This Czech dude gotta be diggin’ the Bear.
Cole Cheveldave of the Kamloops Blazers was named WHL goaltender of the month for March. But Tuesday night at Bear Mountain Arena belonged to Patrik Polivka of the Victoria Royals.
The import goalie from Plzen, Czech Republic, made 39 saves in a brilliant performance as the Royals defeated the Kamloops Blazers 2-1 to suddenly make their first-round Western Hockey League playoff series highly intriguing.
“It was a good night for me but I was also lucky, and you need luck for this position,” said Polivka.
“Plus our guys did a good job blocking shots [as Kamloops unleashed about 50 shots at net]. There was lots of emotion.”
The Western Conference third-seed Blazers lead the best-of-seven 2-1 against the sixth-seed Royals. The fourth game is Thursday night at Bear Mountain and the fifth game Saturday at Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops.
Victoria won for the first time in seven playoff games against Kamloops, dating to last year’s 4-0 first-round sweep by the Blazers.
“Obviously, we had desperation in our game. And a lot of our guys paid the price to find a way to win,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry.
The game ended in a line brawl between two teams that clearly have a great deal of animosity built up against each other over the last two years.
“That’s playoff hockey,” said Lowry. “Emotions run high.”
A fluke goal from the corner by Tim Traber at 50 seconds of the third period, that deflected in off the stick of Cheveldave, gave Victoria the 2-1 lead and stood as the winner. Sometimes, that’s just the break you need against a goaltender as good as Cheveldave.
“I just threw it on net,” said Traber. “Our whole team battled hard tonight.”
The Royals staved off the high-octane Kamloops power play on a near full two-minute, two-man power play in the third period.
The Royals, who have been forced out of their usual Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre venue by the 2013 Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, played a tight, taught, tense game before 2,395 fans in the smaller Bear Mountain facility.
The opening goal came from Ben Walker on a crafty saucer-pass assist from fellow-Minnesotan Logan Nelson at 18:23 of the first period as Victoria took a 1-0 lead. But with two consecutive Victoria penalties midway through the second period — it was only a matter of time until one of Kamloops’ several lethal snipers would strike. JC Lipon, a Canadian national junior team player, did just that on the power play at 12:52 to tie the game 1-1 with his third goal of the series.
Then came the third period and Traber’s shot from out of the corner and out of the blue.
ICE CHIPS: Jamie Crooks, a 33-goal regular-season scorer for Victoria, took a shot off the foot in the second period and had to be helped off the ice. He returned for the third period. Crooks’ gutsy performance earned him second-star accolades with third-star Traber and first-star Polivka . . . After missing 25 consecutive games with a lower-body injury, Victoria forward Trent Lofthouse drew back in Tuesday . . . Royals captain and 21-year-old blueliner Tyler Stahl, however, missed his 11th straight game.
© Copyright 2013