, picking up 118 points, including 59 goals, in 58 games. The 6-foot-0, 170-pounder also was plus-96.
“It’s going to be expensive any way you look at it, whether it’s draft picks or a player or whatever,” Campese told Bergson. “We liked Jake as a player, we drafted him high.”
Cheveldave came to the Blazers in 2011 after winning the Alberta Junior Hockey League rookie-of-the-year award with the Drumheller Dragons in 2010-11. Kamloops had listed Cheveldave earlier that season.
When he came to camp in 2011, he was expected to fight for the starting role — in reality, there wasn’t much of a fight, as Cheveldave became Kamloops’ everyday goalie less than a month into the season. He went 34-11-5 in 2011-12 and led the Blazers to their first division title in a decade. Kamloops also won a playoff series for the first time this millennium. Cheveldave was injured early in a second-round series and wasn’t able to finish the playoffs.
The Blazers surpassed that last season, making it to the Western Conference final before falling to the Portland Winterhawks, who went on to win the WHL title.
And while Cheveldave won’t get to drive the Red Bridge any more — he now will get the chance to cross the North Saskatchewan River on the Diefenbaker Bridge, named after former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker — Cheveldave will still have his memories.
“Even though I wasn’t on the ice for it, that comeback in the 2011-12 playoffs against Portland . . .” Cheveldave said. “Down 3-0 and to come all the way back, it was great.
“And then this year’s playoff run. That was definitely a high of my time there.
“So many memories . . .”
Perry Bergson of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has more on this trade right here.
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