If the Kamloops Blazers didn’t end the Vancouver Giants playoff dreams on Friday night, they surely did one night later.
The Blazers, who blanked the host Giants 5-0 on Friday, erased a 2-0 deficit last night at the Sandman Centre and beat Vancouver, 4-3 in overtime.
The Giants had gone into Friday’s game eight points out of a playoff spot — the Blazers and Portland Winterhawks were tied for the Western Conference’s two wild-card berths.
Well, the Giants (21-29-7) woke up Sunday morning and found themselves nine points back with 15 games left in their regular season. At this stage of the season, a team in the Giants’ situation can’t afford to be back-pedalling.
The Blazers (26-22-8), meanwhile, now hold down the first of those wild-card spots, one point ahead of Portland
(28-256-2), which dropped a 6-5 OT decision to the host Seattle Thunderbirds last night.
The Blazers, who have won three in a row, won this one when centre Gage Quinney was presented with a gaping net at 2:34 of extra time. He didn’t miss with what was his 23rd goal of the season.
The goal was the product of good work by winger Jake Kryski, who drove hard down the right wing, beat Giants forward Trevor Cox and pulled goaltender Ryan Kubic to the side before putting the puck on Quinney’s tape.
Earlier, at 3:17 of the third period, Kryski had broken a 2-2 tie with his 10th goal, on a power play, when he beat Kubic with the rebound of a Garrett Pilon shot.
“I thought our power play was good,” said Don Hay, who celebrated his 62nd birthday with his 198th victory as the Blazers’ head coach. “Kryski’s goal was a key goal for us.”
The goal and the assist on the winner signalled one of Kryski’s best WHL games.
“Jake was good tonight,” Hay said of the 17-year-old sophomore from Vancouver. “He tries to beat people with his hands a lot; today he was beating people with his feet.
“He did real good things with the puck; he was real responsible. When you make good decisions and make good plays with the puck, good things happen.”
That wasn’t the case with the Blazers in the first period as the visitors jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Right-winger David Brumm opened the scoring at 14:13 as he finished off a 2-on-1 break for his fifth goal. Right-winger Alec Baer upped that to 2-0 with a power-play goal at 15:40. He came open in the slot and beat goaltender Connor Ingram with a 20-footer.
The Blazers got life from right-winger Deven Sideroff late in the period. He scored his 17th goal when Vancouver defenceman Tyler Brown couldn’t corral a loose puck beside Kubic at 18:15.
Kamloops finally pulled into a tie at 15:25 of the second period, with left-winger Collin Shirley scoring his 31st goal. The play began with Ingram making a great toe save and the Blazers breaking out of their zone. Shirley finished the play by sifting a backhander through Kubic.
Kryski, of course, gave the home side a 3-2 lead but that didn’t stand up for even six minutes. The Giants went on their sixth power play at 8:17 and centre Ty Ronning scored from 12 feet out in the slot to forge the tie.
Vancouver later got its seventh power play, but this time the Blazers shut it down.
“The penalty kill was pretty good . . . I didn’t like so many penalties,” Hay said. “It’s not very often that we take seven penalties. Vancouver has a good power play. They really find the guy in the slot and we didn’t do a very good job of checking that guy.”
On this night, though, Hay will take the penalties, five of which were for tripping, and the two points.
“I thought we really stuck with it,” he said. “Any time you get down 2-0 and you find a way to come out with two points, it shows that we did the right things. We stayed with it. We got a couple power-play goals at critical times and we found a way to win it in overtime. We haven’t had a lot of success in overtime so it was good to see the guys get rewarded.”
The Blazers now are 3-5 in extra time; the Giants are 4-5.
And, of course, the Blazers got another solid game from Ingram, who looks incredibly comfortable these days.
“Ingram was good again,” Hay said of his goaltender, who stopped 35 shots. “He just keeps on playing and keeps on playing well.”
Kubic finished with 32 saves.
“We had lots of chances,” Lorne Molleken, the Giants’ head coach, said. “But that has kind of been the story of our season.”
The Blazers will next play on Wednesday when they entertain the Red Deer Rebels, who will be host team for the 2016 Memorial Cup tournament. The Rebels (35-18-3), who are second in the Central Division and third in the Eastern Conference, lost starting goaltender Rylan Toth to what is believed to be a high ankle sprain during a 5-2 loss to the visiting Tri-City Americans last night.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,717. . . . The Blazers were 2-for-3 on the power play; the Giants were 2-for-7. . . . Pilon and D Ryan Rehill each had two assists. . . . The Blazers scratched D Nolan Kneen (knee), F Erik Miller and F Jiri Smejkal. . . . Smejkal was a healthy scratch after recording only four assists in 14 games since being acquired from the Moose Jaw Warriors for D Patrik Maier on Jan. 10. . . . The Giants are still without F Thomas Foster and F Tyler Benson. . . . Three of the five games between the Blazers and Giants have gone to OT and been decided by 4-3 scores. Vancouver won the first two of those. . . . The Blazers are 3-0-2 in the season series; the Giants are 2-2-1. . . . Kamloops is in Vancouver on Feb. 21, with the Giants back here on Feb. 27. . . . The on-ice officials had linesman Ryan Dawson, who is from Kamloops, handle the game’s opening faceoff. This was his last game, as he is off to a career with the RCMP.
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