The puck is just about ready to drop on a monumental season on Mark Recchi Way, and the Kamloops Blazers say they are looking to build off last season’s success.
Last season, the Blazers clinched the B.C. Division and placed fourth overall in the WHL before being bounced in the third round of the playoffs. This year, with the club slated to host the Memorial Cup in the spring, the team’s sights are set much higher.
“We want to build off last year, take what we learned last year,” Blazers forward Dylan Sydor told Castanet Kamloops.
“You know, playoffs and it's been a while since we had the chance to win playoffs so you know, a lot of the younger guys weren't able to go last couple years but getting those [preseason] first games under our belt, [we will] definitely use those in the Memorial Cup and should be really good.”
General manager Sean Clouston said preseason games are always an exciting time of year for the players.
“Guys have put in a lot of hard work in the summer and looking forward to getting things going,” Clouston said.
“The players are excited to get back together and spend some time with each other and it's a very exciting time of the year.”
The Blazers are starting their preseason shorthanded, with nine players away at NHL training camps.
“We've got a little ways to go here with preseason, we got a whole pile of guys at camp,” Clouston explained.
“So we've got three exhibition games with a very young, inexperienced group, we’ll be a little bit short staffed. So we'll be a player or two under the maximum.”
According to Clouston, this weekend's exhibition games will give some of the younger players an opportunity to shine and step into a leadership role.
“It allows some players to play roles that they haven't got to play yet. The reason guys on the power play in the penalty kill is that you haven't seen action in those areas yet,” the head coach and general manager explained.
“So I think, you know, we're looking at it, and hopefully the players are looking at it as a real good opportunity.”
The Blazers will close out their preseason with a home-and-home this weekend against the Prince George Cougars — at Sandman Centre on Friday and in Prince George on Saturday.
Clouston said since the announcement last spring, that the Tournament Capital would host the Memorial Cup, things have ratcheted up.
“I think there's a buzz, I think that the players are excited. Some anticipation, the city is really excited about it, season tickets are, are going crazy,” he said.
“It's an exciting time of the year in general and I think it adds another level to know that, in the spring, we're going to be hosting the Memorial Cup.”
Sydor’s father, Darryl Sydor, won a Memorial Cup as a player with the Blazers in 1992. The elder Sydor is now an associate coach with the Blue and Orange.
“I mean, obviously there's some history with my family,” the current Blazers forward said.
“[To] get a memorial cup at home, in Kamloops,— our friends or family can watch. It's gonna be a blast. We're really excited.”
Ethan Brandwood has played for the Blazers for the last four seasons. This year will be his last in the WHL and said the city hosting the Memorial Cup is a good way to end his career in the league.
“Kamloops is kinda a second home to me now— or first home, I've been here for so long so obviously with the opportunity with Memorial Cup it'd be good to go out with a bit of a bang,” Brandwood said.
The Blazers will begin their quest for a Memorial Cup on Sept. 23, when they kick off the regular season by hosting the Portland Winterhawks at Sandman Centre.