The Kamloops Blazers accomplished something this season that the club hasn’t done since winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1994 and 1995.
Thanks to an impressive 18-4-0-0 record, the Blazers captured their second straight B.C. Division and wrapped up the Western Hockey League’s 2020-21 campaign with a 4-0 shutout of the Prince George Cougars on Wednesday night at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
“It was awesome getting that chance to go and grab that trophy,” Blazers forward and team captain Connor Zary said to announcer Jon Keen after the game.
“It’s just a division title, but if there was playoffs, we would have wanted a lot more. But that was our goal, to win that trophy and to finish off the season by lifting that trophy. It’s a cool little thing to have.”
Former Prince Albert Mintos forward Josh Pillar led the way on offence for the Blazers this year with 29 points in 22 games.
Zary, who is expected to start his pro career with the Calgary Flames next year, had 24 points in 15 games before his season ended due to injury.
The Blazers also saluted 19-year-old forward Kyrell Sopotyk after the game as they brought the jersey of the former Mintos captain.
The Aberdeen product was to have returned for his third year with the club but suffered career-ending injuries following a snowboarding accident in January.
“I’m beyond thankful to be a part of this tremendous organization…full of great teammates and staff,” Sopotyk Tweeted on Thursday.
“Congrats on winning the BC division, wish I was there to celebrate with you guys.”
B.C. Division Standings
- Kamloops Blazers – 36 points (18-4-0-0)
- Vancouver Giants – 24 points (12-10-0-0)
- Kelowna Rockets – 21 points (10-5-1-0)
- Prince George Cougars – 21 points (9-10-2-1)
- Victoria Royals – 8 points (3-17-1-1)
Around the WHL
Portland Winterhawks forward Reece Newkirk is now a prospect of the New York Islanders after inking an entry-level contract with the NHL club on Thursday.
The 20-year-old from Moose Jaw was a fifth round pick by the Islanders in the 2019 NHL Draft and posted 162 points in 205 games over the last four years with the Winterhawks.
The first off-season move in the WHL occurred on Thursday afternoon as the Red Deer Rebels dealt the rights to 16-year-old forward Gracyn Sawchyn to the Seattle Thunderbirds for a conditional second round pick in the 2022 WHL Draft.
Sawchyn, who was born in Edmonton but now calls Victoria, Minn. home, was the first overall pick by the Rebels in the 2020 WHL U.S. Prospect Draft.
He had 60 points in 47 games for the Shattuck St. Mary’s Under-16 program this season and is currently taking part in the United States National Team Development Program’s Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Mich.
Nachbaur leads league in penalty minutes
Justin Nachbaur made a name for himself as one of the toughest competitors in the Western Hockey League during his four years with the Prince Albert Raiders.
The 21-year-old from Cross Lake, Man. ended up as the WHL’s penalty minutes leader during the 2020-21 season as he had 62 minutes in the sin bin during 22 games, which was 16 more than Winterhawks captain Nick Cicek.
Nachbaur’s the first Raiders player to lead the WHL in that category since Mike Gauthier had 264 penalty minutes in 2006-07.
Stat Leaders (League Leader if not from the B.C. Division)
- Goals: Tristen Nielsen (Vancouver) – 15 (Lynden McCallum (Brandon) – 21)
- Assists: Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) – 23 (Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg) – 30)
- Points: Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) – 34 (Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg) – 43)
- Defensive Scoring: Alex Kannon Leipert (Vancouver) – 18 (Cole Clayton (Medicine Hat) – 30)
- Rookie Scoring: Fraser Minten (Kamloops) – 18 (Connor Bedard (Regina) – 28)
- Plus/Minus: Inaki Baragano (Kamloops) – 16 (Jake Neighbours (Edmonton) – 29)
- Penalty Minutes: Mark Liwiski (Kelowna) – 41 (Justin Nachbaur (Prince Albert) – 62)
- Power Play Goals: Tristen Nielsen (Vancouver) and Brayden Tracey (Victoria) – 6 (Lynden McCallum (Brandon) – 9)
- Power Play Assists: Quinn Schmiemann (Kamloops) – 10 (Alex Cotton (Lethbridge) – 16)
- Game Winning Goals: Mark Liwiski (Kelowna) – 4 (Corson Hopwo (Medicine Hat), Ben McCartney (Brandon) and Jakin Smallwood (Winnipeg) – 4)
- Short Handed Goals: Trevor Wong (Kelowna), Tristen Nielsen (Vancouver) and Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) – 2 (Ridly Greig (Brandon) – 4)
- Short Handed Assists: Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) – 3 (Ben McCartney (Brandon) – 3)
- Overtime Goals: Logan Stankoven (Kamloops), Caedan Bankier (Kamloops), Brayden Schuurman (Victoria), Brayden Tracey (Victoria) – 1 (Braden Schneider (Brandon), Cole Fonstad (Everett) and Samuel Huo (Tri-City) – 2)
- Points Per Game: Logan Stankoven (Kamloops) – 1.67 (Dylan Guenther (Edmonton) – 2.00)
- Shutouts: Trent Miner (Vancouver) – 4 (Sebastian Cossa (Edmonton) and Dustin Wolf (Everett) – 4)
- Goals Against Average: Dylan Garand (Kamloops) – 2.15 (Sebastian Cossa (Edmonton) – 1.57)
- Rookie Goals Against Average: Dylan Ernst (Kamloops) – 3.00 (Colby Knight (Edmonton) – 2.25)
- Save Percentage: Tyler Brennan (Prince George) – .933 (Sebastian Cossa (Edmonton) – .941)
- Wins: Dylan Garand (Kamloops) – 15 (Dustin Wolf (Everett) – 18)
- Goals For: Kamloops Blazers – 87 (Edmonton Oil Kings and Brandon Wheat Kings – 104)
- Goals Against: Kamloops Blazers – 51 (Edmonton Oil Kings – 41)
- Penalty Minutes: Vancouver Giants – 360 (Prince Albert Raiders – 369)
- Power Play Percentage: Kamloops Blazers – 30.1 (Medicine Hat Tigers – 37.0)
- Power Play Goals: Kamloops Blazers – 28 (Brandon Wheat Kings – 38)
- Penalty Kill Percentage: Kamloops Blazers – 85.2 (Everett Silvertips – 88.4)
- Short Handed Goals: Vancouver Giants – 6 (Brandon Wheat Kings – 7)
- Goals: 12 players – 3 games (Corson Hopwo (Medicine Hat) – 8 games (9 goals))
- Assists: Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) – 8 games (9 assists) (Jake Neighbours (Edmonton) – 11 games (15 assists) and Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg) – 11 games (18 assists))
- Points: Justin Sourdif (Vancouver) – 9 games (16 points) (Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg) – 23 games (43 points))
- Wins: Kamloops Blazers – 6 (Edmonton Oil Kings – 9)
- Losses: Victoria Royals – 10 (Red Deer Rebels – 13)