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WHL  

Rockets season ends

The Kelowna Rockets self-destructed at the worst possible time.

Some miscommunication behind the Kelowna net and heads up forechecking by the Kamloops Blazers led to a pair of shorthanded goals in a 5-1 victory in a tie-breaker game at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops Tuesday night.

The Blazers will now head to the WHL playoffs, where they'll face the Victoria Royals. The Rockets are heading home after missing the post season for just the second time in franchise history.

The tie-breaker was made necessary after the Rockets and Blazers finished with identical 28-32-6-2 records.

The Rockets trailed 2-1 with less than 12 minutes to go when Riley Appelt was sent off for tripping Leif Mattson.

Instead of taking advantage, the Rockets surrendered two, almost identical goals.

On the first, Roman Basran and Schael Higson got their signals crossed behind the net, allowing Connor Zary to swoop in, steal the puck, and tuck it into a wide open net.

Moments later, on a similar play, Basran went to leave the puck when Brodi Stuart jumped in, grabbed the loose puck, and backhanded it into the gaping cage.

The Blazers dominated much of the scoreless opening period. Basran kept it scoreless as the Blazers buzzed around the Kelowna end for much of the first half of the period, outshooting the Rockets at one point 9-1.

Kyrell Sopotyk opened the scoring for the Blazers on a power play four minutes into the second period.

Mark Liwiski tied it four minutes later, backhanding a pass past goaltender Dylan Garand.

Kobe Mohr restored the one-goal lead six minutes into the third, beating a screened Basran from the slot.

Then, disaster struck.

Jermaine Loewen sealed it into an empty net late in the game.

Tuesday's win capped an improbable comeback for the Blazers, who found themselves seven points behind the Rockets with just six games, and nine days left in the regular season.

But, Kamloops went 5-0-1-0 down the stretch, including a pair of key wins over the Rockets, while Kelowna finished 1-2-2-0 over its final week.

The last time the Rockets failed to participate in the post season was the 2006-2007 season, when they finished with 53 points, four back of the expansion Chilliwack Bruins.



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