KAMLOOPS — A point lost, or a point gained?
The Blazers defeated the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 in a shootout in another close game in a season series that was even on nearly every count --- wins, overtime wins, goals for and against --- going into the final two games of the season between the B.C. Division rivals.
Dylan Garand, starting in place of the injured Dylan Ferguson, kept the Rockets at bay in a scoreless first period that saw Kelowna outshoot the Blazers 12-6.
"Weren't sure how to approach the game in the first period, and I let the guys know that wasn't going to be acceptable." says head coach Serge Lajoie. "Started to get verbally engaged with the guys in the first, and had a very direct message to them in the second. I like the way they responded. It had nothing to do with Xs and O's. Got engaged physically, started to direct a lot more pucks to the net, supported the puck, and it became will over skill. I challenged our older guys. They needed to step up and lead, and I thought we had some of those guys do a really good job at that.
The Blazers opened the scoring at 16:13 of the second period on Quinn Schmiemann's lead pass to Brodi Stuart who tapped it to the stick of Martin Lang. Roman Basran got a piece of Lang's shot, but it when off his glove up and into the net.
Kamloops continued to get chances on shots of 14-8 in the second.
The Rockets tied it on Nolan Foote's goal at 4:08 of the second on a two-man advantage after Connor Zary took a boarding penalty and then Schmiemann a delay of game.
"The penalty I didn't like," says Lajoie, "was Zary's penalty. It was undisciplined. That's part of his maturation --- he's got to recognize when he gets a little bit hot under the collar ---- he's got to be able to harness that energy."
The rest of the third was scoreless and so was five minutes of sudden death overtime.
In the shootout, Zary was the first shooter and atoned for his third-period penalty by scoring.
Kelowna was stopped on its first shot, and Orrin Centazzo then scored to give the Blazers a 2-0 lead in the shootout.
Nolan Foote's effort to keep it going was stopped by Dylan Garand who made 26 saves in regulation and overtime and two more in the shootout in a Blazers 2-1 win.
With two points for the win and a loser point for Kelowna, the Blazers are within six points of the Rockets for third place in the B.C. Division with five games left.
Seattle won over Victoria to remain seven points ahead of Kamloops in the wild card.
The Blazers and Rockets will play again Saturday night in Kelowna.
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