The Kamloops Blazers are two games into the first busy stretch of their WHL schedule.
They appeared to be preserving their energy on Saturday.
The Blazers lost 3-0 to the Prince George Cougars at Interior Savings Centre to fall to 2-4-0. Kamloops, which had used a dazzling effort to beat the Victoria Royals 4-3 on Friday, is at home to the Tri-City Americans on Tuesday.
That game will be the Blazers' third in a nine-games-in-16-days stretch, the first real endurance test of this season. Expect a fresh Blazers squad in that one, as the team was the definition of lackadaisical on Saturday.
"Our work ethic wasn't very good tonight," understated Blazers associate coach Mark Ferner, who faced the media in place of head coach Dave Hunchak. "The first guy was on the puck but the second and third guys just weren't around.
"It's unfortunate - a team comes in here and basically outworks us."
Ty Edmonds turned aside 27 shots for his second shutout of the season but, even then, he didn't have to do too much for this one. The Blazers maybe had two quality scoring chances in the first two periods, before getting a couple late.
"Tonight, I think the dealbreaker was the work ethic from our team," said Blazers forward Aspen Sterzer. "I'm not going to make excuses for this. . . . The older guys have to be better and lead the way, and I just don't think we were tonight."
Perhaps making Kamloops' poor effort so obvious was the work of the Cougars, who played the perfect road game. They stifled the Blazers' attack, stayed out of trouble and got their struggling power play working, at least once.
The Cougars' power play came into the game last in the WHL at eight per cent (3-for-37). Their first goal came with the man advantage, when Jansen Harkins scored on a goalmouth scramble early in the second period. Prince George was 1-for-4 on the power play, which used a simple strategy: Shoot . . . lots.
"I think we had about 20 attempts to shoot on net (on the power play) and I think seven or eight of them hit the net, plus we scored a goal," said Cougars centre Zach Pochiro, who added an empty-netter with 1:19 remaining. "It ended up working out well."
The Cougars travelled down to Kamloops on Saturday morning, but showed no signs of fatigue once the puck dropped.
"It's tough coming up on game day," Pochiro said. "You get up around nine, get on the bus at 10:30, you're on it for six hours and, boom, you play a game. Our younger guys have never done that before, but they did well."
The Cougars defenders did a nice job of keeping the Blazers to the outside. Kamloops forwards were able to get into the zone on the forecheck, but couldn't establish possession once the first forward won a battle.
"We're getting pucks deep, but we're giving their D-men time and space," Sterzer said. "We have guys sitting back, not jumping on pucks and making things happen."
Jordan Tkatch scored the other Prince George goal.
The Blazers have been up-and-down early in this season, but Saturday's was the first game in which the effort simply wasn't there.
There's not a lot of time, but Ferner said the coaches would be preaching "the simplicity of our systems" ahead of Tuesday's game.
"North and south, getting lines, getting pucks deep and working," he added. "There's no substitute for that."
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 4,196. . . . Tuesday's game, at Interior Savings Centre, will start at 7 p.m. . . . The Daily News' Three Stars: 1. Pochiro: Always has the puck; 2. Edmonds: Easy night, solid night; 3. Sterzer: Skated hard and hit harder. . . . G Bolton Pouliot, making his second straight start for the Blazers, was good again, allowing two goals on 30 shots. . . . Prince George F Chase Witala had two assists. . . . The Blazers were 0-for-5 on the power play and now are 2-for-24 this season, leaving them last in the WHL. . . . Harkins, the son of former NHLer Todd Harkins, who now is the Cougars' head scout and director of player personnel, was the second overall selection in the 2012 WHL bantam draft.