There is an old James Bond movie titled Tomorrow Never Dies.
The Victoria Royals took that to heart Saturday night before 4,581 disbelieving fans at Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops, forcing a Game 6 Monday evening at Bear Mountain Arena in their Western Hockey League opening-round playoff series against the favoured Blazers.
Playing the Pierce Brosnan starring role in this instance was Victoria goaltender Patrik Polivka with an astounding 47-save performance to backstop the Royals to a 4-2 victory to cut Kamloops’ lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-2.
Top supporting role went to a most unlikely source — normally conservative defenceman Brett Cote, who scored the tying and winning goals at 19:21 of the second period and 11:25 of the third period, respectively.
Victoria forward Logan Nelson, the Buffalo Sabres draft-pick who set up Cote’s game winner, put the issue out of reach with a goal at 19:26 of the third period in the game in which the Royals were outshot 49-25.
“We accomplished what we came here to do — send this back to Victoria for another game,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry.
“They [Blazers] went to the net hard earlier in the series and we went hard to the net tonight and were rewarded for it. Our goalie played really well and we got great performances from a lot of other guys.”
Victoria struck first at 8:03 of the first period through Jamie Crooks’ third goal of the post-season, as the over-ager pushed his all-time career Chilliwack Bruins/Victoria Royals franchise playoff records to 10 goals and 17 points (including a later assist on Cote’s tying goal) in 20 games.
Chase Souto drew Kamloops level at 1:28 of the second period. The 106-point regular-season sniper Colin Smith finally got his first goal of the playoffs to put the Blazers ahead 2-1 at 11:54 on the power play. Then enter Cote, one of the most reliable Royals all season defensively, coming through on offence with his first two goals of the post-season.
They couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
The Blazers, ranked third in the WHL’s loaded Western Conference, are the eighth-ranked major-junior team in the Canadian Hockey League but are having their fill of the mostly-unheralded Royals.
The Blazers traded away a bit of their future for the mid-season acquisition of the 20-year-old Edmonton Oilers-prospect Kale Kessy from the Vancouver Giants and 19-year-old defenceman and second-round St. Louis Blues draft-pick Joel Edmunson from the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Blazers clearly believe this is their moment and are all-in for 2013. But now they are in dogfight just to get out of the first round, although the odds still favour them.
However, his is a different Royals team than the one swept 4-0 by the Blazers in the first round of last year’s playoffs — with Victoria improving by 11 victories in the regular season from the previous season to win a franchise record 35 games under first-year head coach Lowry.
Victoria was dogged all season by injuries and that have continued into the playoffs as the Royals are without two-thirds of its allotment of over-age 20-year-olds with team MVP and leading-scorer Alex Gogolev and captain Tyler Stahl missing for the entirety of the Kamloops series.
Also missing for the second straight game was the useful veteran forward Brandon Magee, who injured himself late in Game 3 at the Bear.
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