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Gropp, Hicketts coming home to play Russians

Hay, Robinson to represent Blazers
By Gregg Drinnan
October 19, 2015 9:35 P.M.

It doesn’t appear that there will be any Kamloops Blazers players on the WHL team that is to play a touring Russian side here on Nov. 10.
However, there will be a Kamloops flavour to the roster.
The Subway Series, an annual two-game affair, is used by Hockey Canada as part of the evaluation process as it puts together its national junior team. This year, the series opens in Kelowna (Nov. 9) and Kamloops before heading east for two games with teams from each of the OHL and QMJHL.
The WHL revealed its roster on Monday and, as expected, no Blazers made the cut. Forward Deven Sideroff, the one player on the roster who may have been considered, has yet to play this season thanks to an undisclosed illness.
Instead, Kamloops fans will have to be content with the presence of three native sons.
Forward Ryan Gropp of the Seattle Thunderbirds and defenceman Joe Hicketts of the Victoria Royals are on the roster, as is Blazers head coach Don Hay. He will work as an assistant coach, as will Brandon Wheat Kings general manager/head coach Kelly McCrimmon, alongside Victoria head coach Dave Lowry. Lowry also is the head coach of the national junior team — McCrimmon is an assistant coach — thus he’s running the bench here.
As well, Colin Robinson, the Blazers’ athletic therapist, will work both games in that role.
Gropp, who de-committed from the U of North Dakota and joined the Thunderbirds early in 2013-14, was a second-round selection by the New York Rangers in the NHL’s 2015 draft. He has four points, two of them goals, this season and has been playing on one of the WHL’s top lines, alongside Mathew Barzal and Keegan Kolesar. In 130 regular-season games, Gropp has 104 points, including 50 goals.
Hicketts will be making his second straight appearance in this series. The Royals’ captain was a key contributor to Canada’s gold medal in the 2015 World Junior Championship, and is seen by some as a potential captain for the 2016 tournament in Helsinki.
He is in his fourth season with the Royals. Last season, he starred with 64 points, 52 of them assists, in 62 games. This season, he has nine assists in eight games.
The roster named by the WHL on Monday features two goaltenders, six defencemen and 12 forwards. Chances are there will be additions and deletions due to injury or circumstance between now and Nov. 9.
Sideroff is the one player on the Blazers’ roster who might have been capable of making this roster. But his illness has kept him out of the lineup. He has yet to return to action, so his being added over the next while would seem to be most doubtful.
JUST NOTES: All Super Series games will be televised by Sportsnet. . . . The series will continue in Ontario — Owen Sound, Nov. 12, and Windsor, Nov. 16 — and Quebec — Rouyn-Noranda, Nov.17, and Halifax, Nov. 19. . . . The Blazers (2-7-0) are back in action Wednesday when they meet Hicketts and his Royals (7-3-0) for the fourth time already this season. The Royals have won each of the first three games. . . . Game time at the Sandman Centre is 7 p.m.

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