Blazers focused on being more consistent in second-half push for playoffs

By Chad Klassen
January 3, 2019 - 10:26am Updated: January 3, 2019 - 6:02pm

KAMLOOPS — Inconsistency has been the theme of the first half for the Blazers, who at times have looked like a team that can compete with anyone in the league, while also looking like a bottom-dweller. 

"We had a good start for once and then we've had a few losing streaks in that time, so it's been quite a bit of ups and downs," said forward Jermaine Loewenl, who has 11 goals on the season. "I felt like it was hard for us to be consistent."

The Blazers won their first two games against Kelowna before losing the next seven. They then won four in a row. Most recently, they went 0-for-6 on their Central Division road trip before Christmas. 

Since the break, Kamloops is 2-1 and sits in the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference, six points behind Kelowna for third in the B.C. Division with three games in hand on the Rockets. 

But the team knows they could be in a much better position at this point in the season. 

"I think we have underachieved as a team, but I think you get what you deserve," noted Loewen. "I think maybe we didn't, in certain situations where we had the game in the bag, we let it slide and we cost ourselves some valuable points in the standings."

Added head coach Serge Lajoie: "I think we could a lot higher [in the standings]. I think there's games we've lost that we should've won. We've been in so many one-goal games. What I like about our team is we now have that belief, even in those close games, we can win and we can come back."

Among the bright spots in the first half has been Zane Franklin, who was picked up from Lethbridge in an offseason trade. The 19-year-old forward from Marwayne, Alberta leads the team in scoring with 19 goals and 18 assists through 34 games. 

"It has been a great first half [for me]," said Franklin. "This is exactly how, if I could plan it up, this is how it would go. I think I'm just scoring on my opportunities I guess, playing with some great linemates [Orrin Centazzo and Brodi Stuart] who are giving me some easy assists."

The Blazers have been part of 13 one-goal games, going 4-9, and Lajoie says winning those tight contests will be key for a second-half push. 

"With this team, there are signs of growth," noted the first-year WHL coach. "We're getting stronger, more confident. Our older, more mature players are taking on a greater leadership role. This team is poised to be ready to take that next step. That's where that consistency piece needs to be part of our identity and our make-up moving forward."

Loewen still trying to find his game as second half of season begins