The Kamloops Blazers say they are expecting a "tough" series when the puck drops on the WHL Western Conference Championship on Friday at Sandman Centre — a best-of-seven series that will see them take on the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“We're excited, just looking forward to playing another opponent here in Round 3," Blazers forward Logan Stankoven told Castanet Kamloops.
"And to start the series off at home is exciting and we know it's gonna be a tough challenge."
The Blazers won two of three regular-season meetings with the Thunderbirds. The only Seattle win came on Dec. 10 at Sandman Centre, when the Blazers were playing without Dylan Garand and Logan Stankoven, who were off with Team Canada for the World Juniors in Alberta.
Shaun Clouston, Blazers head coach and general manager, said he’s excited the team has made it to the conference final, but he knows the finish line has not yet been crossed.
“We're expecting a real hard fought series,” Clouston said.
“They [Seattle] are a team that plays hard, they battle. Real good structure, defend hard — we expect a real physical series.”
The Blazers know that nothing comes easy in the postseason. Stankoven said winning in the playoffs requires more than just skill.
“Just a lot more desperation, and it's physical, and you got to be ready for anything out there,” Stankoven said.
“Not everything is going to go your way. It's not going to be perfect — you know, the refs or the ice conditions, the fans. There's so many things out there that can contribute to a game and how it plays out.”
Forward Daylan Kuefler, who has shone throughout the Blazers' playoff run, said he thrives where there’s a lot on the line.
“The pace picks up a little bit, the intensity picks up a little bit and I think I thrive in that and we're ready for Round 3,” Kuefler said.
The Thunderbirds advanced to the conference final with a Game 7 win Tuesday in Portland. Prior to that, they dispatched the Kelowna Rockets in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blazers swept the Spokane Chiefs in Round 1 before defeating the Vancouver Giants in six games.
Games 1 and 2 of the series will be played at Sandman Centre Friday and Saturday night, before the series shifts to the ShoWare centre in Kent, Wash., for games 3 and 4.