The Kamloops Blazers’ 2015-16 season ended in the most painful way imaginable — on an overtime goal in Game 7.
Tomas Soustal scored off a rebound at 7:07 of sudden-victory overtime on Monday night, giving the host Kelowna Rockets a 2-1 victory over the Blazers at Prospera Place.
In the end, the form chart held true — the Rockets won all four of the odd-numbered games; the Blazers won the three
even-numbered contests, including a 4-0 shutout at home on Saturday night to force Game 7.
The Rockets will open the second round against the Royals in Victoria with games on Thursday and Saturday nights. The Royals (50-16-6) finished atop the WHL’s overall standings, while the Rockets (48-20-4) were third.
The play that led to the winner started when defenceman Gordie Ballhorn directed the puck towards the Kamloops net from above the left circle. Soustal got to the net off the right wing and slapped home the rebound to end the series.
Soustal, a sophomore from Czech Republic, celebrated his third goal of the series by sliding on his belly from one blue line to the other.
“I tell guys in the room, whoever scores has to do something too much crazy,” Soustal told Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier. “It’s Game 7, like do-or-die . . . we put everything on the line and it paid off.
“It was an awesome feeling.”
The Rockets had taken a 1-0 lead when forward Justin Kirkland scored off a Tyson Baillie rebound at 3:37 of the first period.
The Blazers tied it at 17:03 of the second period when centre Nick Chyzowski scored his first goal of the series on a power-play scramble in goaltender Michael Herringer’s crease.
Herringer, who had been yanked from Game 6 after surrendering three goals, came up with 24 saves, including three in overtime.
Connor Ingram of the Blazers, so stellar throughout this series, finished with 32 saves, four of them in OT.
JUST NOTES: The announced attendance was 5,371. . . . The Blazers were 1-for-2 on the PP, to finish 6-for-27 in the seven games. The Rockets were 0-for-1 and wound up 2-for-26. . . . The Blazers scratched G Cole Kehler, F Erik Miller, F Matt Campese and D Conner McDonald. . . . The Rockets scratched F Tate Coughlin, G Jackson Whistle (hip), F Nick Merkley (knee), F Conner Bruggen-Cate and D Braydyn Chizen. . . . Two veteran defencemen, both of whom were injured in Game 6, played in Game 7. Kelowna’s Devante Stephens appeared to injure his left arm at 4:40 of the first period when he tried to stop an onrushing Deven Sideroff in the Rockets’ zone. The Blazers lost Dallas Valentine 51 seconds into the third period when he went down in the neutral zone with what appeared to be a leg injury. Both were able to answer the bell for Game 7, though.
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