The Kamloops Blazers refused to lose Saturday night at Prospera Place in Kelowna.
Trailing 4-3 with 31 seconds left in the third period, the Blazers got goals from left-winger Collin Shirley and defenceman Ryan Rehill to beat the defending-
champion Kelowna Rockets, 5-4.
The victory allowed the Blazers to tie the best-of-seven first-round WHL playoff series, 1-1. The host Rockets had won 3-2 on Friday night.
Games 3 and 4 will be played in Kamloops, the former in Memorial Arena and the latter in the Sandman Centre, on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
Including regular-season games, the Blazers now have won four of the last five meetings with the Rockets, including three in Kelowna.
Last night, the Rockets appeared to be in good shape when forward Tomas Soustal was credited with a goal at 14:33 of the third period that gave the home side a 4-3 lead. Soustal’s backhander was stopped by goaltender Connor Ingram, but the rebound struck a defender and ended up in the net. The goal came five seconds after the expiration of a kneeing penalty to Kamloops captain Matt Needham.
Then, with Ingram on the bench for an extra attacker, Shirley pulled the Blazers even when he put a rebound behind Kelowna goaltender Michael Herringer with 30.5 seconds showing on the clock.
The teams were 4.8 seconds from going into overtime when Rehill pounded a shot from between the circles that got past
Herringer for the game-winner.
“I definitely didn’t think (the puck) was going to get to me, there was a lot of sticks for it to go through. Fortunately enough, it did, and I was able to get it through to the net, and I think it went off one of their guys’ shinpads and in,” Rehill told Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier.
“It was a huge goal for us — for the team. “It was good for the guys to regain that confidence after a tough game (Friday) night.”
Soustal had two goals in this one, his first coming just 25 seconds into the game on the redirection of a shot by Rourke Chartier.
Rehill tied it with a power-play goal at 18:19 as he scored on, yes, another shot from the point.
Chartier broke the tie when he beat Ingram on a breakaway at 2:29 of the second period and the Rockets took a two-goal lead on Rodney Southam’s shorthanded goal at 9:37.
The Blazers equalized on a pair of third-period power-play goals — they were 3-for-7 with the man advantage — from centre Garrett Pilon at 6:53 and defenceman Dawson Davidson at 10:15.
Moments before Pilon’s goal, Ingram stole a goal from Kelowna’s Dillon Dube. Then, just after Pilon’s goal, Dube found himself alone in the slot, only to fire the puck over the net.
“I think that was the turning point of the game, and of the period for sure,” Rehill told Fisher, referring to Ingram’s save on Dube.
Southam, the Rockets’ captain, said it’s a game he and his teammates will just have to forget about as they look to Game 3.
“It takes a lot out of us . . . especially when you can take a good lead, 2-0 (in the series),” Southam said. “But it happens, and that’s a big part of hockey, you’ve got to forget.
“That happened, it’s done with, and we’re going to look forward. We’re looking forward to Tuesday’s game already.”
Kelowna head coach Brad Ralph added: “I thought we played well tonight, certainly deserving of a win, but it just didn’t unfold that way. When you’re leading the game with 36 seconds to go and you end up losing in regulation, it’s a tough one to swallow.”
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 5,629. . . . The Rockets were 0-for-5 on the power play. . . . Ingram finished with 40 saves, one more than Herringer. . . . Nine of 10 games between these teams this season have been decided by one goal. The Rockets are 6-3-1; the Blazers are 4-5-1. . . . Needham and F Gage Quinney each had two assists for Kamloops. . . . Neither team made any lineup changes from Game 1. . . . The Blazers scratched G Cole Kehler, D Luke Zazula, F Jackson Shepard, F Erik Miller, F Spencer Bast and D Conner McDonald. . . . The Rockets went without G Jackson Whistle (hip), F Nick Merkley (knee), F Tate Coughlin, F Conner Bruggen-Cate and D Braydyn Chizen. . . . Game 5 will be played in Kelowna on Friday. . . .
Shirley’s sister, Grace, scored at 4:08 of OT last night to give the Saskatoon Stars a 4-3 victory over the host Swift Current Wildcats in Game 4 of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League’s championship series. The Stars won the series, 3-1, and now have won the Fedoruk Cup in back-to-back seasons.
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