Numbers tell the story for the Kamloops Blazers, both individually and on the team front.
Kamloops (27-11-2-1) is atop the B.C. Division and on Wednesday vaulted into the weekly KIA CHL Top 10 Rankings for the first time since September, when it registered fifth on the Week 1 pre-season list.
The Blazers are now pegged seventh in the nation.
“It shows that we’re taking big strides as a team,” said 16-year-old forward Logan Stankoven, who has four goals and 10 points in his last five games. “But our work isn’t finished. We’ve got to keep going.”
The Blazers are undefeated in 2020 and looking to build on a five-game winning streak, returning home after doubling hometown Spokane 6-3 on Tuesday to play host to the Tri-City Americans (14-21-4-1).
Game time is 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Sandman Centre. Vancouver will host Kamloops on Sunday in Langley.
Linemates Zane Franklin, Orrin Centazzo and Connor Zary are among the club’s stats leaders.
Franklin, the Blazers’ 21-year-old captain, is tied for the league lead in points (66), tied for fifth in goal scoring (24), first in assists (42), first in power-play assists (21) and second in power-play goals (11).
“It’s crazy. That’s all you can say,” said Franklin, who, along with Centazzo, is from Marwayne, Alta. “When I was 17, I had more fights than I did points. Fast-forward three years, it’s crazy looking at the stats.
“That’s just an honour, to be there this late in the season, but you can’t do it without your linemates.”
Teammate Max Martin is tied for second in power-play assists (19) and second in scoring among WHL D-men, with 39 points.
Centazzo, who struggled with consistency last season, has sizzled since the Blazers’ pre-Christmas break trek through the East Division, with 15 goals and 27 points in 14 games during a stretch that dates back to Dec. 6.
“Coming into this season, that was the biggest thing I wanted to work on, the consistency for the 200-foot game. It’s helped me a lot,” Centazzo said. “I’m shooting more. Last year, I passed a lot more. This year, if the shot’s there, I’m going to take it.”
Centazzo is near the top of the league in several categories: fourth in points (58), third in goal scoring (29), tied for third in power-play goals (10), tied for second in game-winning goals (five) and tied for first with Zary in insurance goals (five).
“I credit my linemates because it’s true,” he said. “I couldn’t do it without them.”
Zary and Kamloops goaltender Dylan Garand were in action on Thursday after KTW’s press deadline at the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton.
Garand is atop the WHL heap in wins among goaltenders, with 23, and has lost once in his last 13 appearances. Zary is fourth in goal scoring (25), fifth in power-play goals (nine) and tied for first in short-handed goals (three).
“Our team success is incredible,” Centazzo said. “We have a great bunch of guys and the sky is the limit if we keep going.”
Blazers’ play-by-play man Jon Keen produced a statistic to illustrate the type of season Stankoven is having.
With 16 markers in 37 games, the Kamloops product is the Blazers’ top goal-scoring 16-year-old since the 1984-1985 season, when Rob Brown and Greg Hawgood notched 29 and 25, respectively.
Seven of Stankoven’s goals opened the scoring, leaving him tied for second in the league in the first-goals category.
“I usually try to get prepared before the game and come out flying,” Stankoven said.
“Maybe that has something to do with it, but I don’t really think about it too much. I just go out there and play my game.”
Ryley Appelt (71) and Montana Onyebuchi (69) are fourth and fifth, respectively, in the league in penalty minutes, totals that were boosted during last weekend’s brawl against the hometown Kelowna Rockets.
Both Rockets’ owner and GM Bruce Hamilton and head coach Adam Foote point to an Appelt hit for sparking Little Apple Fight Night. Find their comments here.
Appelt told KTW he did nothing wrong.
“They are talking about me,” Appelt said. “They can talk all they want. We answer the bell. We took care of it. I just try to play hard.
“Fighting is a part of the game still. We didn’t really have guys out there who were really going to answer the bell in any other game, but they did it. I’m proud of them and our whole entire team.”
The number of fans inside Sandman Centre will grow in the next few months if the Blazers keep this pace.