Story and Photo by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
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Victoria, BC (ISN) – In a crazy game that saw eight goals scored in the second period, the Kamloops Blazers took a 3-0 strangle-hold on their WHL Western Conference playoff series with the Victoria Royals after coming away with a 7-5 victory Tuesday night in Victoria.

WHL playoff hockey returned to Victoria Tuesday night for the first time since 1989, as the Victoria Royals hosted the Kamloops Blazers in Game 3 of their Western Conference quarter-final playoff series.

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Kamloops defenceman Tyler Hansen skates away from the pressure of the Royal’s Mike Forsyth during first period action Tuesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN)

After replacing Keith Hamilton in Game 2 in Kamloops, the Royals Jared Rathjen was given the start in net, while the Blazers countered with steady Cole Cheveldave.

The first period started slow for both teams, with regular icings seemingly part of the game plan for both teams.

After a few chances at both ends, the Royals would finally get the Royals blue-cladded crowd of 5,255 rocking when Zane Jones would pot his first of the playoffs at 8:02 mark, giving the Royals the 1-0 lead.

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Zane Jones begins the celebration after his first period goal gave the Royals a 1-0 lead (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Jamie Crooks would add to the Royal’s lead at the 15:16 mark when he skated in over the blue line and snuck a laser of a wrist shot past Cheveldave, bringing the crowd to it’s feet once again to cheer the 2-0 lead.

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Jamie Crooks loads up a first period shot that would beat Kamloops goaltender Cole Cheveldave and give the Royals a 2-0 lead (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Blazers looked to have gotten back into the game with just under a minute remaining in the period when they buried one past Rathjen, but an interference penalty to Brandon Herrod nullified the goal and the Royals headed to the break up 2-0 and on the power play.

In a sign of the crazy period that would soon follow – with eight goals scored in total – the Blazers jumped on the scoreboard for good this time just 54 seconds into the second period when Dylan Willick’s short-handed shot would hit the post, rebound off the toe of Rathjen’s pad and trickle slowly across the line.

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Jared Rathjen’s run of second period bad luck would begin when this Dylan Willick shot would bounce off the post, then off the bottom toe of his left pad and trickle slowly across the line for Kamloop’s first goal (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Rathjen would be snake bit again just two minutes later when a Tim Bozon Shot would hit his shoulder, deflect up off the crossbar and down into the net, tying the game for the Blazers.

The Royals and their fans then watched in stunned silence as Kamloops would take the lead on the power play less than two minutes later as Landon Cross would bury one at the 4:56 mark.

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This power-play shot by the Blazer’s Landon Cross would give Kamloops a 3-2 second period lead Tuesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Credit the Royals though for not giving up, as less than a minute after that, Crooks would score his second of the night, banging home a rebound off the post and tying the game 3-3.

Crooks would complete his hat-trick with 11:34 remaining in the period, banging home another rebound and the Royals would once again find themselves with the lead 4-3.

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Jamie Crooks would have a stellar night for the Royals, notching a hat-trick that would propel the Royals into a 4-3 lead in the second period (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Another Royals penalty would prove costly, as the Kamloops powerplay unit dominated play in the Royals end and with 5:05 remaining in the period, Jordan DePape would finally put one past Rathjen for the Blazer’s second power-play marker of the night, tying the game at 4-4.

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Blazer Brandon Herrod`s deflection attempt clearly beats Royals goalie Jared Rathjen, however the puck would not beat the crossbar, deflecting down and away from the net during second period action Tuesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Blazers and their special teams were not done however and with 2:34 remaining, Matt Needham scored Kamloops second short handed goal of the evening, sniping a beauty over Rathjen’s glove hand and into the top corner, restoring the one goal lead.

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Victoria’s Logan Nelson would be his usual mischevious self and add a pair of assists against the Blazers (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

That marked the end of the evening for the Royals goalie, who gave up the five goals on 21 shots, and veteran Keith Hamilton came in to hold the fort.

Unfortunately for Hamilton, teammate Tyler Stahl would take a late elbowing penalty and Kamloops would once again make the Royal’s pay, greeting Hamilton with a power-play goal by JC Lipon with 1:12 remaining in the period to give the Blazers a 6-4 lead.

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Steven Hodges contributed a pair of assists to the cause in the Royal’s loss Tuesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Royals managed to get out of the remainder of the period without any more goals being scored and were left wondering where their 2-0 first period lead had gone.

In the third period, the Royal’s gave their fans hope of a comeback when Austin Carroll set up a nice screen in front of Cheveldave and tipped home a Stahl point shot to make the score 6-5 just 1:20 into the period.

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The Royal’s Austin Carroll would get enough of the puck to tip it by Blazer goalie Cole Cheveldave early in the third period Tuesday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Unfortunately that was as close as the Royals would get and after the Blazer’s Colin Smith broke in hard off the wing and powered one past Hamilton at the 6:38 mark to restore the Blazer’s two goal lead, the life that was in the Royals seemed to disappear and they could not generate any significant scoring chances after that.

While the majority of fans in attendance went home disappointed with the loss, there will be at least one Royals fan who will be happy they were at the game, as they walked away with a carry-over 50/50 jackpot in excess of $24,000, the largest single pot to be won at a Royals or Salmon King game at Save-on-Foods Arena.

The Blazers will now have a chance to sweep the Royals out of the first round when they meet again on Wednesday night in Victoria. Game time is 7:00 pm.

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Royal’s mascot Marty the Marmot ponders his reflection as he contemplates what he can do on Wednesday to help the Royals turn around their luck and avoid a sweep on home ice (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Game Notes: The Blazer’s Captain Chase Schaber left the game early in the first period with an undisclosed injury. Kamloop’s Colin Smith had a goal and three assists to earn first star honours for the game. Jamie Crooks and his hat-trick earned the second star spot and JC Lipon of Kamloops, with a goal and two assists was third star. The Royal’s Logan Nelson and Steven Hodges chipped in a pair of assists each. The Blazers outshot the Royals 33-23 on the game, including 15 shots in the wild second period.

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Blazer goalie Cole Cheveldave seems to give a “I stunk, but what the heck, we won” gesture to teammate Ryan Hanes and the Victoria fans at the completion of Tuesday’s 7-5 win over the Royals (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).