View Full Version : Burning Again

10-25-2006, 04:57 PM
Blazers burning again


Oct 25 2006

High-tempo, hard-working team will return to playoffs

It was in the third period of Saturday night's game at Interior Savings Centre when it truly hit home that the Kamloops Blazers had turned the corner.

With the Blazers leading the Kelowna Rockets 3-0 and dominating in every aspect of the game, the voice behind me, that of a Kelowna fan, summed it up.

Turning to his pal, a vocal Blazer fan, the Kelowna booster quipped: "Maybe next time we'll send the Vernon Vipers. Maybe they'd give the Blazers a better challenge."

When fans from the Lake City are conceding hockey supremacy to the Tournament Capital, you just know the shinny world - having been turned upside down the past few years - is correcting itself.

The Blazers are back, and in a big way.

It's not only their impressive record - the club is firmly entrenched in second in the B.C. Division, with the only team ahead being Canada's best squad, the Vancouver Giants.

The solid 6-3-1-1 record the team takes into eastern Washington tonight has been augmented by a style of play that many fans were clamouring for last season, as the Blazers skated their way out of the playoffs for the first time since arriving in town from New Westminster in 1981.

Strong forechecking, players who work for the puck and skate hard every minute and an entertaining offensive thrust are what most fans want.

And for those who attended this past weekend's pair of games - highly entertaining victories over Saskatoon (8-5) and Kelowna (3-0) - this is the type of Blazer team they are getting.

When the decision was made last year to fire head coach Mark Ferner, general manager Dean Clark pointed to the club's struggles, but also acknowledged the Blazers were in the entertainment business.

The team must win, certainly; but it must play a game that will capture the fans' interest.

It is safe to say Clark has not forgotten that pledge, with the weekend games offering enough to thrill even the most jaded Blazer fan.

And the fact that Saturday's win over Kelowna was played before the largest crowd of the season - 5,195, which is about 1,000 more than attended when Kelowna visited on Oct. 3 - can only help keep the seats filled.

Yes, Michael Maniago didn't do enough Friday against Saskatoon to stop Clark from trading him to Lethbridge yesterday morning.

Maniago surrendered five goals. And the Blazers twice failed to hold on to four-goal leads.

But for pure entertainment value, it was fantastic, like watching the CFL on ice. Last team to score wins.

Not even rookie Matt Schmermund's league record-tying two goals in five seconds - the latter tally a result of superb skating to beat a pair of Blades to the bouncing puck from the centre-ice faceoff - made the final a foregone conclusion, such was the ebb and flow of the game.

Saturday's game, while offering 10 fewer goals, was no less riveting, due in no small part to Ivan Rohac's uncanny impression of Wayne Gretzky as he claimed the area behind the Kelowna net as his own.

Rohac's setup on the first goal of the game, a head-shaking back pass from behind the net, out front to Schmermund, was arguably the finest goal scored this year.

The slick Slovac had six points on the weekend, which earned him WHL player of the week honours.

Kamloops will make the playoffs this year.

That's a given with the arrival of Chilliwack, which is playing the game like the Everett Aqua Sox, rather than like the expansion Everett Silvertips.

Vancouver has already clinched first.

And Kelowna will claim fourth, which leaves Kamloops to face Prince George in the first round of the playoffs, with only home ice to be determined.

Take it to the bank.

And skeptical fans need to remember that last year's squad was 12 points better than the previous season, and that the Blazers would have been in the post-season last year had the WHL not cl to the ridiculous divisional playoff format that saw far inferior teams advance.

(Can anyone explain why the league bases the first-round on division matchups, yet switches to a conference format in subsequent playoff rounds?)

Kamloops begins a three-game road trip tonight in Kennewick, followed by stops in Portland and Seattle.

It is by no means a stretch to say the Blazers will face off against Brandon at home on Sunday sporting a 8-4-1-1 record.

The Blazers are back.

If you don't believe it, wander down to Lansdowne Street on Sunday night.


10-25-2006, 05:42 PM
So are you going to take the Blazers out of your sig now ;)

10-25-2006, 07:14 PM
So are you going to take the Blazers out of your sig now ;)
yha its about time that was changed, as for the canuck part well..........

10-26-2006, 12:37 AM
Another good sign, we've outshot our opponents in 10 of our first 12 games including the last 9 in a row.

Maybe this team's for real?

10-26-2006, 01:00 AM
This is some stats I came up with.

In their last 7 games they are 6-1.

9 for 58 on the PP

48 for 56 on the PK

Have outshot opponents 220-147. Which averages out to around 32 shots a game and 21 shots against.

I think this team is for real, this is the longest time that this team has worked this hard in the last few years, at least I'm praying to the good Lord above that it keeps up. This team has alot of potential and if they can keep this up, the Giants better watch out.