Victoria Royals extinguish Kamloops Blazers in six, move on to next playoff round

A hopeful Kamloops capacity crowd of 5,876 and a desperate Blazers team were not enough to stymie the visiting Victoria Royals on Monday night at the Sandman Centre.

The B.C. Division second-seed Royals defeated the third-seed Blazers 4-1 to win their best-of-seven opening-round Western Hockey League playoff series 4-2.

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The tale of the crease proved crucial as 20-year-old Victoria veteran goaltender Griffen Outhouse made 34 saves and only lost his shutout bid at 14:18 of the third period.

The Blazers, meanwhile, took a chance and played a hunch in starting 16-year-old rookie goaltender Dylan Garand out of the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association. Garand is no doubt going to bedevil the Royals on many nights in his promising career. But not on Monday night, as Victoria touched him for four goals on just 13 shots in the first two periods.

It was left for 20-year-old Las Vegas Golden Knights NHL-signed goalie Dylan Ferguson of Lantzville to mop up in the third period to close out his junior career.

Brandon Cutler scored against the grain at 12:05 of a first period in which the Royals were outshot 11-3 and held in the game by Outhouse. Cutler unleashed a wrist shot from the left side on a play that was made possible by Phillip Schultz keeping the puck just onside. Cutler then tipped home a Jake Kustra shot on the power play in the second period for his second goal of the game.

The game featured two lengthy delays after panes of Plexiglas broke in both the first and second periods. The first had the effect of perhaps breaking Kamloops’ early momentum. The second came after Cutler made it 2-0 and could have curtailed Victoria’s building optimism.

But it didn’t as the Royals got goals from defenceman Ralph Jarratt, on the power play, and Carson Miller, with his fourth of the playoffs, to close out the second period leading 4-0.

Th Royals won despite missing their top two forwards — Kody McDonald to indefinite suspension the last two games and leading scorer Kaid Oliver to injury the entire series.

Victoria advances to play the B.C. Division and Western Conference top-seed Vancouver Giants beginning Friday and Saturday at the Langley Events Centre.

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