The Kamloops Blazers have become the first team in the B.C. Division, and fourth in the Western Hockey League, to clinch a playoff berth.
It came at the expense of the Victoria Royals as the host Blazers defeated the Island visitors 5-3 on Saturday to join the Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips and Edmonton Oil Kings in clinching post-season spots.
The B.C. Division-leading Blazers moved to 34-16-4 to, perhaps, dash Victoria hopes of the division crown. Kamloops leads second-place Victoria by nine points.
The Royals have a chance to salvage a so-far lost weekend in a Monday afternoon matinée against the Blazers in Kamloops.
Victoria had been on a four-game winning streak before dropping a 5-2 decision to the Vancouver Giants on Friday in Langley.
The Royals held Connor Zary, the 12th-ranked North American skater for the 2020 NHL draft, to no points.
But they couldn’t contain Logan Stankoven, a hometown Kamloops 16-year-old, who went off against the Royals with four goals.
Selected fifth overall in the 2018 WHL bantam draft, Stankoven so far has 23 goals and is looking to be something special.
“He is one of the best young players in the league and has a bright future,” said Victoria coach Dan Price.
Captain Phillip Schultz scored twice for Victoria on a three-point night and Brandon Cutler once in a two-point outing.
Adam Evanoff made 30 saves in goal for Victoria and Rayce Ramsay 22 for Kamloops.
“Both teams traded chances and it was two shots that decided it,” said Price.
Defenceman Will Warm is back in the line-up but the Victoria roster remained pockmarked with injuries.
“We are never going to use injuries as an excuse,” said Price.
“Our guys worked hard despite a short bench.”