Sunday April 20, 2014

Blazers lose 10th straight game, but coach liked effort

Even if it was a loss, the Kamloops Blazers came out of Saturday's WHL game feeling better than they have in a long time.

The Blazers lost 3-2 in a shootout to the host Kelowna Rockets on Saturday, Kamloops' 10th straight loss. The Blazers, now 6-18-4, haven't won since Nov. 5, and finished the month 1-8-3.

They outshot the division-leading Rockets 37-31 in Kelowna but fell short, just as they did on Friday in Kamloops, when the Rockets (19-3-2) also won 3-2.

"Kelowna is built to win this year," Blazers head coach Dave Hunchak said Sunday. "To push them the way we did . . . we should have gotten more out of it results-wise."

The Blazers will spend the week practising ahead of their final home games before Christmas - on Friday against the Kootenay Ice and Saturday against the Everett Silvertips. After the Saturday game, Kamloops will hit the road to play six games against the teams in the East Division. That trip, ending Dec. 17, will take the Blazers into a nine-day Christmas break.

It will be the second straight full week of practice for the Blazers, who spent last week working on a little bit of everything. Hunchak felt as though the practice paid off immediately.

"It's easy to sit there and (point out) what's wrong with our team and be negative," Hunchak said. "The hard part is finding solutions.

"The process of winning has to start in practice."

Tyson Ness scored a second-period goal for the Blazers on Saturday, and Matt Needham forced overtime with a power-play goal in the third period. Carter Rigby and Ryan Olsen scored for the Rockets, and Justin Kirkland scored the lone goal of the shootout.

"They played very well both nights that we faced them," Rockets head coach Ryan Huska told the Kelowna Daily Courier. "We got the four points this weekend, but we were rewarded when maybe we shouldn't have been.

"They competed and won a lot of puck battles. They were the hungrier team tonight."

Taran Kozun made 28 saves for the Blazers, seven fewer than Kelowna's Jackson Whistle. Josh Connolly had two assists for the Blazers.

JUST NOTES: Kamloops F Aspen Sterzer sat out Saturday with what the team is calling a "lower body" injury. Hunchak said Sunday that the 19-year-old Sterzer will be re-evaluated this week and is day-to-day. . . . Kelowna, now 9-1 in its last 10, has the best winning percentage (.833) in the WHL. . . . Kamloops scored 25 goals in November, and gave up 50. . . . F Carson Bolduc, a Salmon Arm native acquired in a trade last week, made his Blazers debut in Kelowna. The 17-year-old former Kamloops Minor Hockey player was held off the scoresheet. . . . The next time the Rockets come to ISC, it will be a B.C. Hockey officiating night. Twenty minor hockey officials (ages 12-20) will be eligible to attend the Blazers-Rockets game on Jan. 31 and have a meet-and-greet with game officials to get a behind-the-scenes look at officiating at the WHL level.

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