The return of Ashton: Tait, Ferster to play in PA with Kamloops Blazers

Submitted photo. Ashton Tait celebrates his first WHL goal with the Kamloops Blazers at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops earlier this season.

It will be a homecoming on Tuesday night for two members of the Kamloops Blazers.

Former Mintos Ashton Ferster and Ashton Tait are returning to play at the Art Hauser Centre when the Blazers take on the Raiders next Tuesday night.

Ferster making the most of overage campaign

Submitted Photo. Ashton Ferster is in his 20 year old season with the Kamloops Blazers

For Ashton Ferster, it could be the last time the 20-year-old plays at the Art Hauser Centre in his Western Hockey League career.

Ferster was drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft by the Medicine Hat Tigers and traded to the Blazers last season as the team hosted the Memorial Cup.

The Shellbrook product says he is looking forward to seeing family and friends when he returns to Prince Albert.

“Being an over-ager in this league is special on its own and getting a chance to come home one last time before my junior career is done. It’s going to be lots of fun and it’s really special. (I’m) definitely looking forward to it. (I) haven’t played at home in front of family in two years now. It’s definitely going to be a fun and exciting time.”

For Ferster’s family, it’s extra special for Ashton to play in Hockeytown North. In a phone interview on Friday Ashton’s father, Drew, says the Blazers visit to Prince Albert has sentimental value in Ashton’s final season in the WHL.

“For a parent, it’s pretty humbling and pretty proud. He missed last year when Kamloops did not make the trip out here. It’s been a couple of years since he’s been at the Art Hauser. It’s definitely nice to get one last crack and watch him play in PA.”

The Ferster family is heavily involved in the hockey community in Prince Albert. Drew served as an assistant coach with the Prince Albert Northern Bears last season were Ashton’s younger sister Kassie, posted 15 points in 29 regular season games.

Drew says being a part of the hockey community in Prince Albert has made the family have a soft spot for the Raiders, but he is excited to see Ashton compete against his hometown team.

“It’s hard to cheer against the Raiders. You’re always going to see them do well. You’ve got to cheer for your son and a few of his teammates, but then you’re always looking to see the Raiders do well too. Being from the PA area and always kind of thinking about the Raiders, it’s definitely pretty cool to see your son play at that level against the Raiders.”

The Kamloops Blazers feature a very young roster with 14 players being classified as rookies per the team’s website. Ferster is one of only three players on the Kamloops roster to have played in a WHL contest at the Art Hauser Centre.

Ferster says he will be sharing all the advice he can with his younger teammates ahead of the game.

“Pretty much everyone in our team, all these BC and Alberta guys that have never played in this division before, all the young guys. Going into PA, I’ll tell them it is a smaller ring, good ice, real glass, so it’s a little bit harder on the body. Fans can definitely get into it, such a small building, lots of noise. Just little things like that, (I’m) trying to prepare them for it.”

It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for the Kamloops Blazers to this point as the team sits in 11th place in the Western Conference with a 7-16-3-2 record and sit five points behind the Vancouver Giants for the final playoff position.

Ferster says the Blazers have been improving as the year as gone on and are looking to bond as a team during the East Division Road trip.

“It’s not an easy year for us. We lost a lot of guys, which was expected after going for it last year, but it’s not an excuse. We’re a young team, it’s going to take a while to get everyone going and get on the same page, but we’re going into Christmas time here (and) been doing this for three months now so there’s no excuse. We’re a different team then we were at the start of the year and we’re only going up.”

Tait finding regular role with Blazers, ready for hometown crowd

Ashton Tait is one of several rookie players on this year’s edition of the Kamloops Blazers.

Tait did play 22 games with Kamloops last season before being reassigned to the Mintos where he posted 30 points in 24 games.

This season, Tait has dressed in 24 of the 28 games the Blazers have played this season and has posted five points, including his first WHL goal against the Wenatchee Wild on Oct. 8.

“Our team was really good last year so it was pretty tough to crack that roster.” Tait said. “We’ve had a lot of guys move on to the next level. For guys like me it’s a chance to kind of step up and take that next jump which is really good, and I think our team is just getting better every day.”

Growing up in Prince Albert, the Tait family was a common sight in the stands at the Art Hauser for Raider games. Ashton’s father, Jordan, says he is excited to see all of his son’s hard work come to fruition when he takes the ice against the Raiders.

“It’s very special. He grew up watching the Raiders and going to many games. Just to be able to come back home and play at that level, especially all the after all the hard work he’s put in, it’s very special.”

When asked about playing against his hometown team, Tait says he looked up to several players on the Raiders growing up and he is excited to take the ice against them.

“I think it’s going to be pretty surreal. As a kid, they seem like celebrities, so getting a chance to play them and just be on the ice with them is definitely going to be really cool.”

Tuesday’s game between the Blazers and Raiders has been circled on the calendar in the Tait household since the WHL schedule was announced in the summer.

Jordan says the game is the most anticipated contest of the year for the family.

“We’re very excited. We’ve had it marked on the calendar for a long time. They only come every two years, so it’s probably the most exciting game of the season for us.”

The entire Tait family is expected to be in attendance for the game in Prince Albert including his mom Eryn, dad Jordan and younger brother Jacob amongst other extended family members and friends.

Tait says he is hoping he can play well throughout the Eastern trip in front of loved ones.

“It’ll be really nice for sure. It’s always special having someone you know and really care about in the stands watching you. I think hopefully I can go out there and play some good games for them.”

Puck drops between Kamloops and Prince Albert at 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time, 5 p.m. Pacific on Tuesday night at the Art Hauser Centre.