Blazers eliminated from Memorial Cup after dropping 'heartbreaker' to Petes
Blazers hopes dashed in OT
The Peterborough Petes turned out the lights on the Kamloops Blazers’ push for their fourth Memorial Cup, eliminating the hosts with an overtime "heartbreaker" Thursday and sucking the life out of Sandman Centre.
The OHL-champion Petes defeated the Blazers 5-4 in a tiebreaker game to advance to Friday’s semifinal.
J.R. Avon’s overtime winner came seconds after Kamloops defenceman Olen Zellweger nearly blew the roof off Sandman Centre with a chance of his own. Peterborough’s Owen Beck dashed the other way and flipped a pass to Avon, who beat Dylan Ernst to end the Blazers season.
“I got through the last guy, in alone. I got a weaker shot off the pad, but I need to score there. I need to end the game — I know I can,” Zellwegger said.
“I know it puts a forward in a tough position playing defence, but if I’m willing to go in and make those moves I need to finish it off.”
The Blazers, to a man, were devastated and at a loss for words following the defeat.
“That’s a heartbreaker,” Blazers head coach Shaun Clouston said after the game.
“We fought hard today, we really fought hard. The game got away from us a little in the second period. It’s a heartbreaker and I feel for the guys. They put a lot into it.”
Overtime didn’t seem possible after another adversarial second period. But the Blazers regrouped, managed pucks and played a more sound game in the third, which started with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Fraser Minten ringing a bullet of a shot off the crossbar.
“It would have been awesome if it was a couple inches lower,” Minten said of the chance. “I saw an opening there and shot it, but there were a lot of chances for lots of guys throughout the game.”
From that moment on, the third period and overtime were everything that makes sports great — crisp plays, nail-biting moments, end-to-end chances and the threat of knowing that one goal would end someone’s season.
Blazers captain Logan Stankoven, who hoped to raise the Memorial Cup in his hometown, was emotional on the ice after the game.
“I honestly had a lot of fun until [we lost],” the blue-chip Dallas Stars prospect said after the game, surely his last in a Blazers uniform.
“It’s always fun when it’s a close game. I thought we controlled most of the possession in overtime but we just couldn’t put it away. It’s a fun game to be a part of but obviously it would be nice to be on the other side of it.”
Avon nearly ended overtime several minutes earlier on a pass from Tucker Robertson, but Ernst’s backstroke save somehow kept the puck out of the net.
While the final blow came 10:54 into overtime, much of the Blazers' demise can be traced back to a turbulent second period, where they melted away a three-goal lead and gave a never-say-die Petes team new life.
“When you play championship teams and really good teams, I think that it takes your absolute best and for different reasons, a little bit of puck management at times, it’s hard to stay in the battle and stay in the battle,” Clouston said.
“My hat’s off to the other three championship teams — they’re awesome teams and they made it really hard. The other message in [the dressing room] was that we can all learn from that. These are young athletes that are going to go on and play pro and this hurts a ton right now. A lot of the time, that is where you can learn and grow the most.”
The turning point came in the second when Chase Stillman trucked Matthew Seminoff in the slot, just as the Dallas Stars’ prospect was following through on a shot. Without hesitation, Caeden Bankier jumped to his teammate’s defence and dropped the mitts. Stillman got the better of Bankier and took him down with a couple heavy right hands.
Graduating 20-year-old Ryan Hofer made a few brilliant, hard-working plays to kill the ensuing Bankier instigating penalty while Seminoff dusted himself off down the tunnel.
Seminoff's first shift back from the bone-crunching hit appeared to energize the Blazers. Keeping the puck alive in the Peterborough zone, Seminoff found Logan Bairos at the point, and he lofted it into the back of the Petes net.
The high Bairos was riding from his first of the postseason didn’t last long. He coughed the puck up to Peterborough’s Brennan Othmann three minutes later and it quickly ended up behind Ernst.
Bairos looked to skate the puck out of the zone but got stripped from behind by Othmann, turned around and roofed it to cut the Blazers lead in half.
Momentum wasn't kind to the Blazers this tournament and continued to trend in the wrong direction to close out the second stanza.
With the trustworthy Zellwegger in the box for a questionable delay of game penalty, Sam Mayer fired a one-timer past Ernst to get the Petes within a goal.
A minute later, Robertson feathered a pass through Zellwegger’s skates. With one hand fending off the back-checking Hofer, Brian Zanetti used the other one to deftly tip the puck past Ernst to tie the game 4-4 late in the second period.
The middle frame was a far cry from the first period, which was all Blazers but for an early Peterborough goal. Stankoven, Zellweger and Harrison Brunicke scored to give the Blazers a 3-1 lead by the time the first intermission rolled around, and Logan Bairos made it 4-1 early in the second.
