For the first time in four exhibition games, the Kamloops Blazers outshot their opposition.
But it wasn’t enough as they dropped a 5-1 decision to the Vancouver Giants in a game played Sunday at Bill Copeland Arena in Burnaby.
“We played probably our best game that we’ve played to this point,” offered Kamloops head coach Dave Hunchak. “(It was) 2-1 going into the third period . . . we gave ourselves an opportunity to win on the road.
“They got a couple of goals . . . they got a few bounces and we didn’t. We had plenty of scoring chances and we outshot them, too.”
The Blazers, now 1-3 in the preseason, had been badly outshot in their first three outings. And this one started out like the earlier games.
“We gave up 12 shots in the first six minutes and ended up giving up 28 in total,” Hunchak said, “so there were some positives to take out of this game.”
Joel Hamilton opened the scoring for Vancouver, which lost 6-1 to the Rockets in Kelowna on Saturday, midway through the first period.
Defenceman Landon Cross pulled Kamloops even with a power-play goal at 8:53 of the second period.
Scott Cooke put the Giants (1-1-1) out front again, with a PP goal at 12:10.
The Giants put it away with three third-period goals, as Travis McEvoy, Ty Ronning and Blake Orban each scored his first goal of the exhibition season.
Freshman Cole Kehler started in goal for Kamloops, stopping 17 of 18 shots in the first half. Taran Kozun, who is expected to open the season as the Blazers’ starter, came on at 9:03 of the second period and stopped six of 10 shots.
“Kehler was excellent again,” Hunchak said of his backup, who won’t turn 16 until Dec. 17. “Taran Kozun has to step up here. As an older guy, he has to step up and start doing the job for us. He knows that.”
Still, Hunchak said he saw some positives following an undisciplined 4-0 loss to the visiting Rockets on Friday night.
“Structure-wise, guys understanding what’s expected of them,” Hunchak said, explaining the positives he felt he saw. “We got on pucks and we weren’t chasing the game. We had a lot of puck possession and that was all from a good forecheck. That’s what we have to keep building.”
The Blazers will conclude their exhibition season with a game in Prince George against the Cougars (4-0) on Saturday. Kamloops opens its regular season at home to the Rockets on Sept. 20.
JUST NOTES: Vancouver G Payton Lee stopped 28 shots. . . . Each team was 1-for-5 on the power play. . . . The game was played in two hours four minutes. “It was a physical game. It was a hard game,” Hunchak said. . . . F Tristan Sieben, who was acquired by the Blazers from Vancouver on Thursday, didn’t play. Hunchak said Sieben has a bit of “skate bite” and “we want that to heal up.” . . . The Blazers also were without F Devin Oakes, who has been suspended by the WHL for a hit to the head of Kelowna F Rourke Chartier on Friday. A length of the suspension has yet to be announced. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully was pointless as his Dallas Stars scored a 2-1 shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild at a prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., on Sunday. . . . Former Blazers D Austin Madaisky had his second goal of the tournament Sunday as the Columbus Blue Jackets doubled the New York Rangers 4-2 in Traverse City. . . . Blazers D Sam Grist played but didn’t get on the scoresheet in the San Jose Sharks’ 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton on Sunday.
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