In a game with nothing on the line — both clubs are locked into their respective playoff opponents — the visiting Prince George Cougars defeated the Kamloops Blazers 7-2 at Sandman Centre on Friday night (March 24).
The two teams will tangle in Prince George on Saturday night to end the regular season, with Western Hockey League playoffs set to begin on March 31.
On Friday before another large crowd of 5,189, Connor Levis opened the scoring for Kamloops less than two minutes into the game. It was Levis’ 27th tally of the year.
But Prince George responded halfway through the first period and added two more goals to take a 3-1 lead at the intermission. From there the Cougars rolled, scoring two goals in the second period and two more goals in the final frame.
The Blazers’ second goal was scored by Caeden Bankier, his 37th of the season.
Despite the lopsided score, the shots on goal were almost dead even, with Prince George edging Kamloops in that category — 37 to 36.
Dylan Ernst, who earlier this year set a Kamloops Blazers’ goaltending record for most wins in a season stopped 30 of 37 shots he faced, while Cougar’ netminder Ty Young turned aside 34 of 36 shots.
The WHL playoffs will begin on Friday, March 31, with eight opening-round best-of-seven series — four each in the Western and Eastern conferences, with the 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 format used.
In the Western Conference, Seattle (1) will face Kelowna (8), Kamloops (2) will play Vancouver (7), Portland (3) will face off against Everett (6) and Prince George (4) will tangle with Tri-City (5).
The Blazers will host the Giants on March 31 and April 1, with games 3 and 4 to be played at the Langley Events Centre on April 4 and April 6. Playoff ticket information is on the Kamloops Blazers' website.
In the Eastern Conference, the matchups are not completely set, with these three teams — Calgary, Medicine Hat and Swift Current — fighting for the final two playoff spots. Winnipeg, at the top of the conference and league with 113 points, has qualified for the post-season, as has Red Deer, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Lethbridge and Regina. Winnipeg and Red Deer are waiting for the playoff picture at the seventh- and eighth-place spots to clear up with weekend to learn which playoff opponents they will face. Saskatoon (3) will play Regina (6) and Moose Jaw (4) will face Lethbridge (5).