KAMLOOPS — After scoring 36 goals a year ago, The Train has slowed down in his last year of junior hockey. Jermaine Loewen has 11 goals midway through the season, a number he is not satisfied with.
"I've been disappointed with the way things have gone for me on a personal note. It's been really tough. It's been mentally hard for me," said 20-year-old Loewen.
This season has included two suspensions, which he admits have changed his aggressive style of play as a power forward.
"There were moments where I definitely dialed myself back because I didn't want to get put in that position again," noted Loewen, who was given a four-game suspension for a hit on Portland's Matthew Quigley on Oct. 5 and another three-game suspension for a check-from-behind major against Edmonton on Dec. 8.
"You play a little bit half-hearted sometimes and that's been something that's been a challenge for me."
Blazers head coach Serge Lajoie agrees with his power forward, saying the suspensions have played a factor in Loewen's down year.
"He's a big body that moves well and want to assert himself physically, and circumstances have dictated that he's maybe had to reel himself in a little bit," noted Lajoie. "I'm sure that takes away from his style of play and how he would like to play. He's searching a bit as far as where he fits in in terms of how he can play within the new rules."
Loewen has also been dealing with some personal issues off the ice that are affecting his on-ice performance. But he feels he's rounding a corner and is ready for a strong second half.
"You know, the last few games I've started to turn and be hungrier for loose pucks, just be sharper in front of the net, put away more of my opportunities," he said.
Added teammate Zane Franklin: "I think there's a lot of bad luck this season, honestly. There's games where he could've had three and he ends up with zero. So I think once those start going in, it'll all be forgotten about."
Lajoie says if the Blazers want to make a strong push for the playoffs, Loewen will need to be the top-flight player that got him drafted last year by Dallas.
"We need him to step up, and I think he would admit that as well. People need to notice him," said the head coach. "For the Kamloops Blazers to be successful, we need Jermaine to take a step forward and to not only assert himself as a leader off the ice but really start to be an imposing presence on the ice."
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