Blazers defeat Victoria to take 3-0 series lead
By Marty Hastings - Kamloops This Week
Published: March 27, 2012 11:00 PM
Updated: March 27, 2012 11:27 PM
The Kamloops Blazers are one win from sweeping the Victoria Royals and winning their first Western Hockey League playoff series since 1999.
The Blazers defeated Victoria in the provincial capital on Tuesday night (March 27) by a 7-5 margin in a wild affair that saw Kamloops fall behind 2-0 after the first period, score six goals in the middle frame and lose captain Chase Schaber to a bizarre and serious cut to his leg.
The Royals allowed the most goals of any team during the WHL season and, for the second consecutive post-season game, used two goalies in an attempt to stave off a Blazer onslaught.
On Tuesday in Victoria, Royals' coach Marc Habscheid started Jared Rathjen, who was shaky in allowing five goals on 21 shots before being pulled late in the second period and replaced by Keith Hamilton, who stopped 10 of 12 Kamloops shots.
In Game 2 in Kamloops on Saturday, March 24 — a 7-4 Blazer victory — Rathjen was solid in relief of Hamilton.
In Victoria on Tuesday, Kamloops had a rocky start, falling behind 2-0 after the first period on goals by Zane Jones and Jamie Crooks.
Interestingly, Jones was the recipient of a hit to the head in Game 2 that led to Kamloops defenceman Austin Madaisky being suspended for the two games in Victoria.
However, a ferocious second period opened with the Blazers scoring three straight goals in the first five minutes — a Gordie How hat trick of sorts on the scoresheet, with a shorthanded goal by Dylan Willick, an even-strength tally by Tim Bozon and a power-play marker by Landon Cross.
Victoria responded with two goals by Crooks (giving the forward the natural hat trick) before Kamloops regained the lead behind special-team goals from Jordan DePape (power play), Matt Needham (shorthanded) and JC Lipon (power play).
The third period saw the teams trade goals, with Austin Carroll scoring for Victoria 1:20 into the final frame before Colin Smith restored the Blazers' two-goal lead to secure the 7-5 win.
ICE CHIPS — Game 4 is Thursday, March 29, at 7 p.m. in the 7,000-seat Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, which had an announced attendance of 5.255 for Game 3 Game 5, if necessary, will take place in Kamloops on Friday, March 30, at 7 p.m. . . . Chase Schaber's leg injury occurred in the first period when the skate of Zane Jones accidentally struck Schaber behind the knee during a collision along the boards. Schaber was attended to immediately, with an ambulance being called to take him to hospital. Latest word was no tendons were damaged and Schaber may be available in this or the next series . . . Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave stopped 18 of 23 shots . . . The Blazers have outscored the Royals 18-10 through the first three games, with Kamloops scoring 14 goals in the second period of the three games . . . The last time Kamloops won a playoff series, in 1999, the man behind the bench was Marc Habscheid, who happens to be the man behind the Victoria bench this week . . . If Kamloops defeats Victoria and wins this series, the next likely opponent will be Portland, as the Winterhawks defeated Kelowna 6-3 on Tuesday night to take a commanding 3-0 series lead, with Game 4 in Kelowna on Thursday, March 29. If Kamloops faces Portland, the first two games will be in the Rose City as the Winterhawks finished the regular season with more points (102) than the Blazers (99) . . . In other Western Conference playoff action on Tuesday night, the Spokane Chiefs defeated the visiting Vancouver Giants 3-2 to cut Vancouver's series lead to 2-1; the Tri-City Americans beat the host Everett Silvertips 4-0 to take a 3-0 series lead . . . In the Eastern Conference, Brandon defeated the visiting Calgary Hitmen 3-1 (in a game played in Winnipeg due to arena unavailability in Brandon) to give the Wheat Kings a surprising 3-1 series lead; Medicine Hat rolled into Saskatoon and took a 3-0 series lead via a 3-2 overtime win; Moose Jaw defeated the hometown Regina Pats 5-3 to grab a 2-1 series lead; and Edmonton visits Cranbrook on Wednesday, March 29 to face the Kootenay Ice. Edmonton leads the series 2-0.