KAMLOOPS — It’s been a decade in the wilderness for the Thompson Blazers of the BC Major Midget Hockey League. Their last playoff appearance came in the 2006/2007 season, and after 10 years of 9th, 10th, and 11th place finishes in the BCMML, the Blazers have turned it on since Christmas, and finished the regular season in 7th place.
“Before Christmas we were 7-18,” Thompson Blazers Head Coach Tanner Cochrane told CFJC Today. “We’re the second-best team in the league after Christmas [because] the guys just really stuck with the plan.”
Cochrane credits the play of the team’s 17-year olds for the significant second-half turn-around.
“This year we were able to bring back a lot of veteran guys,” Cochrane said. “Our 17-year-olds are really strong, and we have a really strong group of 15-year-olds as well. It was our common goal that we wanted to make [the Major Midget Program] the staple place to come play.”
Tyson Gayfer has led the way offensively for the team this season with 13 goals and 30 assists. He says the Blazers are confident they can keep up with any team in the league at even strength.
“We can beat teams playing 5-on-5, and that’s the biggest thing in our room,” Gayfer said. “We really [started to] believe in ourselves… we think we can go into Cariboo and beat [the Cariboo Cougars].”
Goaltender Ethan Langenegger has been one of the reasons the Thompson Blazers have been successful down the stretch providing a steady presence between the pipes.
“Obviously it’s really important… If you start scrambling teams can work the puck around and get you out of position,” Langenegger said. “I’ve tried to keep calm, give my team a chance to win every game and I think I’ve done that.”
For finishing in 7th place, the Blazers have won the right to play the Cariboo Cougars in the first round of the BCMML Playoffs. The Cougars have historically been one of the best teams in the league year in and year out, and are the reigning league champs. That’s a challenge that excites the Blazer’s players and coaching staff.
“They’re a great team, and we know that,” Gayfer said. “But we’ve proven ourselves and we know we’re up there with them.”
“We want to beat them. We’re not scared of them. Obviously, we haven’t beat them yet this year,” Langenegger said. “Perfect time to do it in playoffs.”
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