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WHL  

Rockets force tiebreaker

It's only fitting. Two of the most fierce rivals in the Western Hockey League will faceoff against each other one last time to determine the final playoff berth in the BC Division.

The Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers both won in dramatic fashion Saturday night to force a one-game playoff Tuesday night in Kamloops.

The winner moves on to face the Victoria Royals in the opening round of the playoffs. The loser is out.

At Prospera Place, the Rockets clung to a 2-1 lead late in regulation time until Jadon Joseph snapped a shot from the right point that appeared to beat a screened Roman Basran to the far corner.

Heading to overtime with a single point in their pocket, the Rockets temporarily held a one-point lead on the Blazers.

At the same time in Prince George, the Cougars snapped a 1-1 tie with a shorthanded goal to take a 2-1 lead later in regulation time.

However, seconds later, as the Rockets were getting ready for overtime, the Blazers tied it, and minutes later, took the lead with a shorthanded goal of their own.

The Rockets had to find a goal in overtime, or the shootout.

After a couple of near misses on a power play in overtime Mark Liwiski, who returned Friday from a three-game suspension, beat David Tendeck off a set-play with Alex Swetlikoff to secure the win and a date with the Blazers.

With a faceoff at centre ice, Swetlikoff sent the puck ahead for Liwiski, who beat his man and muscled his way across the Vancouver blueline and beat Tendeck five-hole.

"Me and Sweaty talk. I felt in the second half of the season we developed some chemistry," said Liwiski.

"He knows what I'm doing and I know what he's doing, and it just kind of bounced our way."

Liwiski said he saw a screen and looked low with his shot.

"We did some video before the game, and I know if I can beat him low, that's where we're going to beat him."

The Giants opened the scoring just past the midway point when Justin Sourdif banged home his own rebound on a Vancouver power play.

Cayde Augustine got that one back less than two minutes later. His shot from the left boards was drifting toward defenceman Dallas Hines head.

He put his hands up to protect himself, and somehow deflected the puck into the net.

Swetlikoff gave the Rockets their first lead of the night late in the second. Tendeck stopped his original wraparound, but Swetlikoff stayed with the puck, turned his body, and lifted the puck high on the short side.

"It was huge after I think he took 25 or 30 stitches in his mouth last night in Vancouver," said head coach Adam Foote.

"I was going to talk to (Swetlikoff) before the game, but I just gave him a tap,and I felt like he was going to go. Some guys would be discouraged by something like that, especially one that drastic, but he just moved forward."

It stayed that way until the dying moments.

The Rockets appeared nervous through the first half of the opening period, but picked up their game after the Giants opened the scoring.

"This whole process has been a learning experience, and later when we look back at this we're going to say this was the best thing that happened to us, that we needed to go through this.

"Guys are figuring out how to stay alive and how to win."

The tiebreaker goes Tuesday night in Kamloops.

It's the eighth tiebreaker in league history dating back to 1980.

The road team has won six of the previous seven.

The winner of Tuesday's game will open the best-of-seven first round series in Victoria.



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