The Kamloops Blazers are enjoying a comfortable life at the top of the B.C. Division standings, thanks to an impressive 31-10-1-2 record through their first 44 games of the season.
After missing the playoffs last season, the Blazers have turned their fortunes around this year, and look to be not only on their way back to the post-season, but to do so as a legitimate contender this year.
A huge reason for the Blazers’ massive improvement this year has been the outstanding goaltending they have received from 18-year-old rookie Cole Cheveldave. The Calgary, AB, product has taken over the top job in the Blazers’ net, posting a solid 25-5-3 mark with three shutouts to go with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 33 appearances this year – numbers strong enough to put him among the top netminders in the WHL.
Cheveldave is no stranger to quick acclimatization to a new level of hockey. Last year, the 5’10”, 170-lb netminder was named the AJHL Rookie of the Year after posting excellent numbers in his first season with the Drumheller Dragons after making the jump from the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League
With his strong play this season for the Blazers, expect Cheveldave to earn plenty of consideration for the WHL’s top rookie award
CATCHING UP WITH…COLE CHEVELDAVE
On the Blazers’ success this season…
“It’s been going really good, obviously. One of the biggest reasons I think our team has improves has been that we are such a close group of guys. We are with each other every day outside of the rink, whether it’s going to movies or going for dinner, and everyone is included. Our coaching has been very important, and Guy Charron has held us accountable for what we do. He’s not afraid to go with guys who are playing well and producing, but he’s also not afraid to tell you when you’re not doing things right. He really knows what he’s doing, and we are buying into what he wants us to do.”
On his performance in his first WHL season…
“(Cam) Lanigan and I battled pretty hard for that top spot this year, so it’s been a challenge. But, I think I’ve played pretty well and have gotten more comfortable. Now, I’ve been getting more work. It’s pretty intense how Lanny and I battle, and it makes us more competitive for when we are facing other teams. The biggest things I’ve had to get used to are the speed of the game, and the speed of the shots that I am facing. You have to be that much quicker and more aware at this level.”
On learning from his rookie season in the AJHL last year…
“It definitely helped me out by giving me that confidence in my game, and knowing I could play at that level. But, when you come to a new League, you don’t know what to expect, so all you can do is work as hard as you can and learn quickly.”
On the Blazers’ veterans…
“(Chase) Schaber has brought a ton of leadership to the room this year. He’s been really good at bringing us all together, and has been a good example on and off the ice. Brendan Ranford is doing what he has to do, and that’s putting the puck in the net and creating offense. Colin Smith is really finding his home this year, being himself, and playing really well for us this season.”
On the fans’ reaction to the team’s success…
“We were getting around 3,500 fans at the start of the season, but now we are getting more and more people out because we have been playing well. We are getting more and more fans out to our games, and they are very supportive. The other night, when Tri-City was here, it was the loudest game I’ve ever been a part of. The fans have really hopped on board and been behind us through our success this season.”