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Victoria Royals lose in OT as Kamloops Blazers tie series

Game 3 and 4 will be played in Kamloops next Tuesday, Wednesday
Victoria RoyalsÕ Tarun Fizer is thwarted by Kamloops Blazers goaltender Dylan Ferguson in Game 2 of their playoff series at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday night. (via Darren Stone/Times Colonist)

Series tied at 1-1

With apologies to Dinah Washington, but what a difference a day makes. Just 24 little hours.

A night after being shut out 4-0, the Kamloops Blazers scored on their first two shots Saturday night. Those proved key as the Blazers defeated the Victoria Royals 4-3 in overtime in Game 2 to tie their best-of-seven first-round Western Hockey League playoff series 1-1.

Dallas Stars draft pick Jermaine Loewen scored at 5:14 of overtime to give Kamloops the victory after Victoria missed several point-blank chances to end the game in extra time, including a wide-open net that was somehow whiffed by Royals forward Phillip Schultz. The Blazers were tagged with a penalty on that play in bringing Schultz down, but Victoria could not convert before Kamloops went ice-length the other way to win it.

Las Vegas Golden Knights prospect Dylan Ferguson from Lantzville drew back into the Blazers crease after missing the regular-season stretch drive to injury and he was outstanding in making 39 saves.

Rising 16-year-old rookie Dylan Garand out of Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey was in the nets as the B.C. Division third-seed Blazers survived what were essentially seven elimination games in a hairy late-season rally to make the playoffs. Garand was very good in Game 1 in making 34 saves as the Blazers clearly have a boffo one-two combination in the crease.

Veteran Griffen Outhouse, coming off Friday’s 28-stop shutout performance, received a rude awakening in the second game. The Royals said one of their pre-series keys was keeping the larger Blazers forwards away from the front of the Victoria net. That is exactly what the Royals couldn’t do as bounce-ins and tip-ins by Kyrell Sopotyk and Brodi Stuart accounted for goals on Kamloops’ first-two missives on net.

That job of moving bodies is harder with Victoria’s decimated blueline. Even though Jameson Murray returned to the line-up, Mitchell Prowse and Matthew Smith were out, as was defenceman Jameson Murray.

Kody McDonald and Carson Miller tied it 2-2 as Victoria’s previously disjointed regular-season league second-worst power play connected twice in the second period.

It was 3-3 in the third period with a Kamloops power-play goal by Sopotyk followed by McDonald’s second goal of the game for Victoria.

The tenacious Victoria forward Tanner Sidaway hit the post later in the third period on a clear run at net, but the score held as the teams went to extra time as the crowd of 4,661 was on the edge of its collective seat.

Outhouse made 31 saves Saturday.

Both teams were missing key forwards in the first two games. The Royals were without leading-scorer Kaid Oliver and the Blazers minus Connor Zary, who had been one of the hottest players in the league with a stretch regular-season run of five goals and nine points in four games. Zary is reportedly back Tuesday while, Oliver is likely out for the series.

The series swings into the Interior on Tuesday and Wednesday. A Game 5 will be next Saturday back on the Island.

Victoria won the regular-season series 5-3-1.

— Cleve, Dheensaw, Times Colonist