The Abbotsford-Kamloops Blazers connection has never been stronger.
A pair of local products are in the midst of their rookie seasons with the Western Hockey League, as former Yale Lions Travis Walton and Scott Mahovlich both made the trip to Langley at the end of December to take on the Vancouver Giants.
It was only Walton who suited up as the Blazers downed the Giants 4-2 on Dec. 30. The rookie said he’s having a good time in Kamloops, as the team battles for playoff positioning.
“The year has gone pretty good overall,” said the six-foot-two left winger. “At the start you have to adjust to the style of play in this league, but after awhile you keep working hard and you get some opportunities.”
Walton has four goals and six points in 31 games with Kamloops as a rookie, after tearing up the British Columbia School Sports League with the Yale Lions.
He recorded 17 goals in 23 games with the Lions in the 2015-16 year, and first attracted the Blazers’ attention in September 2014, when he was listed by the club.
He said the Kamloops connection to Abbotsford began in his mind when forward Joey Kornelsen joined the team in 2012. Kornelsen played two seasons in Kamloops, and then passed the Abbotsford torch to Matt Revel, who moved on to the Portland Winterhawks last week.
“I knew of Joey Kornelsen and Matt from minor hockey in Abbotsford and they had only good things to say about Kamloops and the organization,” he said. “Mahovlich and I played both at Yale and in Abbotsford minor hockey.”
Revel played parts of four seasons with Kamloops, scoring 125 points in 199 games with the Blazers.
Mahovlich has one goal and four points in 20 games this season. The centre finished up with nine points in 33 games in his final season with the Lions.
Walton said he and Mahovlich are slowly but surely earning their spots on the team.
“As we play more Don [Hay, Blazers head coach] trusts us more and it can lead to more opportunities hopefully,” he said. “Getting on the scoresheet more is nice, but as long as you’re playing hard and getting time out there I think you’re happy.”
He said he likes the Blazers’ chances as the season draws closer to an end. Kamloops sits in second place in the WHL’s B.C. division with a record of 25 wins, 15 losses, one overtime loss and two shootout losses.
“I think we’ve got a pretty good chance to contend,” he said. “When we get all of our guys back from injuries I think we’ll be really good. We have quite a few guys who can score and have two really good goalies.”
Walton said the experience at Yale helped him both develop and also prepare for competitive hockey.
“It was such a good experience to get to work out and skate every day,” he said, of the Lions hockey program. “I would really recommend it to anyone.”
Walton, Mahovlich and the Blazers return to Langley to take on the Giants on Feb. 17. For more, visit blazerhockey.com.