Blazers, Rockets clash in final regular season meeting on WHL on Shaw

Allen Douglas


Kelowna Rockets (35-20-5-0)
at Kamloops Blazers (37-19-2-4)

Friday, Feb. 24 – 7 p.m. (Pacific) – Sandman Centre
Channels: Local Shaw SD; Shaw HD304; Shaw Direct Satellite TV Classic HD 120 or Advanced 620


A massive B.C. Division matchup is set to explode at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops on WHL on Shaw as the Blazers welcome the Kelowna Rockets to town Friday night.

Only five points separate the two Interior B.C. rivals as the end of the regular season draws ever near and the Rockets happen to hold two games in hand. The Blazers sit in second place in the division, while the Rockets own third place. Making matters even more exciting, the first-place Prince George Cougars division lead on Kamloops is down to one singular point, meaning only six points separate the three clubs.

Oh yeah.

It’s that close.

To top it off, these are two of the hottest teams, certainly in the Western Conference and perhaps the entire WHL – the Blazers are owners of a modest three-game winning streak and have only suffered two regulation losses in their past 10 contests, while the Rockets haven’t lost in regulation in six consecutive outings and are 8-1-1-0 in their previous 10 games.

The Blazers are coming off a 7-0 shellacking of the Edmonton Oil Kings on CHL on Sportsnet, in which Connor Ingram recorded his second consecutive shutout and both Lane Bauer and Deven Sideroff logged three-point outings with two goals and one assist apiece.

Similarly, the Rockets dismantled the Oil Kings this week, skating to a 10-1 victory on Wednesday, in which captain Rodney Southam rocked the hat trick and defenceman James Hilsendager provided four helpers.

Sideroff continues to fuel the Blazers fire, having registered 71 points (33G-38A) in 59 games this season. The Anaheim Ducks prospect’s nine game-winning goals are good enough to leave him tied atop the leaderboard with Tyler Steenbergen of the Swift Current Broncos.

Kole Lind is having an outstanding run in what his is NHL draft year. The product of Shaunavon, Sask., has stacked up 73 points (27G-46A) in 58 games to lead the Rockets, blowing his 2015-16 totals out of the water (14-27—41).

In net, the aforementioned Ingram provides a sturdy backbone for a Blazers squad burning up the trail in pursuit of the Cougars. The product of Imperial, Sask., is second in the WHL in goals-against average (2.08), first in save percentage (.935) and second in shutout (five). When Ingram isn’t in the blue paint, his backup Dylan Ferguson is no slouch either. Eligible for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Ferguson has been lights-out in relief of Ingram, going 14-9-0-2 with a 2.71 GAA and .923 SV% in 26 appearances.

Michael Herringer has carried the heaviest workload in the Kelowna crease, appearing in 45 games and logging a record of 25-13-3-0 with a 2.95 GAA, .899 SV% and one shutout. As of late, Brodan Salmond has been a hot hand, earning WHL and Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week honours after back-to-back shutouts against the Vancouver Giants. He is 10-7-2-0 with a 2.67 GAA, .895 SV% and three shutouts this season.

Friday marks the 10th and final regular season meeting between the Blazers and Rockets in 2016-17. Last time out, the Blazers laid a 6-0 defeat in the hands of the Rockets as Ingram made 33 saves while Rudolfs Balcers registered three points (1G-2A).

Kamloops Blazers

Record: 37-19-2-4
Head coach: Don Hay
Leading scorers: RW Deven Sideroff (33-38—71); RW Rudolfs Balcers (35-31—66); C Lane Bauer (35-28—63)
Leading goaltender: Connor Ingram (38GP, 23-10-2-2, 2.08 GAA, .935 SV%, 5 SO)
Power play: 17th – 17.8 per cent
Penalty kill: Third – 83.9 per cent
Injuries/unavailable: N/A

Kelowna Rockets

Record: 35-20-5-0
Head coach: Jason Smith
Leading scorers: RW Kole Lind (27-46—73); LW Calvin Thurkauf (30-25—55); C Nick Merkley (20-30—50)
Leading goaltender: Michael Herringer (45GP, 25-13-3-0, 2.95 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO)
Power play: Sixth – 24.5 per cent
Penalty kill: Sixth – 80.5 per cent
Injuries/unavailable: N/A

Season series

Sept. 23 – Kelowna (2) at Kamloops (9)
Sept. 24 – Kamloops (1) at Kelowna (5)
Nov. 1 – Kamloops (5) at Kelowna (1)
Dec. 27 – Kamloops (2) at Kelowna (3)
Dec. 28 – Kelowna (1) at Kamloops (5)
Jan. 6 – Kelowna (1) Kamloops (3)
Jan. 7 – Kamloops (2) at Kelowna (3) – SO
Jan. 27 – Kamloops (3) at Kelowna (2)
Feb. 8 – Kelowna (0) at Kamloops (6)
Feb. 24 – Kelowna at Kamloops

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