The Kamloops Blazers scored two goals in 28 seconds on the same third-period penalty kill en route to a 5-1 victory over the visiting Kelowna Rockets in the seventh tiebreaker game in WHL history on Tuesday night. . . . With the victory, the Blazers move into the playoffs. They will open against the Royals in Victoria on Friday. . . . Last night was only the second time in the seven tiebreakers that the home team has won. . . .
Kamloops had taken a 2-1 lead in the third period when Blazers F Ryley Appelt was penalized for tripping at 8:16. . . . F Connor Zary got an early jump off the Kamloops bench during a change, allowing him to get to the back of the Kelowna net in a hurry. He stripped the puck from G Roman Basran, came out the back side and stuffed it home for a 3-1 lead at 8:44. . . . A short time later, Kamloops F Brodi Stuart avoided an attempt by Basran to get a hip into him behind the net, skated out and scored for a 4-1 lead at 10:12. . . . The Rockets, whose offence pretty much dried up late in the season, weren’t able to get back in this one. . . . F Jermaine Loewen got the Blazers’ last goal, into an empty net. . . .
The Blazers dominated the first period, especially the first 12 or 13 minutes, and held a 17-7 edge in shots. Only Kelowna G Roman Basran, a post and a crossbar kept the Blazers off the scoreboard. . . . Kamloops D Jackson Caller drilled a post from the point at 9:00; F Connory Zary glanced a bad-angle flip off the crossbar two minutes later. . . . Kamloops G Dylan Garand had his moments later, especially stoning F Alex Swetlikoff from the doorstep. . . .
Kelowna pushed back in the second, but Kamloops got the game’s first goal at 4:11, just six seconds after Rockets F Dallon Wilton was penalized for interference for a hit on D Jeff Faith. Zary pulled the face-off win back to F Kyrell Sopotyk on the point. He ripped a wrist shot past Basran’s blocker, off a post and in. . . . The officials went to video review at 7:38 after the Blazers crashed the Kelowna net, but whatever had happened was ruled no goal. . . . The Rockets tied it at 7:56 when D Kaedan Korczak got to a shoot-in along the right boards, and slipped a pass to F Mark Liwiski. His quick backhand seemed to surprise Garand and got past him for the equalizer. . . . The Blazers thought they might have scored at 13:14 when the puck bounced off the back boards, over top of the net and into the Kelowna crease area. However, it was ruled that Kamloops F Logan Stankoven had come in contact with the puck with a high stick. . . . Kelowna got its first PP at 15:26 after Faith was hit with an interference penalty for a hit on F Nolan Foote. Other than Foote hitting a post early, the Rockets really didn’t threaten. . . . Kelowna outshot Kamloops, 13-7, in that period. . . .
The Blazers broke the 1-1 tie at 6:10 of the third period when Kelowna D Dalton Gally went down early in an attempt to cut off a pass, only to have Blazers F Kobe Mohr toedrag around him and snap a shot past Basran from the high slot. . . . Then came Zary’s shorthanded goal, followed by a Mohr penalty shot on which Basran was able to get his five-hole closed in time to prevent a goal. . . . It was left for Stuart to get his shorthanded goal and for Loewen to add the empty-netter. . . .
Garand, a 16-year-old freshman from Victoria, made his seventh straight start in the absence of the injured Dylan Ferguson. The Blazers are 6-0-1 over that stretch. . . . Garand finished with 27 saves in this one. . . . Ferguson skated with the Blazers on Monday, but wasn’t dressed last night. The burning question in Kamloops until Friday night will be this: Does Garand get to start his first playoff game in his hometown if Ferguson is healthy? . . . G Danton Belluk, whose WHL rights belong to the Everett Silvertips, remains with the Blazers on an emergency basis. He backed up Garand last night. . . .
Basran, who kept the Rockets from getting blown out in the first period, self-destructed in the third when he gave up the two shorthanded goals. He was beaten four times on 34 shots in 50:12. James Porter came on to finish up after the Blazers’ fourth goal. He stopped all five shots he faced. . . .
