Expectations have not bothered the Kamloops Blazers.
Kamloops (6-1) has a four-point lead atop the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division, is second in league scoring, with 38 goals in seven games, and seems likely to maintain or improve on its sixth-place standing in the Kia CHL Top-10 rankings when they are released on Wednesday, Oct. 27.
“We’re playing fast and within structure, playing together,” associate coach Mark Holick told KTW. “Connected is the term we like to use.”
The Blazers have played twice at home this season, combining for 15 goals in victories over Prince George (8-3 on Oct. 9) and Vancouver (7-4 on Oct. 22).
Victoria head coach Dan Price recently swung deals to add experience to his floundering Royals, who are 1-8 and next on the Blazers’ schedule, coming to town on Friday, Oct. 29, for a 7 p.m. start at Sandman Centre.
“Cluey [Blazers’ head coach Shaun Clouston] likes to run his team a certain way,” said Blazers’ overage co-captain Quinn Schmiemann, who has four points in three games with his WHL club since returning from a stint with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League.
“If we play within the structure he lays out for the boys, we’ll have a great deal of success. We have all the pieces we need.”
One of those pieces is leading scorer Josh Pillar, who has 12 points, including four goals, in seven games.
“The good thing about our group is we’re really deep,” Pillar said. “We have three lines that can play against any three lines in the league.”
The Blazers’ fourth line was at times victimized last Saturday in the 7-4 triumph over the Giants and was not the only area of concern for the team, which gave up three quick goals during a third-period lull.
“Maybe consistency,” Holick said when asked what his club is missing. “We’ve given up some leads. We’d like to see that improve and when you have a two- or three-goal lead, you don’t want to allow them to make it 3-1 or 3-2. I thought the game in Vancouver was pretty complete in that regard.”
The Blazers blanked the Giants 5-0 in Langley on Oct. 16 and are 2-0 in the season series, outscoring Vancouver 12-4 in those games.
“In the locker room, we expected to win those games, but I don’t think we expected to blow them out of the water,” Pillar said. “We still respect them as a team. They’re a really good team on paper and they’re a really good team on the ice. We take it with a grain of salt and still respect them as much as possible and we’ll be ready to play them.”
The Prince George Cougars, who are second in the B.C. Division with a record of 4-3, will play host to Kamloops on Saturday, Oct. 30.
“It’s been good to be back,” Schmiemann said. “We’ve been buzzing on the ice, having a good time in the rink and we’ve been playing well.”
Added Pillar: “I think this year we’re going to go deep. It’s tough to say [how deep], but I think we’re going to go deep, for sure.”