Guy Charron, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, is into his playoff preparation mode.
Now he needs his players to follow suit.
Charron, whose club has 17 games left in this WHL regular-season, was talking about accountability on Sunday evening, one night after a 3-2 shootout victory over the Silvertips in Everett.
"Some guys think they've got their position all settled and done," Charron said. "It's not going to happen. It's up to us to make sure they understand the message."
And that message, he said, is this: "Unless you perform, you're not going to play."
The line of Matt Needham between Chase Souto and Cole Ully felt the head coach's sting when it didn't play in the third period of a 7-4 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Friday.
Needham didn't make the trip to Everett due to an injury, while Charron said that "Ully was better," but that Souto "needs to be more physically involved."
"It's looking like he's turning into a finesse player," Charron added. "It's like he's turning into a finesse player. He'll lose effectiveness if he becomes that kind of player."
Charron went into Saturday's game wanting to roll four lines, thus getting everyone involved, and wear down an injury-riddled Everett team that only dressed 16 skaters, including 10 forwards.
"We didn't respond very well," Charron said, explaining that he ended up going with "our nine best forwards and I stuck with it."
In the end, the Blazers found themselves going to extra time for the WHL-leading 17th time this season. They are 6-2 when the game ends in overtime and 6-3 when it goes to the shootout.
This time, right-winger JC Lipon was the only one of eight shooters to score in the shootout.
"Lipon's game was very good," Charron offered.
Kamloops centre Colin Smith opened the scoring at 3:31 of the first period, one-timing a Tim Bozon pass for his 36th goal of the season. Everett defenceman Landon Oslanski equalized three minutes later, but Lipon, with his 27th, put the visitors back out front at 19:25.
Oslanski forced extra time with his 12th goal of the season, ending a 0-for-19 power-play drought, at 11:54 of the second period.
Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave stopped 28 shots through overtime, while Everett's Daniel Cotton turned aside 30. Everett goaltender Austin Lotz, who had stopped 65 shots in a memorable 4-3 overtime loss in Kamloops on Jan. 23, is sidelined with a foot injury.
On this night, Cotton was especially busy in the third period when the Blazers held a 17-3 edge in shots and winger Cole Ully twice hit goal posts. After two periods, however, Everett had outshot its visitors, 22-11.
"I didn't like the start of our game," Charron said. "In the second period, I thought they were the better team.
"Our third period was obviously our best period. But we don't have it altogether. Not everybody. Some guys are going; some guys aren't. We gave up too much."
Charron is of the opinion that a good team will surrender 15 or fewer scoring chances per game. He said the Blazers gave up 18 in this game.
"That's too much," Charron said. "We weren't bad but, against a team that was only playing with 10 forwards, I thought we should have had a bigger advantage than we did."
The Blazers (35-15-5) now have won five of their last six games, with two victories coming in OT and one in a shootout. They are settled comfortably into third place in the Western Conference, nine points behind the Kelowna Rockets, who are on a 17-0-2 tear, and 10 ahead of the Tri-City Americans.
The Blazers and Silvertips will meet again Thursday, this time at Interior Savings Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.
JUST NOTES: Needham's status for Thursday isn't known. Charron said he understands the injury "isn't as bad as was projected initially." . . . Smith is tied for the WHL goal-scoring lead, with Portland Winterhawks teammates Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic. . . . The Blazers also scratched F Aspen Sterzer (concussion) and D Joel Edmundson, who served Game 2 of a four-game WHL suspension. . . . Among the 5,659 fans in attendance was former Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud.
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