Last weekend, the Kelowna Rockets scored only four times on 101 shots as they dropped a pair of 3-2 decisions to the Kamloops Blazers.
On Friday night, the Rockets decided to do something about that, as they scored on their first shot, just 31 seconds into the game.
But, really, the more things change . . .
The Blazers ended up scoring the game’s last three goals to beat the host Rockets 4-3 in OT at Prospera Place.
Kamloops won it when defenceman Dawson Davidson finished off a 3-on-1 break by beating goaltender Michael Herringer at 1:25 of the five-minute sudden-victory period.
“We just stuck with it tonight,” Blazers head coach Don Hay told Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier. “Kelowna came out real hard and they struck pretty quick on us. . . .
“In overtime, anybody can win, but it’s not very often you see two breakaways and no result. Then we got the 3-on-1, so it was pretty wide open. I was glad we were able to get the last shot.”
And just like that the Blazers (35-25-9) moved into third place in the B.C. Division, one point ahead of the Prince George Cougars (36-28-5), who lost 6-2 to the Royals in Victoria.
Kamloops and Prince George each has three games remaining. The Blazers are at home to the Vancouver Giants tonight; the Cougars are in Victoria again on Sunday afternoon. Then it’s Prince George at Kamloops on Friday night, with the teams wrapping up the regular season in Prince George the following evening.
As things now sit, the Blazers and Rockets would meet in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets are second in the B.C. Division, four points behind Victoria.
Of course, there are issues with the Blazers and possible home dates in the first round. However, the WHL and the Blazers aren’t likely to resolve the situation until an opponent has been decided, something that likely won’t be decided until sometime next weekend.
The WHL would prefer that the first round begin on March 25. The Blazers would play their first two home games a few days later. However, the Sandman Centre will be occupied by the IIHF Women’s World Championship, from March 28 through April 4. During that stretch, the only two dates available to the Blazers would be March 30 and April 2, both of which are believed to be too late for Games 3 and/or 4 of a first round series.
While all of that is being sorted out, the Blazers just keep on winning. They now have won a season-high six straight games, with three of those victories coming against the Rockets. Kamloops’ last four victories all have been on the road.
The Rockets broke a 1-1 tie with two second-period power-play goals, by forwards Rourke Chartier and Tomas Soustal.
The Blazers got two power-play goals of their own in the third period to force overtime, with Davidson drawing assists on
both of them. Garrett Pilon’s 16th goal, at 2:17, got Kamloops to within a goal, and Matt Revel’s 22nd, at 11:49, pulled the Blazers even.
“After we went up 3-1, we maybe let off the gas a little bit,” Chartier told Fisher. “You lose momentum in a game and it is tough to get back. They’ve been playing good hockey but, at the same time, you’ve got a 3-1 lead on a team, that’s where we’ve got to put them away.
“That’s not going to be good enough five games down the road here (in playoffs).”
Justin Kirkland had Kelowna’s other goal, while defenceman Conner McDonald got his second of the season for Kamloops.
The Blazers had two early chances in OT as centre Gage Quinney twice went in alone on Herringer, who finished with 34 saves. The goaltender stopped Quinney the first time, and Quinney shot high on the second one.
Kamloops goaltender Connor Ingram, meanwhile, was his usual stingy self as he made his 10th straight start and his 59th this season.
After giving up the early goal to open the game, Ingram stopped 16 first-period shots en route to a 40-save night. In the last three meetings between these teams, Ingram has stopped 134 of 141 shots, a .950 save percentage, as the Blazers won all three games.
“Nothing seems to rattle him,” Hay told Fisher in reference to Ingram giving up the early goal. “He just kept his composure and stayed strong, and was really solid for us like he’s been since the start of the season.
“He’s been playing really well and this hasn’t just happened, it’s been happening for quite a while now. The guys have a lot of confidence in him and he just continues to make saves.”
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 5,514. . . . The Blazers were 2-for-2 on the power play; the Rockets were 2-for-3. . . . Pilon and Revel added an assist each. . . . Pilon put up 12 points, including seen goals, in eight games against the Rockets. . . . Kamloops went 3-4-1 in the season series; Kelowna was 5-2-1. . . . The Blazers scratched G Cole Kehler, F Erik Miller, D Nolan Kneen and F Matt Campese. . . . The Rockets were without G Jackson Whistle and F Nick Merkley, neither of whom will play again this season. They also scratched D Gordie Ballhorn and F Jordan Borstmayer. . . . The Giants, who have lost eight in a row (0-7-1), won’t be in the playoffs this season. Game time tonight is 7 o’clock.
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