Another chapter in the long history of the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets has been written. This time, Kamloops was able to overcome their Okanagan foe by scoring four goals in the third period en route to an impressive 5-1 victory
It feels fricken amazing.
– Jermaine Loewen when asked about how it feels to get over on Kelowna
5876 fans strong at the Sandman Centre cheered the Blazers as they came out to Queen’s ‘One Vision’. One vision, a fitting slogan for this Kamloops team that truly has had one vision over the last two weeks. Eliminating a seven point deficit doesn’t come easy, and neither did this game.
Kamloops hit the ice firing everything they had at the Rockets goaltender Roman Basran but he stood tall making 17 saves in the first frame. Along with several other point blank chances, the closest the Blazers came to solving Basran was when Jackson Caller hit the post about mid way through the period
Kelowna did have a few sustained chances in the offensive zone but only mustered seven shots and make no mistake about it, the period was owned by the home team.
“We had a really good first period… we used the energy of the fans to really get ourselves going.”
The packed house was rocking at every whistle, cheering every hit and ‘ohh’ing every chance.
Kelowna, as expected, came on strong to start the second period. They controlled most of the first five minutes until Dallon Wilton took a penalty when he hit Jeff Faith late.
On the ensuing man advantage, Kyrell Sopotyk did it all himself deking past a Rocket defender and ripping a wrister passed Basran to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
Later, it looked like Kamloops had extended their lead on a odd-man rush but that was negated by a quick review by the fact the puck never actually entered the net.
Not 20 seconds after the puck dropped the Rockets finally beat Dylan Garand. Mark Liwiski slipped one through the 16-year-old’s five hole knotting the game at one.
From this point on the period turned, Kamloops really started to control the play including a Connor Zary chance that went wanting off the crossbar.
The two teams retired to their dressing rooms just like their regular season record, all knotted up.
Heading into the third period there was certainly some trepidation climbing into the sold out building, but not the home team. Captain Jermaine Loewen talked about using the fans to their advantage.
”This was intense. The fans were loud, they got some chants going. I could feel it as I went up the ice. I’m always going to remember how hard we grinded. We forced them to make mistakes.”
Early in the period whatever nerves were left in the building turned to excitement when veteran Kobe Mohr cut into the middle and snuck a shot top corner last Basran.
Kamloops knew they needed to build on their lead and they did just that. Scoring not once, but twice on a single penalty kill.
Both goals were a result of putting up ice pressure on Basran causing him to make turnovers.
First, Connor Zary stole the puck from the Rocket’s netminder, then not two minutes later Brodi Stuart scored on a very similar play.
The pressure on Basran is something Head Coach Serge Lajoie said they didn’t practice specifically, but is just a result of following the game plan.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of two shorthanded goals on the same penalty. The only thing we wanted, we told the guys if we had a chance to get down-ice pressure then absolutely. Our concept is, we want to put pressure on the goaltender if he’s going to handle the puck.”
Blazers captain Jermaine Loewen capped a four goal third period and sent the locals into a frenzy with an empty net goal to seal the victory for the home team.
With this win, the Blazers become only the second home team to win a tie-breaker game in the WHL.
Loewen summed it up best when asked how it felt to win this one, against Kelowna. “It feels fricken Amazing.” said the Captain
Up next is a playoff date with the Victoria Royals with the series starting Friday and Kamloops’ home games going Tuesday and Wednesday night next week.
After the game, Lajoie gave his thoughts on the team from Vancouver Island. “They are a team that likes to play fast and get pucks up north quickly. Defensively they like to swarm and come at us very hard so it’s important to move pucks quickly.” Lajoie continued ” It’s another team we are very familiar with. As coaches, our job continues in terms of our preparation for Victoria.”
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