Rayce Ramsay and the Kamloops Blazers looked relaxed on Wednesday, signing autographs for gawking Peter Puck kids at Sandman Centre.
The goalies are always a hit.
Most of the children were not aware of pressure felt by major junior hockey players and the event might have been a welcome break from talk about structure, work ethic and humility, which seemed to be the buzzwords in interviews once the kids left the rink.
“We went through those 10 games in January,” Blazers’ 20-year-old defenceman Max Martin said.
“Everything was rolling and we were winning games. I’d say we’ve gotten away from that hunger coming into games every night. When that happens, you don’t have your best structure and work ethic.”
Kamloops is on a five-game losing streak and will be without No. 1 netminder Dylan Garand for three Family Day Weekend games at Sandman Centre — vs. the Red Deer Rebels on Friday and Victoria on Saturday, both 7 p.m. starts, and against the Royals on Monday, a 2 p.m. start.
Garand is listed as week-to-week with a lower-body injury, suffered in a collision with Vancouver Giants’ forward Tristen Nielsen on Feb. 1.
The Royals (29-18-4-1) have gained on the B.C. Division-leading Blazers (32-16-3-1), five points behind Kamloops with little more than a month remaining in the regular season.
Red Deer (18-30-2-3) is likely to miss the playoffs.
Blazers’ majority owner Tom Gaglardi is thrilled with the big picture, what he called a fantastic season, but critiqued his team’s play in recent weeks, saying abandoned work ethic and structure is costing his club.
Martin, Montana Onyebuchi and Rayce Ramsay each used the H word — humbled.
“The mindset for practise is just get back to working hard, getting back to how we play, playing five guys together and just playing hard,” Kamloops forward Orrin Centazzo said.
“I don’t think we should be too worried. If we just get back to playing how we know we can play, we’ll be fine.”
The Vancouver Giants are 7-2-1-0 in their last 10 games and the Kelowna Rockets are getting healthier, with the return of Matthew Wedman and Nolan Foote expected to come back soon.
These four-point games against the Royals — the teams’ last meetings of the campaign — could prove pivotal in the race for the division crown.
“It’s really humbled us and shown us that if we work within our system and work our hardest every night, we can beat teams and dominate teams,” Martin said.
“We’ve gotten away from that. That’s why we’re on this slide. It’s little things we can fix and get right back on the horse.”
Gaglardi is looking forward to the Blazers’ anniversary celebration next weekend.
He is also miffed the Memorial Cup tournament will not be played this year in Kamloops.