The Kamloops Blazers are trying to venture where no WHL team has gone.
The Blazers were in Victoria on Saturday night, where they dropped a 6-3 decision to the Royals, who now hold a 3-2 lead the best-of-seven first-round series.
The Blazers are in the playoffs because they beat the Kelowna Rockets, 5-1, in a tiebreaker in Kamloops on March 19.
That was the seventh tiebreaker in WHL history. No team advancing from a tiebreaker into the playoffs has ever gone on to win three games. In fact, before this season, the six teams that moved into the playoffs by winning tiebreakers combined to win three games — two by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the spring of 2014, and one by the Swift Current Broncos in 1990.
Here’s a look. . . .
In the spring of 1981, the Spokane Flyers made it into the playoffs with a 10-9 victory, in OT, over the New Westminster Bruins. The game was played in Trail, B.C., because of a labour dispute at Queen’s Park Arena, the home of the Bruins. The Flyers moved into the first round, only to be swept from a best-of-seven series by the Victoria Cougars.
The Calgary Wranglers got into the playoffs in 1984 by going into Saskatoon and beating the Blades, 8-7 in OT. The Wranglers promptly were swept from a best-of-seven series by the Regina Pats.
In 1990, the Swift Current got past the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings, 5-4, in a tiebreaker. Regina then took out Swift Current, winning a best-of-five series, 3-1.
The Oil Kings advanced in 2009 by beating the Raiders, 2-1 in OT, in Prince Albert. The Calgary Hitmen then swept the Oil Kings from a best-of-seven series.
The Raiders were back in a tiebreaker in 2014, this team beating the host Red Deer Rebels, 5-3. Edmonton then took out the Raiders, 4-0, in a first-round series.
In 2016, the Oil Kings skated out of Medicine Hat with a 6-4 victory over the Tigers. The Oil Kings then lost a first-round series to Brandon, 4-2.
Let’s not forget, too, that a case can be made for the Blazers getting into the tiebreaker because of a loser point.
On March 15, the host Blazers were trailing the Prince George Cougars, 4-2, with fewer than seven minutes left in the third period. F Kyrell Sopotyk scored on a PP to get Kamloops to within a goal.
Then, at 19:04, F Connor Zary dove after a loose puck in the Prince George crease and knocked it into the net to tie the game and force OT. The Cougars won the game on a goal by F Vladislav Mikhalchuk, but it was the loser point that arrived on Zary’s stick that got the Blazers into a tie with Kelowna and ultimately forced the tiebreaker game.
And now the Blazers find themselves two victories away from a berth in the second round of the playoffs. They can get there by beating the Royals in Game 6 in Kamloops on Monday night, and again in Game 7 in Victoria on Wednesday.
D Matthew Stanley, who played out his junior eligibility with the Swift Current Broncos this season, has signed with the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen. . . . In 180 regular-season WHL games — 145 with the Broncos and 35 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes — Stanley had five goals and 13 assists.
NOTES: There will be two Battles of Alberta in the WHL playoffs today as the Lethbridge Hurricanes meet the Hitmen in Calgary, and the Edmonton Oil Kings visit the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Last night, in Lethbridge, the Hitmen beat the Hurricanes, 6-5, to take a 3-2 lead. . . . The Oil Kings hold a 3-2 edge on the Tigers. . . .
Three of the series in the Western Conference ended last night. The Vancouver Giants beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, 5-1, in Kent, Wash., to win that series, 4-2. . . . The Giants will open the second round at home on Friday against either the Kamloops Blazers or Victoria Royals. Victoria leads that series, 3-2, after a 6-3 home-ice victory last night. They’ll play Game 6 in Kamloops on Monday. . . .
The Everett Silvertips dumped the visiting Tri-City Americans, 9-1, to win that series, 4-1, while the host Spokane Chiefs were beating the Portland Winterhawks, 4-1. Spokane won that series, 4-1. . . . Everett, which finished atop the U.S. Division, set a single-game franchise playoff records for goals. It will face the second-place Chiefs in the next round with that series opening in Everett on April 6 and 7. . . . With the Cirque du Soleil in Everett for an April run, this series will follow a 2-3-2 format. . . .
