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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blazers grab goaltender from Rebels

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

The Kamloops Blazers didn’t practise on Monday, although the players did watch some video.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything going on.
The Blazers, who are 1-3 in a five-game exhibition season, added one player to their roster and subtracted three others.
One day after head coach Dave Hunchak told The Daily News that starting goaltender Taran Kozun “has to step up here,” the Blazers acquired goaltender Bolton Pouliot, 19, from the Red Deer Rebels for a sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.
“Taran needs to be pushed,” Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak said. “Taran needs a guy to come in and push him.”
Kozun, 19, was put into the starter’s role after the Blazers dealt Cole Cheveldave, their starter for the last two seasons, to the Prince Albert Raiders on July 10.
Last season, as the Blazers rode Cheveldave into the Western Conference final, Kozun played 1,092 minutes over 20 games, going 11-4-3, 2.36, .914.
However, the native of Nipawin, Sask., is 0-2-0, 4.46, .866 in 148 minutes of action over three exhibition games.
At the same time, Pouliot, who is from Calgary, was stuck behind Patrik Bartosak, the Rebels’ superb Czech goaltender. With Bartosak getting into 55 games, Pouliot played just 1,033 minutes over 20 games, going 5-10-2, 3.60, .902. One season earlier, Pouliot was 3-5-2, 2.60, .909 in 784 minutes over 17 games.
As a 16-year-old, Pouliot was behind Darcy Kuemper, who played in 62 games.
Bartosak is in camp with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings, who told Rebels owner/general manager/head coach Brent Sutter earlier this summer that they would be returning the goaltender for his 20-year-old season.
“He’s beat us and he’s stood on his head when he’s beat us,” Hunchak said of Pouliot. “He has been behind two pretty good goaltenders over the last three years. He just needs an opportunity.
“I think he’s the guy who can push and maybe even take over that job.”
The Blazers put four pucks behind Pouliot in 48:30 last season as they won 4-0 in Red Deer on Oct. 17. The previous season, Pouliot was outstanding, stopping 37 shots in a 3-2 victory in Kamloops on Feb. 12.
Pouliot, a seventh-round pick in the 2009 bantam draft, told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate that he wasn’t at all surprised to be on the move.
“I knew that coming into camp,” Pouliot said. “I knew the situation I was in.”
Pouliot said he and Sutter “talked lots in the summer about it.”
“We knew that (Bartosak) was going to come back and they wanted a young guy (as the No. 2 goalie), and rightfully so. I had to come into camp this year and help the young kids and work with them . . . be a positive attitude around the dressing room and, hopefully, I’d end up somewhere. Luckily, it’s somewhere beautiful and a pretty awesome place to play.”
Pouliot, who is engaged to Sierra Sterzer, the sister of Blazers forward Aspen Sterzer, was to leave Calgary today at 6 a.m. He hopes to be on the ice for practice at 2 p.m.
“It’s a quick turnaround, but I’m super excited about the opportunity,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Blazers cut goaltender Cole Kehler, forward Deven Sideroff and defenceman Cam Reagan, all of who are expected to play for midget AAA teams this season.
Kehler, who won’t turn 16 until Dec. 17, is expected to attend the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton. He was 1-1-0, 3.22, .923 in two appearances with the Blazers.
“To this point, Cole has probably outplayed Taran, but he has got to get into games . . . he has got to play,” Hunchak said. “He’s our future. He needs to play games and be the guy.”
Sideroff, 16, is from Summerland and may also attend OHA. Reagan, 16, is from Sherwood Park, Alta. Each of them was pointless in two exhibition games.
At day’s end, the Blazers’ roster was at 24 — two goaltenders, seven defencemen and 15 forwards.
Chances are that, barring future trades, the Blazers will trim one forward from the roster before the regular-season opener against the visiting Kelowna Rockets on Sept. 20.
JUST NOTES: Pouliot is expected at practice today as the Blazers return to the ice at Interior Savings Centre. . . . D Sam Grist, who spent the weekend with the San Jose Sharks’ prospects at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, returned to Kamloops yesterday. . . . F Cole Ully, who was in Traverse City, Mich., with the Dallas Stars’ prospects, is expected back at practice on Wednesday. . . . F Tim Bozon, who was in the Montreal Canadiens’ rookie camp, has been held over for main camp. Bozon was a third-round pick in the NHL’s 2012 draft and has signed a three-year, entry-level contract. . . . The Blazers wrap up their exhibition schedule on Saturday in Prince George against the Cougars, who are 4-0. . . . Cougars freshman F Jansen Harkins is tied for the exhibition season scoring lead. He and F Manraj Hayer of the Everett Silvertips each has eight points in four games. Harkins also leads all players in assists, with eight.

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