The Kamloops Blazers jumped out to a big lead and then held on for dear life Wednesday at Sandman Centre, earning a hard-fought 6-5 win over the first-place Seattle Thunderbirds.
Olen Zellweger, Dylan Sydor, Fraser Minten, Logan Stankoven, Ryan Hofer and Caedan Bankier were the goal scorers for the Blazers. Nico Myatovic, Dylan Guenther, Nolan Allan, Colton Dach and Jeremy Hanzel scored for the Thunderbirds.
The Blazers led 4-0 after the first period but Seattle roared back in the second and the game was tied 5-5 after two. Bankier’s game-winner — set up by Stankoven — came at 13:43 of the third.
Matthew Kieper stopped 44 of 49 Seattle shots to earn the win in net. Scott Ratzlaff made 31 saves on 37 Kamloops shots in a losing effort.
Both teams were held scoreless on the power play. The Blazers had three chances and the Thunderbirds had one.
Announced attendance at Sandman Centre was 5,659 — the largest crowd of the season on Mark Recchi Way.
With the win, the Blazers improve to 48-12-4-2 on the season. The loss — the first regulation defeat for Seattle since Feb. 4 — moves the T-Birds to 53-10-1-2.
The Blazers have locked up the No. 2 seed in the WHL’s Western Conference while the Thunderbirds have clinched top spot.
The Blazers have two games remaining in their regular-season schedule — a home-and-home set with the Prince George Cougars (35-24-6-1), at Sandman Centre on Friday and in P.G. on Saturday.
The Blazers will take on the seventh-seed Vancouver Giants (27-31-5-3) in the first round of the playoffs, which will get underway at Sandman Centre on March 31.