WHL Playoffs Update: Blazers claw back vs Rockets

in playoffs



March 28, 2017

By Taylor Rocca

With five games spread across Tuesday’s WHL playoff grid, only one managed to find a triumphant home team.

The Kamloops Blazers came out like a house on fire at the Sandman Centre, skating to a critical victory over the Kelowna Rockets in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series on WHL on Shaw.

Beyond that, hometown fans were left less than impressed Tuesday night.

In Calgary, Sam Steel kept his hot hand as the Regina Pats secured a death grip on their best-of-seven series with the Hitmen. Out in Dauphin, Man., the Medicine Hat Tigers did the same in claiming a 3-0 series lead over the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Things went right down to the wire in Swift Current as the Moose Jaw Warriors battled to a Game 3 victory and 2-1 series lead against the Broncos.

Wrapping up the night out west it was Carter Hart, Patrick Bajkov and the Everett Silvertips spoiling the Victoria Royals’ playoff home-opener by blanking the hosts.

Here are the recaps from Tuesday’s games:


Kelowna Rockets (1) at Kamloops Blazers (4)
Rockets lead series 2-1
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 – Sandman Centre, Kamloops – 7 p.m. PT

The Kamloops Blazers not only needed a big win to get back into their first-round series with the Kelowna Rockets, they needed their big guns to lead the way.

Rudolfs Balcers and Lane Bauer showed up in a big way during Game 3 of the best-of-seven affair, leading the Blazers to a 4-1 win over the Rockets, rendering Kelowna’s series lead to 2-1 Tuesday night.

Bauer opened the scoring with his first goal of the playoffs 8:06 into the first period, finishing off an odd-man rush with Balcers for a 1-0 lead. Before the first period ended, Kole Lind snuck into the slot and snapped one past goaltender Connor Ingram to even the score through 20 minutes of play.

After Jermaine Loewen put the Blazers back in front 12:10 into the second period, Balcers drew a penalty shot for a glorious opportunity to give Kamloops a two-goal advantage.


Taking the puck at centre ice, the Latvian speedster and Western Conference nominee for WHL Rookie of the Year, skated in alone on Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer before rifling a hot wrist shot to the high glove side for a 3-1 Blazers lead.

Adding extra insurance, Bauer scored his second of the game with 1:53 to go in the second period as the Blazers owned a 4-1 advantage after 40 minutes of play.

Ingram slammed the door over the final 40 minutes, making 27 saves on top of the 10 he turned aside in the first period for a total of 37. Herringer also faced 38 shots in the contest, stopping 34 along the way.

With one game in their back pockets, the Blazers will look to even the series on home ice with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night (7 p.m. PT) at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.


Everett Silvertips (2) at Victoria Royals (0)
Silvertips lead series 2-1
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT

Carter Hart made 25 saves and Patrick Bajkov had the game-winning goal as the Everett Silvertips rolled into Victoria and shut out the Royals in Game 3 of their best-of-seven first-round series Tuesday night.

After a scoreless first period, Bajkov sniped one top shelf on a power play, giving the Silvertips a 1-0 lead only 22 seconds into the middle period. Bookending a strong second, Finnish import Eetu Tuulola converted on a late power-play opportunity after taking a feed from Bajkov to make it 2-0 with 2:23 to go in the second.

That was all the scoring fans were privy to Tuesday night, as Hart put up a blockade for the second post-season shutout of his WHL career. Griffen Outhouse made 19 saves in defeat.


The Royals will look to draw even once again Wednesday night (7:05 p.m. PT) with Game 4 set to go at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria.


Moose Jaw Warriors (4) at Swift Current Broncos (3)
Warriors lead series 2-1
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 – Credit Union i-Plex, Swift Current – 7 p.m. MT

If you were at the Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current Tuesday night, chances are you don’t have much left in terms of fingernails, regardless of where your allegiance lies.

That’s because the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos treated fans to a tightly-contested, back-and-forth Game 3 that went right down to the final buzzer.

Veteran forward Thomas Foster scored his third goal of the post-season with 1:26 to go in regulation, putting the Warriors up by a 4-2 margin. Ryley Lindgren pulled the Broncos back within a goal with only 29 seconds to go, leaving Foster’s tally as the game-winner.

Foster, the overage forward acquired at the trade deadline from the Vancouver Giants, scored twice in the contest to help fuel the Warriors offense.

Colby Sissons opened the scoring with a seeing-eye single from the point 6:49 into the first as the home-ice Broncos took a 1-0 lead and held it through 20 minutes of play.

