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Blazers lose No. 1 goaltender, top defender

Ingram, Rehill in injury report as out week-to-week
January 26, 2016 8:26 P.M.

It is looking more and more as though the Kamloops Blazers will go into the WHL playoffs as one of the Western Conference’s two wild-card entries.
As the Blazers prepare for two weekend home games, they are in possession of the conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Spokane Chiefs and nine ahead of the Tri-City Americans. The Americans have 25 games remaining, as do the Blazers, and it’s unlikely in this day of loser points that a team will be able to make up nine points in that time.
For the Blazers (22-18-7) to move up and out of a wild-card spot, they would have to get into third place in the B.C. Division. They are fourth, nine points behind the Prince George Cougars, who just swept them— 9-4 and 6-1 — in the northern city last weekend.
Again, it’s unlikely that the Blazers could make up that much ground on the Cougars, who have 23 games left to play, in the time that is left. The Cougars begin their six-game East Division swing against the Swift Current Broncos on Friday.
The Blazers, then, likely are looking at a first-round series with the Kelowna Rockets, who appear headed to a first-place finish in the B.C. Division, or the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips. Kelowna holds a six-point lead over the Victoria Royals, with the Rockets holding two games in hand. The Silvertips are five points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds, each team having played 46 games.
With the playoffs two months away, it now is important for the Blazers to shake this injury thing that has been haunting them since centre Gage Quinney went down in a Dec. 26 practice. He missed 12 games before returning last week.
Veteran defenceman Dallas Valentine was hurt in a Dec. 27 game and missed eight games.
Defenceman Dawson Davidson was injured on Dec. 28. He has sat out 13 games, but is expected to return Friday against the visiting Vancouver Giants, who are last in the conference.
And now the Blazers find themselves without goaltender Connor Ingram, who suffered a knee injury in Prince George on Friday, and defenceman Ryan Rehill, who played both weekend games but now has an undisclosed injury. Neither Ingram nor Rehill is expected to play this weekend — the Portland Winterhawks are here on Saturday; Ingram skated on Tuesday, but Rehill didn’t. Both are on the WHL's weekly report, listed as being out week-to-week.
Ingram, of course, is the team’s No. 1 goaltender, having played in 39 of its 47 games. Rehill, meanwhile, plays more minutes than any other skater — he takes a regular shift, of course, and also plays on the power-play and penalty-killing units.
With Ingram on the limp, the Blazers have had goaltender Max Palaga, a 15-year-old from Kamloops, on the practice ice with them this week. He was in camp with the Blazers in August and showed enough that he earned a spot on their protected list. He plays with the major midget Thompson Blazers.
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As we await the arrival of the Giants, a team with which Kamloops head coach Don Hay spent 10 seasons, here’s a look at the Blazers by the numbers . . .
22 — D Dawson Davidson has 22 points, including 18 assists, in 34 games. Two of the goals and six of the assists have come via the power play.
659 — Number of regular-season coaching victories by Hay. He’s No. 2 on the all-time list, behind the retired Ken Hodge, who put up 742 victories with the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks.
27 — LW Collin Shirley leads the Blazers with a career-high 27 goals in 47 games. That’s one more than he scored in 72 games last season. However,  the 19-year-old from Saskatoon has but one goal in his last nine games.
1 — The number of 20-goal scorers on the Blazers’ roster. The Lethbridge Hurricanes, the WHL’s highest-scoring team, have five.
7 — The number of players on the Blazers’ roster who have scored at least 10 goals this season. The Hurricanes have eight.
54 — Shirley also leads the Blazers in points, with 54. That, too, is a career high. Last season, he finished with 42 points.
28 — C Matt Needham leads the Blazers in assists, with 28. He has 149 assists in 294 career regular-season games.
3,620 — The Blazers’ average attendance after 24 home games. That’s down 281 per game over last season. It also leaves them 15th in attendance in the 22-team league.
83.8 — The efficiency rate of the Blazers’ penalty-killing unit. It is ranked third in the league after being No. 1 for much of the season.
26 — The Blazers have allowed 26 power-play goals, the lowest total in the WHL.
16.8 — The success rate of Kamloops’ power play, which is 20th. That’s not good enough if the Blazers want to make a run in the spring.
30 — The number of PP goals scored by the Blazers. Only the Kootenay Ice (22) has scored fewer. The Lethbridge Hurricanes (59) lead the WHL.
1 — The Blazers have that many victories in their last six games. They are 1-4-1 over that stretch. Prior to that, they had won three in a row.
12 — Kamloops played 12 games in 23 days to open January. They will have played 14 games in January when it comes to a close.

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