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WHL playoffs head back to the past

Blazers, Rockets set for Memorial Arena visit
March 28, 2016 6:44 P.M.

The WHL returns to Memorial Arena tonight (Tuesday) for the first time since the spring of 1992.
This time, it’s the Kelowna Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers in Game 3 of a first-round series. It’s even, 1-1, after the visiting Blazers got a split in Kelowna, stunning the Rockets and their fans with two goals in the final 31 seconds of a 5-4 victory on Saturday.
These two teams have met 10 times this season and nine of the games have been decided by one goal. The Rockets are 6-3-1; the Blazers are 4-5-1. However, Kamloops has won four of the last five games, including three of four in Kelowna.
Game 3 was forced to Memorial Arena because the IIHF Women’s World Championship has taken over the Sandman Centre. However, there is a gap in the women’s schedule on Wednesday, so Game 4 in the WHL series will be played in the big arena. It will return to Kelowna for Game 5 on Friday.
Tonight’s game marks the first time a WHL game will have been played in Memorial Arena since the spring of 1992.
That season, 1991-92, the Blazers went 51-17-4 (ties) to finish atop the seven-team West Division, 26 points clear of the second-place Spokane Chiefs. Kamloops’ 106 points left it atop the overall standings, four points ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders, who were 50-20-2 to win the eight-team East Division pennant.
In the first round of playoffs, the Blazers took out the Tacoma Rockets, 4-0, winning 7-0 and 8-2 in Kamloops, and 10-2 and 6-3 on the road.
In the division final, the Blazers got past the Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-2. The Blazers won 4-1 and 5-2 at home, then went to Seattle and dropped 5-2 and 4-2 decisions. The series returned to Kamloops, where the Blazers won, 4-1, with Shayne Greene earning three assists. Kamloops then wrapped up the series with an 8-1 victory in Seattle.
That set up the championship final against the Saskatoon Blades, who had finished third in the East Division, at 38-29-5. Saskatoon had to win three series to get out of the East, and it did that, beating the Lethbridge Hurricanes, 4-1; the Swift Current Broncos, 3-1, in a best-of-five round; and the Raiders, 4-2.
The final was played using a modified 2-3-2 format. The first two games were scheduled for Kamloops; if the teams split, a third game would be played here with the next three games in Saskatoon.
The series opened at Memorial Arena on April 24 with Saskatoon winning, 3-2, when Ryan Fujita scored at 4:08 of overtime before 2,780 fans.
The next night, with 2,754 fans in attendance, the Blazers won, 5-2, with Mike Mathers scoring the winning goal.
Because the teams split the first two games, Game 3 was played here, too. After a day off, the Blazers scored a 3-2 victory, with Jarrett Deuling getting the winner before 2,744 fans.
The series then shifted to Saskatoon for three games.
On April 30, Deuling scored four times, including the winner, as Kamloops won 6-3 before 10,174 fans.
Needing one victory to wrap up the championship, the Blazers lost two in a row — 5-1 and 4-3 — on May 2 and May 3, before 9,709 and 6,949 fans.
The teams then made the trek back to Kamloops for Game 7.
On May 5, Corey Hirsch stopped 22 shots and Green got the game’s first goal as the Blazers posted an 8-0 victory. Zac Boyer led the winners with three goals and two assists, while Scott Niedermayer had a goal and three assists. “It was,” Hirsch said on Sportsnet the other night, “the Scott Niedermayer show.”
The Blazers would go on to win the Memorial Cup in Seattle. There is a whole lot more on the 1992 Memorial Cup right here.
JUST NOTES: Game time tonight is 7 o’clock. . . . The Blazers have had the edge in the all-important area of special teams. Their power play is 3-for-10 — it was 3-for-7 in Saturday’s victory — while the penalty killers are 10-for-10. . . . The Blazers have sent F Jackson Shepard and D Luke Zazula, a pair of 15-year-olds, home after they skated with the team for a week. Shepard, from West Vancouver, played with the major midget Vancouver-Northwest Giants, while Zazula, who is from Langley, helped the Delta Hockey Academy midget prep team win the Canadian Sport School Hockey League championship this season.

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