A change of scenery can have its perks.
Matt Bellerive has been traded twice in his four-year Western Hockey League career, his latest move shifting him from Red Deer to Kamloops. Bellerive was dealt from the Rebels to the Blazers in early January, 16 months after being acquired by the Rebels from the Vancouver Giants.
Normally, players don’t relish the notion of being uprooted and moved to a team of strangers, but Bellerive embraced the change.
“It’s a cool thing. You get 20 new friends. That’s the way I looked at it,” the 19-year-old said prior to the game between Kamloops and Red Deer Wednesday at the Enmax Centrium.
“Every hockey team is the same. All of the players are good guys.”
Bellerive was halfway through his second full season with the Rebels when he was told to pack his bags for Kamloops.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised, although I had no idea where I was going to go if I was going to get traded,” he said. “But I’m happy where I ended up. My parents have been able to come up (from Vancouver) fairly often to watch me play, so that’s been nice.”
The Blazers acquired Bellerive — and a third-round pick in this year’s WHL bantam draft — in exchange for 19-year-old forward Aspen Sterzer with the belief that the North Vancouver product would contribute offensively for the remainder of this season and next.
Bellerive scored nine goals and garnered 22 points with the Rebels this season and has six goals and 15 points in 21 games with his new club. The five-foot-11, 190-pound winger insisted he can also contribute to the rebuilding Blazers — who sit last in the Western Conference and were eliminated from the playoff race weeks ago — as a leader.
“Obviously we have one of the younger teams in the league, if not the youngest,” he said. “Part of my role is to show the younger guys the right way . . . speak up in the room and help get everyone ready.”
Bellerive will almost certainly be back with the Blazers as an overage player next season. He likes the club’s potential for the 2014-15 campaign.
“Some of our prospects have come up and played some games with us,” he noted.
“These new guys have looked pretty promising and I think we’ll have a good year next year.”
When Bellerive joined the Blazers he was reunited with former teammate Bolton Pouliot, whom the Rebels sent to Kamloops just prior to the start of the current season in a trade that netted Red Deer a sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft.
Pouliot was only too happy to move on when he realized that Canadian Hockey League netminder of the year Patrik Bartosak would be returning to Red Deer as a 20-year-old.
“This move has been really good for me,” said Pouliot, who made 34 saves in Wednesday’s 2-0 loss to the Rebels and was selected as third star of the game. “I have nothing against Red Deer at all. It was a great three years here, it was awesome, but it was time for a change.”
Pouliot would have been nothing more than an 19-year-old backup goaltender in Red Deer. With the Blazers, he’s appeared in 37 games.
“The trade has definitely given me a opportunity to play some hockey,” he said. “Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be in Red Deer because Patty’s here. I wasn’t going to get the opportunity here because he’s one hell of a goalie.
“Going to Kamloops was a great opportunity for me and I’m very grateful for it.”
Pouliot plans to return to Kamloops next fall as an overage stopper, but is currently concentrating on closing out the season on somewhat of an affirmative note.
“We have a young team this year so it’s been a bit of a tough struggle,” said the Calgary native, who has a 3.66 goals-against average and .889 save percentage with the Blazers. “We’re trying to turn it around and finish off these next nine games on a positive note and then come into next season and hopefully be a contender.”