Kamloops Blazers captain Dylan Willick ended a night of high drama Thursday at Bear Mountain Mountain Arena. His withering shot into the top corner at 17:47 of overtime gave the Blazers a 5-4 victory over the Victoria Royals in the fourth game of the opening-round Western Hockey League playoff series.
Western Conference third-seed Kamloops leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 against the sixth-seed Royals.
The fifth game is Saturday night at the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops. A sixth game, if required, would go Monday night at the Bear.
Thursday’s game was played before a standing-room-only sellout crowd of 2,541 fans in the compact 2,300-seat Colwood facility. The Royals have been forced out of their regular 7,006-seat Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre home by the upcoming 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship.
Kamloops defenceman Marek Hrbas’ goal with 4:18 remaining in regulation time tied the game 4-4. Perhaps it was only fitting since the Blazers held a 37-20 shots advantage after regulation time and 48-24 by the time Willick decided matters in extra time.
Goaltender Patrik Polivka, who was physically bumped all night in his crease by the Kamloops forwards, was outstanding for Victoria.
Victoria forward Jamie Crooks’ quick stick opened scoring at 4:01 of the first period on a nice assist from behind the net by Logan Nelson.
Then came perhaps the move of the series when the American Nelson shifted deftly to the net with the puck to make it 2-0 on the power play at 10:38 of the first.
Then a season-long Royals shortcoming — opposition goals in the last minute of periods — came to the fore again as 20-year-old mid-season acquisition Kale Kessy scored for Kamloops with 17.7 seconds remaining in the opening period to suddenly and dramatically change the vibe at the opening break.
Kamloops tied it early in the second period at 1:22 as a controversial soft goal by Phoenix Coyotes prospect Kessy was ruled to have crossed the goal line before the whistle blew.
That seemed to suck the air out of the jammed building. The Royals quickly brought life back to the stands by responding with a goal by rookie Brandon Fushimi at 3:17. But the Blazers’ pure firepower was on ample display as Kessy completed his hat-trick on a blistering three-way passing play with JC Lipon and Colin Smith at 7:16. The Royals, however, took advantage of a two-man power-play advantage to make it 4-3 as Crooks fed Ben Walker at 9:03.
ICE CHIPS: Royals captain and over-age blueliner Tyler Stahl missed his 12th consecutive game . . . Brandon Magee was a surprise scratch for Victoria. No reason was given for sitting out the forward.
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