These are tough times for the Kamloops Blazers but, according to head coach Dave Hunchak, there's a simple solution.
"The only way to get through this is to work through it," Hunchak said Sunday, a day after the Blazers dropped their eight straight WHL game, 5-0 to the Royals in Victoria. "We need all 22 guys pulling in the same direction."
The season is sliding away from the Blazers (6-17-3), who sit last in the Western Conference, 12 points out of a playoff spot. Although the team is barely a third the way through the 72-game regular season, Kamloops' playoff hopes are on life-support, and there doesn't appear to be a way out of the woods any time soon.
The last time the Blazers lost eight straight games was at the end of the 2010-11 season, which also was the last time the team missed the postseason. The latest two losses on this streak - Kamloops also lost 6-1 in Victoria on Friday - were markedly similar, with each featuring a scoreless first period and a Blazers letdown in the third period.
The Royals scored four goals in the third period of each game.
"In both games, for two periods, we played pretty good," Hunchak said. "We created some chances, played pretty good defence, we just had nothing to show for it."
Hunchak said he wasn't sure his players were discouraged in those third periods, but he also doesn't know the reasons for the letdowns.
"It's hard to say - we're looking at everything and trying to figure out why we're at where we're at," Hunchak said. "As a coach, I take full responsibility. The season's getting away from us really quickly."
The Blazers have a week of practice to figure things out, but they might need a month.
Kamloops is scheduled to play host to the Kelowna Rockets on Friday, before the teams play in Kelowna on Saturday.
The Blazers will be working on "everything from defensive zone coverage to special teams to four-on-four," Hunchak said. "We're going to try to touch on everything and work on everything."
Tyler Soy had a pair of third-period goals for the Royals on Saturday, with Keegan Kanzig, Taylor Crunk and Isaac Schacher, with the first of his career, also scoring for Victoria. Patrik Polivka had his fourth straight excellent start in the shutout, stopping 26 shots. Polivka won four straight games last week, including three against Kamloops, allowing only three goals on 131 shots.
Bolton Pouliot made 26 saves for the Blazers.
JUST NOTES: Kamloops D Jordan Thomson (personal) remains away from the Blazers. . . . The Rockets (17-3-2), with nine victories in their last 10 games, are first in the B.C. Division, with Victoria (17-10-1) only only point back, although the Royals have played six more games. . . . The Vancouver Giants (11-11-5) are one of the WHL's hottest teams, with points in seven straight, and currently occupy the final playoff spot in the west.
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