By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Like many of his Kamloops Blazers teammates, goaltender Cole Cheveldave is on the hunt these days.
Cheveldave, the 19-year-old sophomore from Calgary, is looking for his game, the one that got him to 19 victories by mid-December, the one that helped him and his teammates to a 14-game winning streak that included 13 October games.
After watching Taran Kozun start the Blazers’ previous three games — they went 1-1-1 — Cheveldave will be back in goal tonight against the Everett Silvertips. Game time at Interior Savings Centre will be 7 o’clock.
“I’m just worrying about it too much,” Cheveldave said after Tuesday’s practice. “I just have to play.”
It’s not that Cheveldave’s game has turned into chopped liver; in fact, he still has decent numbers — 20-11-2, 2.66, .898. But those numbers were a whole lot better in mid-December, before he lost seven of his next eight decisions.
Of course, when you’re in a slump like this, strange things happen. For example, he came on in relief of Kozun on Saturday against the visiting Victoria Royals. In almost 16 minutes, Cheveldave stopped five of six shots but the one that got behind him broke a 4-4 tie, so he was tagged with the loss in a 5-4 setback.
Cheveldave’s play of late is a reflection of the team’s efforts and vice versa. The Blazers are 5-5-1 since the Christmas break ended and, yes, they are what they are.
“We haven’t been consistent with it,” head coach Guy Charron said after the loss to Victoria. “Part of it is changes, bringing in people. It takes time.
“We will get to where our identity is. Everybody believes in it.”
The Blazers are trying to get back to what they were in October. But a lot has transpired — including injuries, trades and releases — and things have to settle down in the dressing room before that is reflected on the ice.
“I think we’re doing a good job meshing as a family,” Cheveldave said. “But it’s always tough to come in late and from a different team. I think we’re handling it pretty well. We just have to push forward . . .”
Having spent more time watching than playing over the last while, Cheveldave said he has noticed one thing from his vantage point.
“We start complicating our systems and try to do too much out there,” he explained. “We just have to keep it simple out there, the whole team for the whole game.”
Cheveldave also knows the push begins in goal and he said he’s ready, adding that his slump, if it can be called that, is mostly mental.
“I’m doing lots of things good,” he said. “I start trying too hard and things go bad for me. I just have to keep it simple and play my game. I know what to do.”
Being a glass half full guy, Cheveldave also sees the sunny side of this part of what is a long grind of a season.
He admitted that he hasn’t gone through anything like this before, then added: “But it’s a good thing to get it over with now before the playoffs, to handle our adversity now and head into the playoffs knowing what it’s about and knowing how to conquer it.”
The Blazers (30-14-5) go into tonight’s game in third place in the Western Conference, six points behind the Kelowna Rockets and five in front of the Spokane Chiefs.
The Silvertips (20-26-2) are 4-2-0 since Jan. 8, which is when general manager Garry Davidson went behind the bench after firing head coach Mark Ferner and assistant coach Chris Hartsburg.
At that point, the Silvertips, in their second season under Ferner, were 16-24-2 and in eighth place in the Western Conference, five points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds and one point ahead of the Prince George Cougars. Everett goes into tonight in seventh spot, 11 points behind Victoria and three ahead of Seattle.
The Silvertips also are coming off a weekend during which they won three games – 5-1 over Seattle and 3-2 over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, both at home, and 4-0 over the Giants in Vancouver.
Everett arrives with three veteran defencemen on the limp. With Austin Adam, Ayrton Nikkel and Connor Cox all out, the Silvertips used Kevin Davis, a 15-year-old from Kamloops, in the games against Lethbridge and Vancouver. Davis, the 11th overall selection in the 2012 bantam draft, also played two weekend games with the major midget Thompson Blazers.
JUST NOTES: Kamloops F Aspen Sterzer (undisclosed) is listed as week-to-week. . . . Blazers F Brendan Ranford will play in his 326th regular-season game tonight. That is No. 2 on the Blazers’ career list, two more than D Aaron Gionet (1998-2003). F C.J. Stretch (2005-10) is No. 1, at 341. Ranford is on track to tie that record on March 1 in Prince George and break it at home the next night with Vancouver here. Should Ranford play every game the rest of the way, he will finish at 348. . . . The Blazers are 1-0-0 against the Silvertips this season, having won 3-2 in a shootout in Everett on Oct. 30. The Blazers will visit Everett on Feb. 2, with the Silvertips returning here on Feb. 7. . . . Davidson has said he will finish this season as head coach and then look for a replacement. He didn’t replace Hartsburg, so has former defenceman Mitch Love as the lone assistant coach. . . . When the Blazers retire Scott Niedermayer’s number (28) on Friday, it will join five others in the ISC rafters – 4 (Greg Hawgood), 8 (Mark Recchi), 20 (Dean Evason), 26 (Greg Evtushevski) and 44 (Rob Brown).
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