A Choppy start to this one, which happened to be Country Night at the Sandman Centre, meant there were countless opportunities to hear the dulcet tones of Tim Mcgraw, the sweet melodies of Carrie Underwood, or the legendary hits of Garth Brooks.
The teams traded opportunities with both goalies, Dylan Garand for Kamloops and Brock Gould for Victoria, playing well.
Late in the period Victoria’s D-Jay Jerome found himself in all-alone and made no mistake beating Garand short side to take the lead, one the young goaltender would probably want back. The Royals added one more to end the period up 2-0.
Early in the second, it looked like Brodi Stuart had brought the home team within one but the goal was waved off by an extremely early whistle by referee Mike Campbell, in fact, Gould never had the puck at all.
The Blazers didn’t let the fact they still found themselves in a two goal hole adversely affect them, at least not in a negative way. 16-year-old Kyrell Sopotyk tickled the twine for his third of the year a little over seven minutes into the second period.
“We have to make sure we keep an even keel and not react to it” said Head Coach Serge Lajoie when asked about the adversity his team faced after the disallowed goal “The guys did a great job not reacting to it, even Stuart didn’t have anything to say”
The remainder of the period belonged to the Blazers, outshooting the Royals 14-2, but they were unable to find the back of the net heading to the third down by one.
To say the Victoria Royals came out in the third period with their defensive shells on would be an understatement. The road team harnessed their inner John Tortorella and blocked what seemed like two or three shots on every Blazer rush.
That is until Captain Jermaine Loewen did what he does best, parking himself in front of the Royals net and finished off a quick pass from teammate Luke Zazula to tie the game at two.
Not two minutes later, the youngster, Sopotyk got his 2nd point of the game when he threw on the breaks and passed it to linemate Josh Pillar who made no mistake giving the Blazers a 3-2 advantage.
“I kinda took myself out of a shooting chance, so I saw Pillar behind me and just turned around and passed it back to him.” Said Sopotyk
The two 16-year-olds, who combined on the winning goal are no stranger to each other. After the game, Sopotyk talked about playing with Pillar. “We’ve played together for three years now so we have some chemistry definitely between us and we’re used to playing with each other and know the spots we’re goin to be.”
Kamloops took a multitude of penalties late in the game including a near full 2-minute 2-man advantage on which Dylan Garand or “Woody” as Lajoie refers to him, stood tall “Woody has done a great job…once he puts his mind to it there are no pucks that are gonna get by him, he was great on the kill, your goaltender needs to be your best penalty killer, and he definitely was.”
The team will now head out on their Central Division swing seeing six games in eight nights including the two biggest teddy bear toss games in the league, Edmonton and Calgary.
- Dylan Garand – 19 saves and the win.
- Kyrell Sopotyk – 1 goal, 1 assist.
- Luke Zazula – 2 assists.
Kamloops’ special teams have been humming along lately. They find themselves 5th in the league on the PP, and a modest 16th on the PK. Those numbers are made possible by the relatively recent success of both. In the last eight games the Blazers are 13/34 on the PP (38%) and 31/33 (94%) on the PK. In the 17 games previous they were 16/78 (20.5%) on the PP, and 55/81 (67%) on the PK.