(1090 The Fan) — Seattle’s newest player may just be its biggest fan.
Having come from a team in the bottom tier of the WHL Western Conference standings, goaltender Taran Kozun can appreciate the difference between a winner and a loser. With its 2-1 win over Everett, Friday, Seattle has now won 10 of its last 11 games.
A major key to that equation is Kozun himself. The former Kamloops goalie improved to 7-0 in his tenure with the T-Birds with Friday’s win. In his seven starts, Kozun has posted a .956 save percentage while yielding a mere 1.25 goals a game on average.
In doing so, Kozun seems to have locked down the job as Seattle’s starting goaltender and earned the confidence of his teammates and head coach.
“He sure seems to,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after Friday’s win. “He has a confidence there. He plays the puck well…The guys really seem to have a lot of belief in him, he carries himself like a number one goalie. He’s been good.”
How has Kozun’s play benefited his teammates?
“It gives confidence,” agreed Konowalchuk. “But also knowing there is going to be some mistakes and he’s got your back so you can loosen up a little bit, not grip those sticks so tight, and play hockey.”
A confident Thunderbirds team could be in the the right position — playing its best hockey potentially heading into the tournament just weeks away.
“I know the guys are excited, we’re putting ourselves in position. We definitely want to battle for that home ice (advantage) in the first round and Portland isn’t out of our sights,” said Konowalchuk. “We have a goal and we believe we can do it.”
Of course, Seattle will face some stiff competition. The Thunderbirds currently rank among the top five teams in the WHL by points. Kelowna, a team it just beat last week at home, leads the league with 85 points. Portland is another rival. The Winterhawks hold the U.S. Division lead with 75 points, six more than the T-Birds’ 69.
Kozun, though, thinks his new team is the one to beat.
“I think we have a really good contender for the Memorial Cup,” Kozun said. “I think we can go far. If a team has to play us seven games, I don’t think they can keep up with us. We have just the size and the grit and the offensive ability.
“It’s really ours to lose, I think.”
Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless of who the favorite may be, Seattle is sure going to put up a fight for it.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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