The Victoria Royals, missing their top-two forwards, used their depth and balance to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven opening-round Western Hockey League playoff series against the Kamloops Blazers.
A great Dane and a call-up defenceman who looks to be a keeper provided crucial goals as the Royals defeated the Blazers 6-3 in the pivotal fifth game Saturday night before 5,826 appreciative fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Forward Phillip Schultz, who has represented Denmark twice in the world junior championships, but who looks right at home in the North American game, scored three times for Victoria.
Undersized but gutsy two-way defenceman Noah Lamb, an affiliated player called up late in the regular season, scored his first WHL goal.
But just as impressive were the inspired efforts turned in by Royals forwards Dino Kambeitz, Belarusian-import forward Igor Martynov and hometown Victoria product Tanner Sidaway, the latter who with Schultz scored one of the Royals’ two empty-net goals in the frenetic late going.
The Royals got the quick start they wanted with D-Jay Jerome scoring just one minute and 27 seconds into the game. But Ryley Appelt ripped home a shot to the blocker side to tie it 1-1 for Kamloops at 13:54 of the first period. That was followed in the second period by two goals from Schultz and Lamb’s first career counter.
That was it for the Blazers’ Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL-signed goaltender Dylan Ferguson of Lantzville. Ferguson was replaced by fellow Islander and 16-year-old rookie Dylan Garand, a graduate of the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association.
Kamloops got third-period goals from call-up Logan Stankoven and captain and Dallas Stars draft pick Jermaine Loewen.
The three stars were Schultz, on a four-point night, Lamb and Saanich-raised Blazers blueliner Sean Strange.
Blazers forward Zane Franklin drew lusty boos from the Victoria crowd every time he touched the puck.
Royals assistant captain Kody McDonald has been suspended indefinitely by the league for leaning over from the Victoria bench to swing his stick into the Blazers bench at Franklin in the 6-3 loss in Game 4 in Kamloops on Wednesday.
McDonald’s actions, say the Royals, were in response to an unspecified remark made by Franklin. With McDonald and team leading scorer Kaid Oliver, the latter out for likely the entire series with an upper-body injury, the Royals are without their top-two forwards.
Veteran Griffen Outhouse made 27 saves in goal for Victoria. Ferguson and Garand combined for only 19 stops.
Game 6 is Monday night at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops.
If required, Game 7 will be Wednesday night at the Memorial Centre.
This is a rivalry with a history and is the third all-time playoff series between the Royals and Blazers, with Kamloops winning the first two meetings in 2012 and 2013.
– Cleve Dheensaw, Times Colonist