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Kamloops counting on Westman D-men

Brandonite Landon Cross is off to a strong start in his second season with the Kamloops Blazers.

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Brandonite Landon Cross is off to a strong start in his second season with the Kamloops Blazers. (FILE PHOTO)

So far this season, Jordan Thomson is proving that his game is as good as his timing.

The 16-year-old from Wawanesa has landed in a plum spot as a Western Hockey League rookie, manning the blue-line for the powerhouse Kamloops Blazers. The Blazers have been the dominant team in junior hockey, with a 12-0-0-1 record. They’re ranked first in the Canadian Hockey League and are the only one of the CHL’s 66 clubs that has yet to lose in regulation time.

Particularly on such a strong team, it would be commonplace for the youngest of the club’s eight defencemen to spend the bulk of his time on the bench or even in the stands, watching and learning from the veterans.

But Thomson has already earned enough ice time to thrive, getting into 10 games and recording a goal and four assists to rank third among freshmen D-men in scoring behind only a pair of 18-year-olds — Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks and Kyle Becker of the Medicine Hat Tigers. He also has a gaudy plus/minus of +9.

As the fourth-overall pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, certainly a lot is expected of Thomson, and he believes it’s his responsibility to live up to that billing.

"Some people feel, ‘You know what, I’m a high pick, I’m going to get my ice time,’ but that’s not how I play the game," said Thomson, whose team hosts the Brandon Wheat Kings tonight (8:30, CKLQ). "Every person has to work for their ice time. So I came in here knowing that I had to play good game in, game out and I couldn’t give the coaches a reason to sit me out."

Landon Cross knows how hard it is to crack the Blazers’ blue-line on a regular basis. The 18-year-old Brandonite is in his second full season with the club after playing 46 games in 2011-12.

Used sparingly as a rookie, Cross has blossomed into a bigger role this season with the Blazers, picking up a goal and four assists and a plus/minus of +1 despite being limited to nine games by a lower-body injury. He had a brilliant opening night, notching a goal and two assists in a Blazer victory that put him halfway toward his rookie total of six points.

"It’s been a really fun season so far, that’s for sure," said Cross, who has returned to the lineup for the last two games, picking up an assist in both to help the Blazers run their winning streak to 10 games. "The team’s had a lot of success. Obviously, we have the winning streak that we’re on now and everyone feels good around the room.

"You don’t really want to look too far ahead. You’ve kind of just got to focus on the task at hand, but we’re all excited and we’re all having fun."

The Wheat Kings come into the game with a 7-5-2-0 record after a 3-2 victory over the Victoria Royals late Wednesday night.

The Wheat Kings got power-play goals from Nick Buonassisi and Tim McGauley, 1:18 apart in the third period, to push them over the top. Buonassisi scored twice in the game to break out of a nine-game goalless slump and Brandon head coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk said the veteran earned the output with his hard work.

"He works hard all the time, he does things right and he was getting a little frustrated," Gylywoychuk said. "But give him credit tonight, he battled and got big goals for us and really set the tone for us."

Corbin Boes made 27 saves as the Wheat Kings improved to .500 (2-2-1-0) on their West Coast road trip, which wraps up Saturday against the Prince George Cougars.


Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 26, 2012

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