Home teams now are 21-18 in the first round. . . . F Bryce Kindopp of Everett and F Davis Koch of Vancouver lead the playoff scoring race, each with nine points. . . . Kindopp put up five goals and four assists against Tri-City; Koch had a goal and a league-leading eight assists against Seattle. . . . Vancouver F Jadon Joseph leads the league in goals, with six.
F Mark Kastelic, back from a two-game absence that was due to a brain injury, scored twice and added an assist to lead the Calgary Hitmen to a 6-5 victory over the host Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Hitmen lead the series, 3-2, with Game 6 scheduled for today in Calgary. If needed, Game 7 will be played in Lethbridge on Tuesday. . . . With the world men’s curling championship in the Enmax Centre, the Hurricanes have moved home games to the Nicholas Sheran Arena, the home of the U of Lethbridge Pronghorn women’s and men’s teams. . . . The Hitmen got out to a 2-0 first-period lead on PP goals from F Luke Coleman (3), at 7:05, and Kastelic (2), at 16:18. . . . F Jordy Bellerive (1) scored for Lethbridge at 17:11, but F Josh Prokop (3) got that one back for Calgary 36 seconds into the second period. . . . F Jake Leschyshyn (4) pulled the Hurricanes back to within one at 2:59, only to have D Vladislav Yeryomenko (2) restore Calgary’s two-goal lead at 4:45. . . . The Hurricanes did get even on PP goals from F Nick Henry, at 8:44, and F Logan Barlage (2), at 12:04, but Calgary got two goals before the period ended — from F Cael Zimmerman (1), at 17:51, and Kastelic (3), at 19:36. . . . Leschyshyn (5) added another PP goal, at 15:31 of the third period, but the Hurricanes weren’t able to get one more. . . . The Hitmen got three assists from D Dakota Krebs. . . . Bellerive added two assists to his goal, and D Caden Addison had three assists. . . . Lethbridge was 3-8 on the PP; Calgary was 2-4. . . . G Jack McNaughton stopped 29 shots for the Hitmen. . . . Lethbridge starter Carl Tetachuk surrendered four goals on 24 shots in 24:45, before Bryan Thomson came on to finish the second period. He was beaten twice on six shots. Tetachuk came back for the third period and stopped all 12 shots he faced.
F Bryce Kindopp scored three times and added an assist as the host Everett Silvertips dumped the Tri-City Americans, 9-1. . . . The Silvertips won the series, 4-1, and will meet the Spokane Chiefs in the second round. The Chiefs eliminated the Portland Winterhawks last night. . . . The Chiefs and Silvertips will open in Everett with games on April 6 and 7. . . . Everett took control of this one with three goals in the second half of the first period. . . . Kindopp (3) got it started at 11:59; F Zack Andrusiak (3) made it 2-0, on a PP, at 15:15; and F Martin Fasko-Rudas (4) upped it to 3-0 at 18:53. . . . The Silvertips went on to build up an 8-0 lead as Kindopp added two more goals, Andrusiak added another, and F Connor Dewar (3) and F Gage Goncalves (2) added one each. . . . After F Kyle Olson (1) scored, on a PP, for Tri-City, D Ronan Seeley (1) closed out Everett’s scoring. . . . Dewar added three assists and Goncalves had two. . . . Tri-City was 1-2 on the PP; Everett was 1-4.
