Under the Hood: Bellingham Blazers
From now until the season starts, we will be taking a quick look under the hood of each team. From players leaving, to new signings, we will preview each team based on what coaches and players have to say.
2018-2019 Finish: Thorne Cup Round Robin
Standings/Record: 34W-14L-0OTW-3OTL (2nd NW)
Thorne Cup Record: 0W-3L
(Photo of the Bellingham Blazers celebrating by Mark Mauno, WSHL Photographer)
The Bellingham Blazers lost the 2016-2017 Division Quarterfinals to the Butte Cobras. They dropped the 2017-2018 Division Semi-Finals to the Tahoe Icemen.
Qualifying as Northwest Division Champions, last season, was the only way the Blazers could clinch a spot at Thorne Cup. The Wildcard selection table had Bellingham outside of the bubble looking in.
The Blazers let their final home-and-home series of the year slip to the Totems and relinquished the regular season title. After going through the Southern Oregon Spartans in the Northwest Semi-Finals, a fateful rematch was in order with the Totems for the division title.
The best-of-three series went the distance and after all, the Bellingham Blazers finally had a triumphant commencement to divisional playoffs.
It was a euphoric ride that ended as soon as the Thorne Cup began. Bellingham conceded 18-goals in their three round-robin appearances losing every game.
“There was some big transitions in the coaching position right before playoffs,” Now Head Coach Colten Teubert said. “Moving into the Thorne Cup, the consistency of the proper amount of coaching for this group of guys didn’t keep up to the pace of the players and as well as the direction the team was going in.”
“It was unfortunate the way it all played out,” Teubert said. “It’s always great to win a banner, but if you’re not winning the championship it doesn’t mean anything.”
The Big Three
The Blazers have a similar situation to that of Oklahoma City in that their top scorers are not returning. For Bellingham, this means they will no longer count on the services of Timothy Prexler, Tommy Steven, and Jamahl Eakett.
Prexler and Eakett alone combined for 91G-144A-235Pts., and both placed among the top five scorers in the league. With Steven, the trio worked almost too well in the Northwest Division seemingly scoring at any given moment.
Prexler is the Blazer's All-Time Leader in Assists, places second in All-Time Points and fifth in All-Time Goals.
Eakett is fourth in All-Time Assists and Points as well as third in All-Time Goals.
Steven is fifth in All-Time Points and second in All-Time Goals.
“We wish them nothing but the best and thank them for their time as Blazers,” Coach Teubert said on their departure.
“We are going in a new direction—One that focuses in on success and commitment to a program of excellence. We do have a great group of young guys that are buying in. Slowly but surely we are building a solid roster that will lean on some veteran guys.”
Of note, Jamahl Eakett was traded to the Hinton Timberwolves after three seasons with the Bellingham Blazers.
Notable Returners (Photo of Matthew Edgecombe by Mark Mauno, WSHL Photographer)
Bellingham had a defensive group that could score and produce points in lieu of the team’s offense if necessary. Matthew Edgecombe and John McDonald were a part of that group and will be returning for the Blazers.
Defensively speaking, the Blazers can entrust a bigger role to Matthew Edgecombe who fulfilled his duty as a valuable support player registering 17 assists. It was Edgecombe’s first full season after arriving to the squad in early 2017-2018 from the Woodstock Slammers of the MJAHL.
“I'm very excited to return to Bellingham. We have a great group of guys already in place and I'm ready to improve on our success from last season," Edgecombe said.
"Matt committing to the Blazers is a huge step in our revamp of the Blazers team, he brings the consistency and leadership we need on the blue line to take our team to the next level," Coach Teubert said.
After Jacob Mabaquiao and Timon Prexler, John McDonald was the Blazers third leading scorer among defenders and will be back. McDonald has been a playmaking mainstay—for two seasons—picking up the vast majority of points through assists. In 2018-2019 McDonald amassed 1G-27A-28Pts. in 46 games and will likely continue the trend in his third year.
Not mentioned is Ryan Goulden. He was a defender on paper, although, the majority of his points were picked up as a forward. The two-position player established himself as the team’s renaissance man. Bellingham announced his return in early June as a forward. Goulden ultimately became a point-per-game skater with 7G-19A-26Pts in 26 games.
Since the announcement, Goulden has decided to step away from the game.
Goaltending (Photo of Kolter Pawlick by Tim Broussard, Ogden Mustangs Photographer)
Two year Blazers netminder, Edward Coffey, will not return for the team. Coffey shared duties with Kolter Pawlick, who is committed yet still questionable for his return. The only sure thing is that he wants to be a starter.
The departure of netminder, Coffey, won’t leave a big void if Pawlick returns. He performed so well that there wasn’t a clear No. 1. Pawlick finished the season with a 2.94 GAA and a .910SV%, slightly better than Coffey. Since starting with the Blazers in 2017-2018, he has gradually increased his marks from an 8-6-0 record, to a 14-6-2 finish in 2018-2019. Of course, this comes from being awarded more ice-time, which we can expect to take a spike this season.
Matt Lee is a newly signed goalie that will likely get some ice time due to the amount of off-season work he has put in. The Surrey, B.C. native was quick to catch the eye of Teubert.
“Lee has been out at every practice for the past month and a half taking shots and working on his game,” Coach Teubert said. “He is a goalie whose energy I was drawn to instantly. He is ready to come in, compete and be a good teammate.”
Teubert reassured that he is not concerned over the goaltending facet.
Recruiting local players is something Coach Teubert relishes because it promotes the game of hockey in Bellingham and develops the local talent.
Coach Teubert resounded with confidence about the return of Bellingham native, Simeon Smith to the Blazers. Smith was a part of the Blazers organization when they made the transition from the NPHL to the WSHL. He then went to play 24 games in the USPHL and has now made it back to his hometown.
“He’s coming back healthy after one year off,” Teubert said. “We’re talking about a really talented young hockey player who’s finally getting an opportunity to play and lead the team.”
"I'm happy to be returning home to the Blazers and look forward to helping repeat as division champs and returning to the Thorne Cup," Smith said.
The WSHL is a developmental league in the sense that its goal is to move players to the next level. The segmentation of development often forgets about education despite a good portion of junior players aspiring to have careers outside of hockey.
In Bellingham, education is also a priority for the organization. They understand when players have talent but don’t wish to handle pucks after juniors. This sort of mentality can sometimes dissuade a team from a player, but for Bellingham, it influenced the re-signing of Deva Shahi.
(Photo of Deva Shahi by Mark Mauno, WSHL Photographer)
“He’s striving to become an RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] after hockey. He’s going through online courses this year for our team and he’s a really young, talented defenseman who’s here, wants to be here, and has the talent to be a top defenseman.”
In other words, the Blazers can see Shahi’s line of dedication through his commitment to education as anyone else could have taken a year off.
It won’t be Shahi’s first rodeo in the WSHL. He wore the Blazer Red from 2017 to early 2019 before being traded to Hinton; He was recently re-acquired.
“I’m just trying to build a good culture here; Build a positive environment for these players to grow and become successful young athletes on and off the ice. For me, I’m a big proponent of coming together as a family and wanting to be here. I want guys that want to represent the Blazers in our community. I want positive role models for the younger generations of hockey players.”
“At the end of the day you can’t make people want it. I’ve always been a part of successful teams and had guys that didn’t want to put the work in and didn’t want to be involved in something special.”
As it currently stands, the Blazers are all heart and all in.
More news and details to be released by teams as the 2019-2020 season approaches. Stay up to date with the latest and complete Bellingham Blazers news by going to http://bellinghamblazers.pointstreaksites.com.