The scrappy Petes had been down that road before, though. They battled back repeatedly in their run through the OHL playoffs and didn’t falter after dropping their first two games of the Memorial Cup.
They will now have to defeat a major-junior juggernaut if they want a shot at Peterborough's second Memorial Cup title. They will play the WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds in Friday’s semifinal.
“We just kept talking on the bench to stay with it. We felt we had a very good start in the first 11 or 12 minutes, but then a bit of the ghosts from the other night crept in when they scored a couple goals and we had to reset,” Petes head coach Rob Wilson said after the game.
“That’s our game — the muddier the water, the better it is for us.”
Zellweger said it was a tough pill to swallow.
“We’re all disappointed. I thought our team deserved that one, I thought we had a strong effort tonight. But to lose like that in overtime really stings,” he said.
“I’m proud to say I am a Blazer. It was unbelievable playing here. The fans were unbelievable. They were with us through the whole season — so loud, so into the game.”
The winner of Friday’s semifinal will advance to take on the QMJHL-champion Quebec Remparts in Sunday’s championship game.
Kelowna Rockets hold auction for signed, game worn helmets
Rockets auction off helmets
It's certainly not what you would expect to see auctioned off by a hockey team.
The Kelowna Rockets, in conjunction with RE/MAX Kelowna, will auction off game-worn, autographed black helmets used during the 2022-2023 season.
The helmets include CCM Super Tacks X which sell for $529 brand new and CCM Tacks 710 which retail for $219 new.
Helmets also include a CCM Pro Visor.
The auction began Wednesday and runs until noon Friday, June 9.
The starting bid is $75 on each helmet.
Winners will be contacted by the team once the auction closes. Items can only be shipped to addresses in Canada or the United States.
Proceeds will benefit the RE/MAX Realtors Legacy Fund which benefits numerous local charities, including:
- Central Okanagan Food Bank
- Arion Therapeutic Farm
- Kelowna SPCA
- Third Space
- Jo Annas House
- Central Okanagan Search and Rescue
Click here to access the auction.
Blazers fall 6-1 to T-Birds, will play Petes in Memorial Cup tiebreaker
Blazers blown out by T-Birds
UPDATE: 9:59 p.m.
If the Kamloops Blazers are going to lift the Memorial Cup this weekend for the fourth time in franchise history, they are going to have to run the CHL gauntlet.
Following the club’s 6-1 loss Wednesday night to the WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds at Sandman Centre, the Blazers are now staring down a potential path to the championship that demands they play four games in five nights against three formidable opponents.
Two mistakes — one accidental and one mental — in an eight-second span in the second period on Wednesday took the air out of the sold-out crowd and cost the Blazers the game.
“It wasn’t our best game,” head coach Shaun Clouston said after the game.
“I thought we looked nervous, we struggled making passes, then [Ryan Hofer] scored a big goal to make it 1-1, which was really positive — but a couple breakdowns and a turnover ends up in the back of our net.”
While Logan Bairos sat in the box for kneeing early in the second, Seattle capitalized on a failed dump-in attempt by Fraser Minten that bounced off a linesman and right to Dylan Guenther. Guenther dotted a pass to Jared Davidson, who snuck a shot past Dylan Ernst blocker side.
Eight seconds later, off a Kamloops faceoff win, Aapo Sarell, who drew back into the lineup as a result of the Kyle Masters injury, coughed the puck up behind his own net. Kyle Crnkovic pounced on it and found Jordan Gustafson in front of the net.
“We weren't in a good enough spot mentally throughout that game,” said Clouston. “I think some guys need to find a little more confidence against that team.”
From there, the Thunderbirds looked at home with the lead.
Ernst did his part to keep the game close, finishing the night with 36 saves on 42 shots. He stared down a couple of Guenther one-timers, stopped a Gustafson breakaway and made a remarkable save on a puck fluttering through the crease with a number of T-Birds looking to put it home.
Seattle made it 4-1 5:33 into the third period when Kyle Crnkovic floated a shot past a screened Ernst and Luke Prokop scored 64 seconds later to extend the lead to 5-1, capitalizing on a Connor Levis turnover.
“Rest is huge, especially in this tournament,” Prokop said.
“This time of year guys are banged up and have a lot of injuries. It’s nice for the guys to get a little bit of rest and regroup for our next game.”
Late in the third period, Reid Schaefer stepped out of the penalty box and set up Colton Dach, who used his 205-pound frame to cut across the net and score a dagger of a goal. Ernst was relieved of his duties with less than two minutes remaining, with 18-year-old Matthew Kieper closing out the game for Kamloops.
“[Ernst] has been stellar for us all year, you can’t put any fault on him,” Kamloops forward Daylan Kuefler said.