F Jadon Joseph scored twice to help the Vancouver Giants to a 5-1 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash. . . . The Giants, who won 3-2 in Langley, B.C., on Friday, took the series, 4-2. It was the franchise’s first series victory since 2010. . . . Vancouver will meet the winner of the series between the Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals in the next round. That series is to open in Langley on Friday. . . . D Bowen Byram (3) gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 11:01 of the first period. . . . F Jared Dmytriw (1) made it 2-0, shorthanded, at 7:14. . . . Joseph, who scored six goals in the series, upped the lead to 4-0 by scoring at 15:08 and 18:13 of the second period, the latter on a PP. . . . F Tristen Nielsen (2) got Vancouver’s fifth goal at 2:40 of the third period. Nielsen also was awarded a penalty shot in the second period. No, he didn’t score. . . . F Andrej Kukuca (4) scored for Seattle at 15:32. . . . Vancouver was 1-3 on the PP; Seattle was 0-5. . . . The Giants got 33 saves from G David Tendeck, including 13 in the third period when Seattle held a 14-3 edge in shots. . . . G Roddy Ross stopped 28 shots for the Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle had D Cade McNelly back after he served a two-game suspension. F Sean Richards, who has been suspended indefinitely, missed his second game. . . . The Giants continue to play without F Aidan Barfoot and F Justin Sourdif, both of whom were injured during this series.
F Phillip Schultz scored three times to lead the Victoria Royals to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Kamloops Blazers. . . . The Royals lead the series, 3-2, with Game 6 in Kamloops on Monday. If needed, Game 7 would be played in Victoria on Wednesday. . . . F D-Jay Jerome (1), who hadn’t played regularly in the series until the last two periods of Game 5, gave Victoria a 1-0 lead at 1:27 of the first period. . . . Kamloops tied it at 13:54 on a goal by F Ryley Appelt (1). . . . The Royals followed that with three straight goals. . . . Schultz (1) scored, on a PP, at 17:42. . . . D Noah Lamb’s first WHL goal made it 3-1 at 6:36 of the second period. . . . Schultz (2) made it 4-1 at 15:30. . . . F Logan Stankoven’s first WHL goal got the Blazers to within two goals at 10:48, but Victoria F Tanner Sidaway (1) got an empty-netter at 18:07. . . . Kamloops F Jermaine Loewen (3) scored at 18:31, and Schultz completed his hat trick with an empty-netter at 19:20. . . . G Griffen Outhouse stopped 27 shots for Victoria. . . . Kamloops starter Dylan Ferguson was beaten four times on 14 shots in 35:30. He was relieved by Dylan Garand, who stopped all nine shots he faced. . . . Victoria was 1-2 on the PP; Kamloops was 0-3. . . . The Blazers had access to their complete roster for the first time in this series with F Brodi Stuart back from a one-game suspension. . . . D Matt Smith, who was hurt on a hit by Stuart in Game 3, was scratched again. . . . The Royals were without F Kody McDonald, who has been suspended indefinitely. . . . Victoria had D Mitchell Prowse in the lineup for the first time since Game 1, and F Alex Bolshakov made his playoff debut. A fourth-round selection in the 2017 bantam draft, Bolshakov is from Seattle and played the past two seasons with the U16 Everett Jr. Silvertips. He was pointless in five regular-season games with the Royals.
F Luke Toporowski scored two first-period goals to get the Spokane Chiefs started towards a 4-1 victory over the visiting Portland Winterhawks. . . . The Chiefs won the series, 4-1. . . . Spokane will meet the Everett Silvertips in the second round. They’ll open in Everett on April 6 and 7, then play in Spokane on April 10 and 12. . . . F Cody Glass (knee) returned to Portland’s lineup after last having played on Feb. 23, and he opened the scoring, while shorthanded, at 4:04 of the first period. . . . Toporowski, now with four goals in these playoffs, erased Portland’s lead with goals at 4:52, on a PP, at 17:52. . . . F Riley Woods added insurance for the Chiefs with his third and fourth goals of the series at 1:28 and 3:13 of the third period. . . . Spokane was 1-2 on the PP and finished with six goals in 11 opportunities in the five games. . . . Portland was 0-4. . . . The Chiefs got 38 saves from G Bailey Brkin. . . . G Joel Hofer stopped 31 shots for Portland. . . . Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ GM and head coach, had been 6-0 in first-round series in his WHL career.