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Blazers notebook: Hay showing concern

Ranford, Ully, Smith sent to AHL
By Gregg Drinnan
September 28, 2015 8:25 P.M.

The WHL regular season is one weekend old and already there is a sense of desperation in the camp of the Kamloops Blazers.
That’s because they are 0-2-0 and looking up at six teams in the 10-team Western Conference.
“We have lots of work ahead of us,” head coach Don Hay said after a 7-3 loss to the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Saturday night. “We are going on the road for two games, a doubleheader in Victoria. We have to find a way to get points. Points are so valuable to every team at the start of the season.
“We don’t want to get behind the pack; we want to stay in the mix.”
Hay also spoke of having to teach young players that at this level “winning and losing is important.”
While the Blazers were being swept by the Rockets — Kelowna won 4-3 at home on Friday — the Royals were taking two games from the visiting Portland Winterhawks, 4-1 and 6-5.
Hay felt his charges played well on Friday but weren’t able to carry it over to home ice.
“As well as we played (Friday) night,” he said, “we lost that excitement that we had. You have to have better discipline than we had tonight.
“We have to play a tighter game. We can’t play a loose game. We have to play a real disciplined game, both physically and mentally.”
By that, Hay wasn’t referring to penalties. Rather, his players need to play with more structure and the discipline that is needed to stay within the game plan.
Still, Hay said, the team can’t simply forget about “the excitement that we had Friday. You can’t forget about the work ethic we put into that game.”
With F Deven Sideroff out with a virus — he missed both games against Kelowna and won’t play in Victoria — Hay has been doing some juggling with his forward lines.
During the exhibition season, before Sideroff left for the camp of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, he played the right side with centre Matt Needham and Jake Kryski.
On Friday, the Blazers’ best line had Garrett Pilon between Collin Shirley and Jesse Zaharichuk. On Saturday, Kryski replaced Shirley on that line.
“Pilon with Shirley and Zaharichuk was good,” Hay said. “I put Kryski there and he was good, too. They had some jump.
“Pilon is a real big factor in making things go.”
While Sideroff won’t play in Victoria, veteran forward Matt Revel (shoulder) might return.
Having Revel, 19, back would allow Hay another option with his 20-year-olds. The Blazers are carrying four 20-year-olds — D Marc McNulty, D Ryan Rehill, F Matt Needham and F Luke Harrison — but can only use three each game. Each of the defencemen has been scratched to date. Revel’s presence would allow Hay to at least consider using two defencemen in the same game, while scratching Harrison.
“The healthier we get,” Hay said, “the more options we will have.”
The Blazers are next at home on Oct. 7 against the Tri-City Americans.
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Forwards Cole Ully and Brendan Ranford both scored for the NHL’s Dallas Stars as they beat the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3 in an exhibition game on Saturday night.
On Sunday morning, both former Blazers stars were gone from the NHL, loaned by Dallas to its AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
Ranford, 23, spent the last two seasons with Texas; he has 84 points, including 30 goals, in 138 regular-season games.
Ully, 20, is eligible to return to Kamloops, but is expected to open the season with Texas. He led the Blazers in scoring each of the past two seasons. A fifth-round selection by Dallas in the 2013 NHL draft, he has signed a three-year contract with the Stars.
Meanwhile, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche have sent F Colin Smith, another former Blazers player, to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage.
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The Blazers played their home-opener on Saturday night before an announced crowd of 3,937 at the Sandman Centre.
This was the 24th home-opener in the history of the arena and the first one that drew fewer than 4,000 fans.
The franchise’s five poorest home-opening crowds all have occurred under the present ownership group, which is headed up by majority owner Tom Gaglardi, who was in the building on Saturday. Ex-Blazers stars Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor also are in the ownership group that purchased the Blazers prior to the 2007-08 season.
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THE BLAZERS’ FIVE LARGEST HOME-OPENER CROWDS:
5,658 — Kamloops 4, Prince George 4 (1998-99)
5,658 — Kamloops 6, Seattle 1 (2001-02)
5,658 — Kamloops 10, Seattle 2 (2002-03)
5,654 — Seattle 5, Kamloops 3 (1997-98)
5,622 — Kamloops 3, Seattle 2 (OT) (1995-96)
5,622 — Kamloops 3, Seattle 1 (1996-97)
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THE BLAZERS’ FIVE SMALLEST HOME-OPENER CROWDS:
3,937 — Kelowna 7, Kamloops 3 (2015-16)
4,069 — Prince George 1, Kamloops 0 (2011-12)
4,421 — Kamloops 6, Victoria 3 (2014-15)
4,583 — Kamloops 4, Chilliwack 2 (2009-10)
4,597 — Kamloops 5, Prince George 2 (2010-11)
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When the Rockets met the Blazers in Kamloops on Saturday night, the two coaches represented a total of 638 WHL regular-season victories.
Hay has 637 of those — he is No. 2 on the all-time list, behind the retired Ken Hodge, who put up 742 with the original Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks.
Kelowna head coach Brad Ralph, in his first WHL season, had one victory, that coming on Friday when the Rockets beat the visiting Blazers, 4-3.
The Rockets won again Saturday, this time by a 7-3 count, leaving Ralph only 635 behind Hay. In Kelowna, Ralph succeeded Dan Lambert, who spent one season as the Rockets’ head coach after five seasons as an assistant. He now is an assistant coach with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
Meanwhile, Spokane head coach Don Nachbaur now has 633 victories after the Chiefs opened with a 6-4 victory over the visiting Tri-City Americans on Saturday.
Lorne Molleken of the Vancouver Giants, who is No. 4 on the all-time list, is at 605.
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Ralph’s Rockets are in search of at least 50 victories for a fourth straight season. They have put up 162 victories in winning three straight B.C. Division titles.
Over that same stretch, the Blazers have won 89 games, including 47 in 2012-13.

Mary Dawson says:
September 28, 2015 08:53pm

Mr. Drinnan, you seem to be constantly obsessed with Blazer attendance the last handful of seasons. Yet, what were the subscriptions of the now defunct Daily News until it ultimately went belly up? I venture to guess it went down substantially year over year, all under your watch. So now, as you likely volunteer your services for another, upstart online news publication, remember, the old phrase "those in glass houses".

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Rick Smith says:
October 1, 2015 01:01pm

Mary, what on earth does your comment have to do with anything? I'm not sure you even understand what you are getting at? What does a sports editor have to do with subscription numbers? Gregg makes valid points when it comes to Blazer attendance. The fact that 2 of the 5 smallest home opening crowds have occurred in back to back years should be a concern.

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