For half of the Kamloops Blazers' 3-2 Wednesday night (Dec. 5) victory over the Victoria Royals, they were absolutely frustrated on offence.
So when they finally did break through, that frustration spilled over into their celebrations.
The Blazers took penalties after two of their three goals on the night, including the game-winner from Josh Pillar in the third period. After the rookie beat Brock Gould for his fourth of the year, mayhem broke out resulting in four players heading to the box, including Jeff Faith, who got a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
Kamloops also had some extracurricular activity after their first goal of the night. Kyrell Sopotyk beat Gould in close for his third of the year and immediately after the goal, Connor Zary and Sean Gulka had a tête-à-tête, and both got offsetting roughing calls.
"I was looking for the celebration," says Sopotyk, "but (Zary) needed help in the corner so I had to jump in there for him."
Victoria jumped out to a lead in the first on a goal by D-Jay Jerome, then adding to that tally two minutes later on an unassisted effort by Phillip Schultz. It was the second time in three games Kamloops fell behind by two goals.
The Blazers thought they got one back early in the second period when Brodi Stuart slid a loose puck behind Brock Gould. But the refs blew the play dead after losing sight of the puck, keeping Kamloops in a 2-0 hole.
"Credit to the ref, he came over and says, 'I can't say anything, it was just a bad call,'" says head coach Serge Lajoie after the game. "We didn't get in his face or anything. Dan Kordic and I talk a lot about making sure we keep the bench even-keel, but the guys did a good job not reacting to it, even Stuart didn't have anything to say and as it all worked out. The hockey gods saw that they owed us one so we're happy with the 3-2 victory."
Kamloops had plenty of opportunities to even things up on the power play, including Victoria taking back-to-back too many men on the ice penalties near the end of the second. After two, the Blazers held a 23-10 shot advantage.
Eventually, special teams broke through and Jermaine Loewen tied the game in the third. After spending most of the night with his rear end planted in Gould's face, Loewen was rewarded with a tap-in for his 11th of the year.
One power play marker proved to be the difference, as the Blazers special teams closed out the game with three huge penalty kills. Kamloops finished the night 1 of 6 with the man advantage while Victoria went 0 for 5.
Weoooooo!!!— Kamloops Blazers (@blazerhockey) December 6, 2018
Blazers hold on!! PK money down the stretch!! 💰 💰
3-2!! Off to Alberta Friday!
👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
Luke Zazula had two assists on the night, while Quinn Schmiemann, Martin Lang, Sopotyk and Faith each had one. Dylan Garand had another strong night in net, stopping 19 of 21 shots.
The win lifted the Blazers above .500 for the first time since September and pulled them even with Victoria for third in the B.C. Division with 26 points (although the Royals have the tiebreaker with one more regulation win.)
Kamloops now heads out on a six-game road trip before the holiday break, one that will pose some challenges, but give this team a chance to continue growing.
"We're getting into a Teddy Bear Toss game in Edmonton, then the next afternoon in Calgary, then there's another one in Kootenay so we're going on a six-game road trip with a lot going on; there's going to be big crowds and I think it's going to be a great experience for these guys," says Lajoie. "Our players are excited to go on the road and hang out with each other. The feeling in the dressing room is really good right now."
The Blazers are 7-5-1 on the road this year. Their next home game is Dec. 28 against the Kelowna Rockets.