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'I'd love to tell you, but it's certainly not worth the fine'

Michael Dyck endeavoured to provide unleaded answers to questions on officiating, but there was enough diesel power in the attempts at subtlety to sprinkle gas on a series that gets more fiery with each game
caedan bankier
Caedan Bankier celebrates his fourth goal of the post-season on Thursday at Langley Events Centre.

Michael Dyck, citing soaring gas prices, opted to take a detour when asked about officiating on Thursday at Langley Events Centre, where a late third period power-play marker propelled the Kamloops Blazers to a 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants.

“The fans have a pretty good idea what’s going on,” said Giants' head coach Dyck, referencing the chorus of boos that accompanied officials to their dressing room after the contest. “I’d love to tell you, but it’s certainly not worth the fine that would be levied.”

With precious pennies perhaps preserved, the Giants will fuel up their bus and traverse the Coquihalla to square off against the Blazers in Game 5, a 7 p.m. start on Friday at Sandman Centre.

Kamloops leads the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series 3-1 and is much closer to burning premium than it was in a Game 3 defeat on Tuesday at LEC.

“I thought our start was much better,” Blazers’ head coach Shaun Clouston said. “Our game was better and we stayed the course.”

The score was tied at 1-1 and shots were 8-8 after the first period, the matching numbers indicative of a fairly even 20 minutes of hockey.

Luke Toporowski bagged his first of the series and sixth of the post-season at 13:54, corralling a tidy backhand feed from Drew Englot before sneaking a sharp-angle shot between the post and Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect Jesper Vikman.

“There’s a lot of chatter out there and shots here and there from both sides,” said Blazers’ forward Logan Stankoven, who scored two goals on Thursday, including the game-winner later in the third period.

“At the end of the day, the best team is going to win this series, whoever sticks to their game plan the most. One more tomorrow night and then get ready for the next series.”

The Giants’ equalizer was borne of a Kamloops turnover, a muffed cross-ice pass from Ethan Brandwood that landed on the stick of Boston Bruins’ first-round draft pick Fabian Lysell.

Vancouver’s super Swede fed Ottawa Senators’ prospect Zack Ostapchuk, who fought off trailing checkers and went to his backhand to beat New York Rangers’ draft pick Dylan Garand.

“We didn’t get on the forecheck the way we wanted to early and create the kind of energy we wanted,” Dyck said.

Kamloops outshot Vancouver 19-7 in the second period and got the go-ahead marker from Minnesota Wild prospect Caedan Bankier, who has four goals in the post-season.

Strong forechecking from Bankier and Daylan Kuefler — who was sporting a cage in Game 4 to protect multiple facial wounds suffered in these playoffs — forced Vancouver to turn over the puck deep in its own end.

Bankier’s effort at 12:59 was the only goal of the period, thanks in part to superb saves near the end of the stanza from both Garand, who foiled Lysell in tight, and Vikman, who turned aside a Connor Levis shot.

Garand, who has a .941 save percentage in the playoffs, made 18 saves on Tuesday, while Vikman stopped 39 shots in defeat.

The visitors were all over the Giants to start the third period, but Ostaphuck, who is having a beastly post-season, was opportunistic in tipping in a puck that Lysell directed toward the net from a sharp angle.

Ostapchuk and Lysell are tied for the lead in WHL playoff scoring, with 19 points apiece, while Stankoven, who has 18 points, is tied for the league lead in playoff goal scoring.

Stankoven and Dylan Guenther of the Edmonton Oil Kings have nine goals apiece.

Alex Cotton was called for tripping with less than four minutes remaining in the third period, hauling down a streaking Stankoven to give the Kamloops power play — which has been disjointed for much of the post-season — a shot at redemption.

Stankoven, who chastised his own play after Game 3 and pledged to be better in Game 4, wired home a wrister at 17:23, his league leading third game-winning goal of the playoffs.

“A timely goal, a huge goal for us, but I thought, overall, the power play looked better,” Clouston said. “We had some good looks. The breakout was much better than it was the game before.”

The 5-foot-8 Kamloopsian Stankoven iced the game with an empty-net marker on the power play at 19:52, with Jaden Lipinski of the Giants in the penalty box serving a too-many-men bench minor.

Dyck endeavoured to provide unleaded answers to questions on officiating, but there was enough diesel power in the attempts at subtlety to sprinkle gas on a series that gets more fiery with each game.

“The too-many men, you’d have to ask their bench,” Dyck said. “They called it. We didn’t. The trip was a trip. That was a penalty.”

The Giants’ head coach was asked how his club can draw more penalties.

“Again, that would be a question for the gentleman down the hallway,” Dyck said.

KTW brought the question to the gentleman down the hallway.

“That’s fairly typical,” Clouston said. “If we had too many men on the ice, you’d expect the other bench to holler and get their attention. Sometimes, the refs don’t see it. I think it was too many men.”

Stankoven suggested his Blazers may have gotten away with an interference call near the end of the third period, but noted the Giants have also been fortunate to escape sin-binning for “cheap” play, at times, in the series.

“I think it was very fair,” Stankoven said of the officiating.

Kamloops outshot Vancouver 41-23 and finished 2-for-5 on the power play. The Giants were 0-for-1 on the man advantage.

The No. 8 seed Giants, whose never-say-die spirit is undeniable, are injury plagued and have expended plenty of petrol in scoring an incredible upset over No. 1 Everett and hanging with No. 2 Kamloops.

Have they run out of gas?

“No,” Dyck said. “I don’t think so. I think we’re right there.

"With the price of gas these days, I can’t waste any money on fines. We’ve got bigger fish to fry and we’ve got to get ready for Kamloops tomorrow.”

ACROSS THE LEAGUE

There are two more post-season series taking place across the WHL and one that has already been decided.

In the Western Conference, Portland us up 2-1 on Seattle.

Edmonton swept Red Deer and awaits the winner of Winnipeg-Moose Jaw, with the Ice up 3-1.