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WHL  

Blazers stay alive in race

The Kelowna Rockets let a chance to all but clinch a playoff spot in the WHL's BC Division slip through their fingers.

The Kamloops Blazers stayed alive for the final guaranteed spot in the division with a 2-1 victory Saturday at Prospera Place.

The Blazers did what they needed to do, winning both ends of a home-and-home series with the Rockets. However, surrendering a single point in a shootout win Friday leaves them four points back with four games to play.

Kelowna has three games left, Wednesday at home to Spokane and back-to-back games against the Vancouver Giants to close out the regular season,.

The Rockets were able to get just two goals past rookie netminder Dylan Garand, who started both games in place of 20-year-old Dylan Ferguson, out with a lower body injury.

Kelowna played Saturday without forward Mark Liwiski, who sat lout the second of a three-game suspension, and defencemen Lassi Thomson and Matt Barberis, meaning the five remaining defencemen logged a lot of ice time.

"All the 'D' are a little over tired and over worked, but props to our boys at the back. They all worked hard...and I respect them for that," said veteran Schael Higson.

After a scoreless opening period, the Blazers finally hit the board six minutes into the second.

Josh Pillar stole the puck behind the Kelowna net and fed Kyrell Sopotyk who beat Roman Basran with a wrist shot high to the glove side.

The Rockets got that one back seven minutes later during their first sustained pressure inside the Kamloops end.

Higson's shot from the left point deflected to Kyle Topping at the bottom of the right faceoff circle. His shot beat a sprawling Garand.

Jermaine Loewen, a thorn in the Rockets side whenever the two teams meet, scored what stood up to be the game winner midway through the third.

Again, the Blazers intercepted a pass behind the Kelowna net. Connor Zary threw the loose puck in front to Loewen, whose one-timer beat Basran.

The Rockets were finally able to put pressure on Garand in the dying moments with Baaran on the bench for an extra attacked.

Garand stopped Kaeden Korczak from the right circle, then stoned Topping on the rebound. With precious few seconds left on the clock, he turned away Leif Mattson who spun and fired from in close.

"It was a hard-fought game. Both teams went down to three lines pretty quick," said Rockets head coach Adam Foote.

"It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth. We just couldn't find a way to get it in the net. They got one more than us, and here we are."

Liwiski will miss Wednesday's game with the Chiefs. He'll be available for the final two games of the regular season.

Thomson's availability isn't as clear cut.

"Hopefully by the end of the week he's ready to go, we'll see.

"It's just protocol right now. We'll see what happens.

If the teams remain tied at the end of the regular season, they would meet in a one-game playoff in Kamloops to determine who gets into the post season.



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