The Victoria Salmon Kings have played three three-game sets to start the ECHL season, winning one game in each and dropping two in each. Even remedial math tells you that is not a healthy pattern to get locked into. Percentages of .333 are good for batters in baseball, not so much for hockey teams with any aspirations of greatness.
Slow starts, however, have become the hallmark during four of the five seasons in Salmon Kings franchise history, with the exception of last season. The club couldn't recover in their first two seasons and missed the playoffs but rallied from a poor start two seasons ago. What will it be this season?
The Salmon Kings now have three games on the road to try and find answers to that question after falling to 3-6 following yesterday's 4-3 loss to the Utah Grizzlies before 4,354 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
"We'll win our fair share of games but we need consistency of effort with everybody going, not just 12-13-14 guys," said Salmon Kings GM and head coach Mark Morrison.
"I was satisfied with the effort and thought we battled hard but that we had a couple of passengers."
An appallingly bad clearing effort by forward Dan Gendur gifted Utah a 2-1 lead on a goal by Dennis Packard at 13:37 of the second period. It really hurt because it came after the Salmon Kings had persevered to tie the game 1-1 on Olivier Labelle's seventh goal of the season at 12:06 of the second period.
Defenceman Matt Kelly helped Victoria overcome that miscue with a power play goal at 2:42 of the third period. But it was Utah that seemed to draw the most inspiration and momentum from that tying goal as they took it to the Salmon Kings in the ensuing few minutes with the pressure paying off through goals by Tom May and Tim Verbeek.
"We have to be the ones responding [in that situation], not them," lamented Morrison.
Victoria captain Wes Goldie concurred.
"We have one good shift and then don't build on it," noted Goldie.
"We are content to stay monotone. We haven't been able to put together 2-3-4 good shifts in a row. We keep letting in untimely goals on tap ins and such. Those seem to be a lot easier to come by for the opposition."
The game was done at 4-2. Last season's Salmon Kings team was capable of snatching victory from a two-goal third-period deficit and did on several occasions. But this isn't last season's team. Far from it.
Chris St. Jacques got one back for Victoria on a two-man power play with 45 seconds remaining but it was too little and too late.
Meanwhile, the league will definitely have a look at Utah forward Evan Kotsopoulos' kick, who cut Victoria forward Sean O'Connor across the cheek while both were scrambling on the ice in the second period. A justifiably incensed O'Connor gave Kotsopoulos a pummeling. In a questionable bit of officiating, referee Geno Binda gave both playersc five-minute penalties and game misconducts, leaving Victoria coaches, players and fans wondering how Utah got away without any disadvantage after one its players kicked a Salmon King.