Brayden Burke tied the game 2:16 into the second period, scoring his second of the post-season. Then it was Foster’s turn, as he jammed one home at the side of the net to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes of action.

Needing a goal in the third period, captain Glenn Gawdin came through in the clutch for Speedy Creek, taking an Aleksi Heponiemi feed on top of the crease and sliding it home to even the festivities once again.

After being relatively quiet through the opening eight periods of the series, Jayden Halbgewachs restored the Moose Jaw lead with only 4:26 to play in the third period. Exactly three minutes later, Foster struck for the second time to make it 4-2.

Zach Sawchenko made 32 saves to get the win, while Jordan Papirny steered aside 38 shots in defeat.

Josh Brook (2A), Matt Sozanski (2A) and Foster (2G) boosted the offense for the Warriors, while Gawdin (1G-1A) and Aleksi Heponiemi (2A) spurred things along for the Broncos.

The Broncos will look to utilize home ice to even the series Wednesday night when Game 4 gets underway from the Credit Union i-Plex at 7 p.m. (MT).



Medicine Hat Tigers (6) at Brandon Wheat Kings (2)
Tigers lead series 3-0
Game 4: Wednesday, March 29 – Credit Union Place, Dauphin, Man. – 7:30 p.m. CT

That long bus ride to Dauphin, Man., must feel worth it for the Medicine Hat Tigers right about now.

With a resounding 6-2 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Tigers clawed a 3-0 stranglehold in their best-of-seven first-round series Tuesday night.

David Quenneville paced the offense from the blueline, registering a goal and three assists as the Tigers blew the game open with four markers in the third period to break a 2-2 deadlock.

Mark Rassell’s power-play goal 4:12 into the final period stood as the eventual game-winner and Chad Butcher added his first of the post-season for a little insurance only 1:37 later. Ryan Jevne made it a trio of quick strikes by tallying another 1:14 later and, just like that, the Tigers owned a 5-2 lead only 7:03 into the third period.

Quenneville scored into the empty net with 1:10 to play, rounding out the scoring.

Steven Owre opened the scoring in the first period with his first goal of the playoffs.

Rookie Ben McCartney – who doesn’t turn 16 years old until July 13 – scored his first-career WHL goal to tie the game 1-1 only 3:41 into the second period. McCartney was a second-round pick (43rd) of the Wheat Kings at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.

John Dahlstrom’s third of the playoffs restored the Tigers lead two minutes later, but Reid Duke was there to reply for the Wheat Kings, notching a power-play goal to even the affair at 2-2 and that’s where things stood after 40 minutes of play.

Michael Bullion made 27 saves for the win, while Logan Thompson returned to the Wheat Kings crease after a scary collision late in Game 2 that saw him helped off the ice by Brandon’s training staff. Thompson turned in an admirable performance, making 41 saves on 46 shots.


The Wheat Kings will look to stave off elimination Wednesday night, with Game 4 set to get underway from Dauphin at 7:30 p.m. CT.



Regina Pats (5) at Calgary Hitmen (2)
Pats lead series 3-0
Game 4: Thurssday, March 30 – Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary – 7 p.m. MT

Apparently CHL Player of the Week honours weren’t enough to satisfy Sam Steel.

After scoring six points in the first two games of the Regina Pats’ first-round festivities with the Calgary Hitmen, Steel rocked the Scotiabank Saddledome with a hat-trick performance, leading his club to a 3-0 stranglehold lead in the best-of-seven series Tuesday night.

Steel opened the scoring 1:02 into the affair and made it a 2-0 game before the game was 10 minutes old. Wyatt Sloboshan provided another early dagger, banging home a power-play rebound with only three seconds to go in the first period as the Pats carried a 3-0 advantage to the dressing room after 20 minutes of play.

The Hitmen pushed back in the second period but were unable to solve Tyler Brown and before the period came to a close Dawson Leedahl found the back of the net with another power-play effort to make it 4-0 after 40 minutes.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the hosts, the third period opened with Steel completing his hat-trick by converting a short-handed effort only 4:16 in.

The Hitmen managed to scrape out a couple goals late in the proceedings as Matteo Gennaro and Luke Coleman beat Brown to make it a 5-2 game, but it was too little too late.

Calgary did manage to outshoot Regina in the contest, forcing Brown to block 41 pucks to earn the victory. At the other end, Kyle Dumba took to the blue paint after Cody Porter started Games 1 and 2. Dumba made 30 stops in defeat.

Up against the ropes, the Hitmen host the Pats Thursday night (7 p.m. MT) for Game 4 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.