As expected, each team added a first-round 2018 bantam draft pick to its lineup. Stankoven, who won the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League scoring title with the Kamloops-based Thompson Blazers, was in the Kamloops lineup. F Trevor Wong, from the major midget Greater Vancouver Canadians, played for the Rockets. . . . Stankoven was the fifth-overall pick in that draft; Wong was taken with the 18th selection. . . .
Attendance was announced at 5,876, and there weren’t many empty seats. It was the Blazers’ second announced sellout of the season. On Feb. 18, the Blazers beat the visiting Tri-City Americans, 3-1, on Family Day. The announced crowed that day also was 5,876, but there were about 1,000 empty seats. . . .
While the Blazers head for Victoria, the Rockets’ season has ended. This means that the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup won’t appear in this spring’s playoffs. . . . The Rockets fired head coach Jason Smith after a 4-10-0 start. They hired Adam Foote to replace him and went 24-22-8, plus last night’s loss, with him in control. . . .
The WHL’s draft lottery is scheduled to be held today (Wednesday). As one of six non-playoff teams, the Rockets will be participants. The six lottery teams, with regular-season points in parenthesis, are the Swift Current Broncos (28), Winnipeg Ice (36), Regina Pats (42), Prince George Cougars (46), Kelowna Rockets (64) and Brandon Wheat Kings (70). . . . A team is able to move up only two spots in the lottery, so one of those first three teams will own the first pick. However, the Cougars hold Swift Current’s selection, and the Saskatoon Blades own Regina’s pick. . . . When the draft is held on May 2 in Red Deer, the Blazers will hold the seventh selection.
There have been seven tiebreakers in WHL history . . .
2018-19: Kelowna 1 at Kamloops 5.
2015-16: Edmonton Oil Kings 6 at Medicine Hat Tigers 4.
2013-14: Prince Albert Raiders 5 at Red Deer Rebels 3.
2008-09: Edmonton Oil Kings 2 at Prince Albert Raiders 1 (OT).
1989-90: Brandon Wheat Kings 4 at Swift Current Broncos 5.
1983-84: Calgary Wranglers 8 at Saskatoon Blades 7 (OT).
1980-81: Spokane Flyers 10 at New Westminster Bruins 9 (OT).
You may recall that on Feb. 15 the OHL announced that the Niagara IceDogs had been fined $250,000 and also had two first-round draft picks taken away for recruiting violations. . . . Rick Westhead of TSN reported Tuesday that all of this had to do with a player emailing David Branch, the OHL commissioner, to say that the IceDogs had promised to pay him $10,000 for each season he played with them, and then reneged on the deal. . . . As Westhead reported: “A law firm hired by the Ontario Hockey League concluded that the Niagara IceDogs breached the league’s player recruitment rules by entering into a secret ‘side deal’ with a former player, according to a court decision obtained by TSN.” . . . Westhead’s story is right here.
The Prince George Cougars have signed D Ethan Samson to a WHL contract. He was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From North Delta, B.C., he played this season with the Delta Hockey Academy’s Elite 15 team. In 33 games, he had seven goals and 17 assists.
The Brandon Wheat Kings have signed D Logen Hammett to a WHL contract. From Regina, Hammett will turn 16 on April 3. This season, with the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians, he had four goals and 19 assists in 40 games. The Wheat Kings selected him in the fifth round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.
F Rieger Lorenz, a likely first-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he has committed to the U of Denver Pioneers. Lorenz, who will turn 15 on March 30, is from Calgary. He had 11 goals and 25 assists in 30 games with the Edge School’s bantam prep team this season. . . . Lorenz is the fourth high-end bantam draft prospect to announce a commitment to the NCAA route in the last while, following F Matt Savoie (Denver), D Mats Lindgren (Michigan) and F Connor Levis (Michigan).
F Tanner Nagel, who finished up his WHL career with the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday, made his pro debut on Tuesday night with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies. . . . Nagel was pointless in a 4-3 loss to the visiting Rapid City Rush. . . . With the Broncos, Nagel had 13 goals and 10 assists in 65 games.