Despite Taran Kozun's best efforts, the Kamloops Blazers lost again Saturday.
Kozun made 37 saves but didn't get any help at the other end of the ice as the Blazers lost 1-0 to the Silvertips in Everett. Kamloops finished a nine-games-in-16-days stretch - its first hectic period of the season - with three victories and six losses, including losses in its last two games.
The Blazers (4-9-0) have a week off to catch their breath before the Silvertips visit Interior Savings Centre on Saturday. The Vancouver Giants, who beat the Blazers 5-1 in Vancouver on Friday, are to visit ISC on Sunday.
"Give full credit to Everett, they're very good structurally defensively," said Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak on Sunday. "Against a team like that, you really have to bear down when you get chances and go to an area that's simple.
"We've been preaching for three weeks - get pucks to the net, get into the blue paint for rebounds. What's the worst that will happen? An offensive zone faceoff."
The Blazers have been inconsistent all season, and the past nine games have been an indication of that. They opened the hectic stretch with a 4-3 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals, before losing four straight by a combined 17-6.
Kamloops followed with two of its best efforts of the season, a 7-1 victory over the struggling Lethbridge Hurricanes and a 3-1 victory over the strong Seattle Thunderbirds, before losing in Vancouver and Everett on the weekend.
This is a team still looking for an identity.
"We're trying to do what this team was doing the last two years," Hunchak said, referring to the teams that had back-to-back 47-win seasons. "Those were great teams, no doubt, but we have to play differently than that."
Where the Blazers have been solid is in goal - Kozun and Bolton Pouliot have done everything asked of them early on.
Pouliot took over with a pair of great efforts in the victories over Seattle and Lethbridge, but was injured against Vancouver. While Hunchak said he believes Pouliot will be ready for the weekend, Kozun likely earned himself another start with his effort Saturday.
"(Kozun) definitely gave them a chance to win," Everett forward Kohl Bauml told the Everett Herald. "He made some pretty unbelievable saves. You have to give him credit, he kept them in the game the whole time."
The strong play of the goaltenders is making the Blazers' struggles - and lack of discipline - all the more apparent. Kamloops has given its opponents 79 power plays (six per game), the most in the WHL.
"We have to play better in front of them," Hunchak said. "Our team, we're giving up an average of 35-36 shots against - that's a reflection of some of the penalties we are taking. . . . We have to find a way to stop that."
Bauml was a part of two key plays in Saturday's game. He was on the receiving end of a hard hit from Kamloops defenceman Ryan Rehill in the second period. Rehill was given a major and game misconduct for the hit.
The hit will automatically be reviewed by the WHL, but Hunchak doesn't think it should be a suspendable offence. He pointed out that Bauml was back on the ice for the ensuing Everett power play, and, later on, scored the game-winner 13 seconds into the third period.
"I don't think it was a malicious hit," Hunchak said. "It was just a big strong guy hitting a smaller guy."
JUST NOTES: Saturday's game is scheduled to start 7 p.m., with Sunday's to begin at 6 p.m. . . . Kamloops D Jordan Thomson (upper body) missed the Everett game, and Hunchak wasn't certain whether he would be able to play on the weekend. . . . Austin Lotz made 23 saves for the Silvertips.