The WHLs regular season ends this weekend and 15 of the leagues 16 playoff positions have been clinched. The remaining spot is being hotly contested between Kelowna and Kamloops. The playoff race winner advances to the post-season while the loser has its season come to an end.
Blazers, Rockets to meet in 2019 WHL Tiebreaker Game
The two teams are tied in points at 62 and each has just one game left, both taking place on Saturday. Kelowna hosts Vancouver at 7:05 p.m., while Kamloops visits Prince George at 7 p.m.
🎥 WHL Highlight of the Night 🎥March 15, [email protected] of @blazerhockey #WHLHoN pic.twitter.com/LHEoS64UAG
If one team wins and the other loses, the winner captures third place in B.C. Division standings and a first-round playoff series against Victoria. If Kelowna and Kamloops finish tied in points and wins, a tiebreaker game will be needed.
That game, if necessary, will take place in Kamloops. The Blazers won the head-to-head series with the Rockets this season, earning the right to host the tiebreaker.
Heading into Fridays games, the Rockets had a one-point lead over the Blazers. By nights end, though, the two clubs were level on points at 62 apiece.
At Langley, Kelowna (27-32-6-2) had a chance to increase its slim margin, but fell to the B.C. Divison-leading Giants.
The game was tied 1-1, and overtime looked possible, but Vancouver pulled ahead with a power-play goal with just 3:10 left in the contest.
Alex Kannok Leipert and Dylan Plouffe, with the game winner, scored for Vancouver (48-15-2-2, 100 pts.). Kyle Crosbie, at 11:01 of the second period to make it 1-1, replied for Kelowna.
Roman Basran stopped 29 of 31 shots for the Rockets, with Trent Miner turning aside 17 of 18 shots for the Giants.
At Kamloops, Prince George, last place in B.C. Division standings with just 46 points, did the Rockets a favour, as they knocked off the Blazers in overtime.
Tuesdays tiebreaker game serves as the seventh in WHL history and the first since 2015-16 when the Edmonton Oil Kings knocked off the Medicine Hat Tigers by a 6-4 margin to advance to the 2016 WHL Playoffs.
Vladislav Mikhalchuk, with two goals, Rhett Rhinehart, Josh Curtis and Mike MacLean scored for Prince George (19-40-5-3), which trailed 2-1 heading into the third period. In the third, The Cougars scored three times to forge ahead 4-2, but the Blazers rallied to force overtime. Mikhaulchuk ended the game at 3:46 of overtime.
A dramatic Saturday night provided more than enough nail-biting moments for even the most battle-tested of fans as both the Blazers and Rockets scored theatrical victories to set up for Tuesdays tiebreaker.
Kobe Mohr, Ryley Appelt, Kyrell Sopotyk and Connor Zary replied for Kamloops (27-32-6-2). Sopotyk scored at 13:39 of the third to make it 4-3, with Zary scoring at 19:04 to make it 4-4.
Taylor Gauthier stopped 26 of 30 shots for the Cougars, with Dylan Garand stopping 24 of 29 shots for the Blazers.
The Rockets are facing another big test tonight. Vancouver is 7-0-0-1 against Kelowna this season, with the only blemish being a 4-3 shootout loss on Jan. 27. Apart from that, its been a season of success for the Giants against their Okanagan rivals.
For Rockets fans, getting the Cougars to upset the Blazers again is a tall ask, as Kamloops is 6-0-1-1 against Prince George this season. However, their last two games were one-goal affairs: Fridays 5-4 overtime game and a Cougars 2-1 shootout win on Feb. 22.
At Vernon, the Smoke Eaters reeled off three unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Vipers and take a 1-0 lead in their second-round playoff series.
Braeden Tuck, Spencer McLean and Carter Jones scored for Trail, which trailed 1-0 early in the third following scoreless action for the first 40 minutes. Tuck made it 1-1 at 3:37, with McLean giving the Smokies the lead at 5:49. Jones closed out the scoring with an empty-net marker at 18:55.
Donovan Buskey turned aside a late penalty shot as the Smoke Eaters defence stymied the @VernonVipers in a 3-1 victory in Game #1 of the Interior Division Semi Final!
Donovan Buskey stopped 16 of 17 shots for the Smoke Eaters, with Aidan Porter turning aside 21 of 23 shots for the Vipers.
The series continues Saturday with Game 2 in Vernon at 7 p.m. Trail will host Games 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wedneday at 7 p.m.
There's nothing to choose between the Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers as they head to the final game of the regular season.
The two teams are deadlocked for the final BC Division playoff spot with 62 points each heading into game 68 Saturday night.
On Friday, the Rockets fell 2-1 in regulation time to the Vancouver Giants in Langley, while the Blazers grabbed a vital loser-point in a 5-4 overtime defeat at home to Prince George.
On Saturday, Kamloops finishes the season with a game in Prince George, while Kelowna hosts Vancouver.
In Langley, Dylan Plouffe snapped a 1-1 tie with less than four minutes to go in regulation time in the Giants victory over the Rockets.
The goal came just 27 seconds after Michael Farren was set off for high sticking. It was the Giants only power play of the game.
After a scoreless first, Alex Kannok Leipert broke the deadlock, jamming the puck past Roman Basran during a scramble in front of the crease.
Kyle Crosbie tied it off the rush eight minutes later when his shot from the right faceoff circle beat Trent Miner five-hole.
In Kamloops, Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored his second of the night with less than 90 seconds left in overtime, giving the Cougars a 5-4 win in Kamloops.
The Cougars scored three unanswered goals in less than nine minutes during the opening half of the period to take a 4-2 lead.
Kyrell Sopotyk cut the deficit to one on the power play, setting the stage for Connor Zary's game-tying marker in the final minute.
The Blazers close out the regular season Saturday in Prince George while the Rockets entertain the Giants in their regular season finale.
If the teams remain tied after Saturday, they would play a one-game tie-breaker next week in Kamloops to determine who faces the Victoria Royals in the opening round of the playoffs, and who goes home.