By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Guy Charron, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, tipped his hat to goaltender Adam Brown on Sunday.
Brown stopped 24 shots Saturday night, helping his Kelowna Rockets to a 4-2 WHL exhibition victory over the visiting Blazers.
“It was a game we could have won, and maybe we should have,” Charron said. “Their goaltender certainly made the difference in the game.”
The Blazers, now 2-2 in the exhibition season, took a 2-1 lead into the third period, defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer and centre Dalibor Bortnak having scored first-period goals after Jason Siebert had opened the scoring for Kelowna (3-1).
After a scoreless second period, Max Adolph pulled the Rockets even just 43 seconds into the third period and Cody Chikie got the eventual winner at 3:43. Adolph put it away with an empty-netter at 19:57.
“The difference for us was probably special teams,” Charron continued. “Our penalty killing was very good; our power play didn’t perform to that level.”
The Blazers were 0-for-4 with the man advantage, with three of those coming in the third period.
While trailing 3-2, the Blazers were given a 5-on-3 power play for 1:48, but they couldn’t get the puck past Brown, a 19-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., who is preparing for his third WHL season.
“We had some shots but their goaltender played well,” Charron said.
At the same time, Charron admitted that the Blazers haven’t spent a lot of time working on special teams.
“In defence of everybody,” he explained, “we’ve got a lot of things to cover. We’ve gone through our breakouts and what we’re trying to do offensively, but we really haven’t practised with any units. So there isn’t stability there.”
They also have six players, including defenceman Corey Fienhage, away at NHL camps.
When the regular season starts, and assuming Fienhage is returned by the Buffalo Sabres, Charron said the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder will be a big part of the power play.
“He’s got a boomer of shot,” the coach said. “You can just set him up and let him hammer away.”
Kamloops goaltender Jon Groenheyde stopped 23 shots as he went the distance for the second straight night. The Blazers had beaten the Rockets 3-2 in Kamloops on Friday night.
“It was a decent road game, but we have to find a way to win on the road,” Charron said. “That is still a challenge for us.”
Last season, the Blazers were 12-21-1-2 away from Interior Savings Centre.
Interestingly, Charron had something to say to his players, especially his forwards, in the first intermission of Friday’s game.
On Saturday, it was Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska who had seen enough after 40 minutes.
“It wasn’t really fiery; we just asked our forwards to do a better job,” Huska told Doyle Potenteau of the Okanagan Sunday. “I thought our defencemen, for the most part, were pretty good, and I thought our forwards had more to give. And I liked the way they played in the third period, so I think they responded well.
“A lot of these guys now are 18, guys who have to step their games up. . . . It’s getting them to understand that they just can’t be guys that are just here anymore. They have to be the difference in games.”
JUST NOTES: The Blazers enjoyed a day off Sunday but will be back on the ice today. C Jake Trask, however, isn’t expected to skate until at least Tuesday. He was taken to hospital early in Saturday’s first period after taking a hit from Kelowna F Codey (Judge) Ito. “It was a pretty good hit,” Charron said. “The good news is that there was nothing collapsed. The hospital did all the necessary tests.” Trask, a 19-year-old from Saskatoon, was released from hospital in time to ride the bus home with his teammates. . . . The Blazers have two exhibition games remaining. They’ll go home-and-home with the Prince George Cougars this weekend, playing here Friday, 7 p.m., and there on Saturday. . . . Kamloops opens the regular season at home against the Cougars on Sept. 24, with the Chilliwack Bruins here the next night. . . . With D Landon Cross, 16, returning home to Brandon on Sunday, the Blazers’ roster rests at 26 — two goaltenders, nine defencemen and 15 forwards. With six players at NHL camps, they are left with 20 players in Kamloops.