“He stood in there tonight and I know he’s going to reset and get ready for tomorrow.”
Ryan Hofer scored the lone goal for the Blazers, coming at 10:50 of the first period from Kuefler. Hofer praised Kuefler after the game.
“He is a great player. We were just trying to get lots of momentum and play hard and get into the forecheck,” he said.
“We know they can play fast when they get up ice, so try and eliminate that and get on them quick. We don’t really need to change our game plan coming into tomorrow. We just got to play hard again and keep the physicality up.”
The Blazers played games on three consecutive days once this season, back in October when they went winless against the Winnipeg Ice, Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants.
“We’ve done it lots this year with our western schedule with lots of travel,” Kuefler said.
“At least this time we get to stay in our own beds. We’re going to take it one game at a time. [Playing four games in five nights] is definitely a possibility and we would be OK with that.”
The road ahead for the Blazers is daunting.
On Thursday night, a tilt with the OHL champion Peterborough Petes, who have already won one do-or-die game.
The reward for dispatching the Petes would be a rematch with the Thunderbirds on Friday night — what would be the club’s third game in three nights.
Waiting patiently for the winner of Friday’s semifinal are the Quebec Remparts, who will have enjoyed four days off by the time the championship game rolls around on Sunday afternoon.
Puck drop on Thursday at Sandman Centre is 6 p.m.
UPDATE: 8:48 p.m.
The Kamloops Blazers couldn’t solve the Seattle Thunderbirds on Wednesday at Sandman Centre, surrendering five unanswered goals en route to a 6-1 loss in the round-robin finale and making their potential path to the Memorial Cup final considerably more difficult.
Ryan Hofer scored the lone goal for the Blazers. Lucas Ciona, Jared Davidson, Jordan Gustafson, Kyle Crnkovic, Luke Prokop and Colton Dach were the goal scorers fore the Thunderbirds.
The game was tied 1-1 after 20 minutes, but it did not take long for the T-Birds to jump out to a commanding lead in the second — eight seconds, to be exact.
Davidson and Gustafson scored at 6:39 and 6:47 of the middle frame to put Seattle ahead and Crnkovic, Prokop and Dach added goals in the third to make it a 6-1 final.
Thomas Milic made 29 saves on 30 shots to earn the win in net for the Thunderbirds. Dylan Ernst stopped 36 of 42 Seattle shots in a losing effort.
With the win, the T-Birds advance to Friday’s semifinal. The Blazers, meanwhile, will have to beat the Peterborough Petes (1-2) in Thursday’s tiebreaker to get another shot at Seattle.
The winner of the semifinal will play the QMJHL-champion Quebec Remparts, who finished atop the round-robin standings, in Sunday’s championship game.
ORIGINAL STORY: 5:55 p.m.
A spot in the Memorial Cup semifinal is on the line Wednesday night at Sandman Centre, where the Kamloops Blazers are taking on the WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds.
Both clubs are 1-1 through two games in the tournament.
While the winner will advance to Friday’s semifinal, the loser will play the OHL-champion Peterborough Petes (1-2) in a tiebreaker on Thursday. The winner of that game will play Wednesday's winner in the semifinal.
The Quebec Remparts, who won the QMJHL title, are through to Sunday’s championship game after finishing atop the round-robin standings.
The T-Birds are a familiar opponent for the Blazers. Seattle ousted Kamloops earlier this month in the WHL Western Conference championship.
Puck drop is just after 6 p.m. This story will be updated immediately following the game.
Kelowna Rockets trade for Hiroki Gojsic after signing his younger brother
Rockets reunite brothers
The Kelowna Rockets could have a new brother combination on their roster in the coming years.
A day after the Rockets announced they had signed third round draft choice Kanjyu Gojsic, they swung a trade with the Victoria Royals for his older brother.
The Rockets today sent future second and fifth round draft picks to the Royals for the rights to Hiroki Gojsic, who played last year as a 16-year-old with the BCHL Penticton Vees.
They then signed the six-foot-three, 187-pound forward to a WHL Scholarship and Development Agreement .
Hiroki Gojsic, the first player taken in the second round of the 2021 prospects draft, chose to play last season in Penticton where he posted 10 goals and 11 assists over 36 games.
“We’re very excited to be able to acquire a player of Hiroki’s caliber,” said Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton.
“We’ve been working on this for a little while. We think that he’s an elite player that will bring something to our team that we don’t have right now. He’s got size and skill, he’s going to play with our best players.”
Kanjyu is not eligible to play full time with the Rockets until the 2024-2025 season but when he arrives, they would be the first brothers to play together since Nolan and Cal Foote during the 2017-2018 season and the first pair of forwards since Erik and Reid Gardiner the season before.
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