KAMLOOPS — As the bus was pulling out of the Sandman Centre last night and leaving on an eastern road trip, the Blazers weren't seeing the results they were hoping for from two other games.
Prince George knocked off Kootenay to pull into a tie with Kamloops for fourth place, while Vancouver was upsetting Portland to move four points ahead of the Blazers and Cougars.
The upcoming seven game road trip, the first six in the East Division, could set the stage for next months trading deadline.
After winning five in a row the Blazers took a step back in two of three games last weekend.
Facing the best goaltender in junior hockey, they put very little in the way of sustained pressure on Carter Hart in a 3-1 loss to Everett.
Then laid an egg in a 4-0 loss to Kootenay.
The goal on any road trip is to be at least .500.
On this trip that would mean 3-and-3 --- and they get what should be the two easiest teams in the first two games.
"We start in Prince Albert and then go to Saskatoon" says head coach Don Hay, "so this weekend is probably our biggest two games."
After that it gets tougher --- much tougher --- facing three of the top four teams in the league in Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Brandon and the Regina Pats, who have underachieved so far this season -- playing below what would be expected of a team that will host the Memorial Cup next May.
Says Hay "I think that every team can be beat, if we do the right things ---- we've shown that."
But it will mean doing the things they did well in that five game win streak.
Things they got away from in those two losses last weekend, in which they were outscored 7-1 at home.
"We have to play better --- we did'nt look like the team that we were when we put together five wins in a row" says Hay.
Six players on the roster are from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. This is a chance they get only once every two years --- which can be a distraction.
Focus will be a priority.
"It's massive", says Jermaine Loewen, who hails from Arborg, Manitoba.
"We got to get some wins here, at least get to .500 on the road and just try to grind it out. It's going to be some tough matches."
These are six games that have the potential to see the Blazers move up in the standings, or the potential to once again drop into last place.
And with a Memorial Cup bid on the table for two years from now, anything less than achieving a .500 goal could trigger changes ahead of next months trading deadline.
"It's big" says Garrett PIlon, who is from Saskatoon, "There are a lot of good teams out in the east ---- we go out there and have a good road trip and it really sets the tone for the rest of the season. If we don't, it kind of changes the plan of what's going to happen with the organization."
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