Scott Walford and Kody McDonald combined on a nice play for the game-winning goal to steal a victory in Kamloops.
It was fitting as both players were the best for Victoria on Tuesday night as they took a 2-1 series lead.
Walford and McDonald played a mixture of offensive and physical play and were key in leading their team back from a deficit early in the third period. “It was a big one to come into this barn and get one back,” said McDonald. “There is minimal chances out there for both teams so it’s all about compete and we brought that tonight.”
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 27, 2019
“We got away from our game plan,” said Kamloops head coach Serge Lajoie post-game. “We’re not a pretty team. We are a team that has to work. We need to get everybody on board, to put pucks behind them [Victoria], be aggressive on their defence and battle in front of the net. We got away from that because I think we weren’t rewarded with goals in the second period.”
“Kamloops had that huge momentum goal, scoring shorthanded,” said Victoria head coach Dan Price. “But it was our leadership group that just stayed really steady. We were able to tie it up and then withstand Kamloops’ pressure when we had the lead.”
For Kamloops, the line of Connor Zary, Jermaine Loewen and Martin Lang proved a challenge for Victoria as they generated continuous chances each time they were on the ice. In describing Zary, Lajoie said “He’s always on his toes, ready to be aggressive and he likes to jump on loose pucks. He sees an opportunity and it’s almost like blood in the water. He’s a shark, he’s going to go after it.”
Veteran goaltenders Griffen Outhouse for Victoria and Dylan Ferguson were both sharp for their clubs, making few mistakes. Lajoie spoke of both goaltenders, saying of Outhouse “They [Victoria] gain confidence knowing that Outhouse is a goaltender with a lot of composure. He has proven that he is a top level goaltender at the WHL level.” Describing his own goalie, he said ” I thought Fergie [Ferguson} battled for us tonight.”
As expected in front of their home crowd, the first period saw the Blazers came out with pace and dominated early play.
It was Victoria however that opened the scoring at 17:36 as Carson Miller banged home the puck at the side of the net. Tanner Sidaway and Jameson Murray came in 2-on-1 into the Blazers’ zone, with a Murray shot going off Ferguson and then the crossbar. The puck fell into the blue paint of the crease where Miller had a couple of whacks at it before it went for his third of the playoffs.
Kamloops responded in the final minute of the period as the puck bounced back quickly off the end boards off a Sean Strange shot and went right to Loewen, who buried it past Outhouse at 19:03.
The second period saw everything but some scoring. McDonald and Luke Zazula squared off in spirited fight that ended in a draw. Brodi Stuart then laid a heavy check on Matthew Smith and although there was a referee discussion, no penalty came on the play. Finally, Ralph Jarratt rang a shot off the post while the teams were 4-on-4. Second period shots were 15-12 in favour of the Royals.
Kamloops pulled ahead early in the third period with a short-handed goal. Loewen and Zary went in on a 2-on-1 and were not able to convert the chance. However Zary collected it from behind the net and scored on a wrap-around. The goal by the Blazers forward was reminiscent of the short-handed marker he scored in the tie-breaker versus Kelowna.
Victoria however responded with a wrap-around of their own at 4:48 of the third to draw it even at 2-2. Brandon Culter cruised into the Kamloops zone and drew Ferguson out of position for the easy tuck in.
McDonald gave Victoria the lead again at 8:08 in what turned out to be the game-winner. Scott Walford entered the zone and sprung McDonald in close who made it 3-2 for the Royals with a five-hole goal.
Victoria was aided in the game with the return of three defencemen in Jameson Murray, Matthew Smith and Jake Kustra, who all missed multiple games. “The younger players been carrying a heavy load through the end of the year,” said Price. “So having some veteran guys back really helped spread that workload around. They had such a calming presence tonight, it was really good to have them steadying the ship.”
Kamloops will look to even the series as Game 4 goes Wednesday night in Kamloops at the Sandman Centre.