In what was a crazy ending to the regular season for Kelowna, Liwiski scored in overtime as the Rockets scored a must-win scenario over Vancouver.
Entering Saturday night action, Kelowna and Kamloops were tied for the league’s final playoff spot with 62 points each.
WHL Roundup: Rockets playoff chances take hit with loss to Giants
While Kelowna was playing in overtime, the Kamloops Blazers beat the Prince George Cougars 4-2 in what was also a must-win scenario for the Blazers.
That win pushed Kamloops to 64 points and then Kelowna won, giving the Rockets 64 points as well. Now the two teams will meet in a playoff tiebreaker on Tuesday in Kamloops.
In Prince George, in the dying minutes of the third period, the host Cougars took a 2-1 lead at 14:39. Prince George bested Kamloops 5-4 in overtime on Friday and was searching for a second consecutive upset. The Blazers, though, rallied, scoring at 14:54, 17:15 and 19:11 to win 4-2.
Jermaine Loewen, with two goals, Kobe Mohr and Connor Zary scored for Kamloops (28-32-6-2). Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Cole Moberg replied for Prince George (19-41-5-3).
Dylan Garand stopped 29 of 31 shots for the Blazers, with Taylor Gauthier turning aside 21 of 24 shots for the Cougars.
In Kelowna, the Rockets were up 2-1 after two periods — a lead that held until 19:27 of the third, when the Giants scored to force overtime.
By going to overtime, Kelowna was assured at least a point, which temporarily put them in the driver’s seat. And then the Blazers rallied to win while the Rockets were in overtime, which put the pressure on Kelowna to win.
Had the Rockets lost in overtime, or in the shootout, their season would have ended. Instead, Liwiski scored a power-play goal at 3:40 to end the game.
Cayde Augustine and Alex Swetlikoff also scored for Kelowna (28-32-6-2). Justin Sourdif and Jadon Joseph, with the game-tying marker, scored for Vancouver (48-15-3-2).
David Tendeck stopped 32 of 35 shots for the Giants, with Roman Basran turning aside 19 of 21 shots for the Rockets.
For Tuesday’s playoff tie-breaker, Kamloops will host because the Blazers won the head-to-head season series with the Rockets. It’s believed this will be the seventh tie-breaking game in WHL history, and that the last three tie-breakers were won by road teams.
The winner of Tuesday’s game will play Victoria (34-30-2-2) in the first round of the playoffs.
Calgary, Alta. – The Western Hockey League announced today the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets will meet Tuesday, March 19 (7 p.m. PT) at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops for a tiebreaker game to determine the final playoff berth in the WHLs B.C. Division and Western Conference.
Reese Johnson had all three goals for Red Deer (33-28-6), which clinched the final playoff spot in the East thanks to Brandon’s loss against Regina. Ethan Anders made 29 saves in defeat.
The winner of Tuesdays WHL Tiebreaker Game will advance to the 2019 WHL Playoffs and a best-of-seven, first-round series against the Victoria Royals, who finished the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season second in the B.C. Division.
WHL fans can watch the tiebreaker game for FREE on WHL Live as a special offering before the 2019 WHL Playoffs begin Friday, March 22. WHL Live Playoff Packages will be made available for purchase Monday, March 18.
The Blazers and Rockets finished the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season tied for third place in the WHLs B.C. Division and the final playoff spot in the WHLs Western Conference with identical records of 28-32-6-2 (64 points). The Blazers are awarded home-ice advantage in the single-game tiebreaker, having finished with more points in the regular season head-to-head series with the Rockets. In 10 meetings between the two B.C. Interior rivals, the Blazers finished 6-3-1-0 (13 points), while the Rockets finished 4-4-1-1 (10 points).
KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored his second goal of the night at 3:46 of overtime and also had two assists as Prince George edged the Blazers.
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.
In Prince George, the Blazers trailed the Cougars by a 2-1 margin with just over five minutes remaining in the third period before scoring three unanswered goals to secure a 4-2 win. Captain Jermaine Loewen evened the affair with his 27th goal of the season before Connor Zary converted on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity to give Kamloops a 3-2 lead with 2:45 to go. Loewen added some insurance with an empty-netter moments later.
Meanwhile in Kelowna, the Vancouver Giants forced overtime with the Rockets after Jadon Joseph scored to make it a 2-2 game with only 33 seconds to go in regulation. With 1:20 remaining in the extra period and the Blazers having just finished off the Cougars, it was Mark Liwiski registering his 11th goal of the season to give the Rockets a season-extending 3-2 triumph.
All of this caps a quite improbable stretch, as the Blazers erased a seven-point deficit, going 5-0-1-0 to close the regular season in order to catch the Rockets and set the stage for Tuesdays tiebreaker.
Loewen – a prospect of the NHLs Dallas Stars – and the Blazers will welcome 2019 NHL Draft prospect Nolan Foote and the Rockets to Kamloops for the first WHL Tiebreaker Game since 2016.
Ryan Chyzowski, Tyler Preziuso, Linus Nassen and Brett Kemp also scored for the Tigers (35-26-6). Mads Sogaard made 29 saves for the win.
In addition to Loewen, the Blazers are led by two energetic forwards enjoying career seasons – Zane Franklin and Zary. Franklin, a 20-year-old product of Marwayne, Alta., leads Kamloops in scoring with 68 points (28G-40A) in 68 games this season. Zary, a 17-year-old product of Saskatoon, Sask., sits second in scoring on the Blazers, having collected 67 points (24G-43A) in 63 games this season.
For the Rockets, its 19-year-old Kyle Topping – a product of Salt Spring Island, B.C. – leading the team in scoring with 69 points (23G-46A) in 68 games. The 18-year-old Foote – a product of Engelwood, Colo. – sits close behind with 63 points (36G-27A) in 66 games.
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.
History of WHL Tiebreaker Games 2015-16: Edmonton Oil Kings (6) at Medicine Hat Tigers (4) 2013-14: Prince Albert Raiders (5) at Red Deer Rebels (3) 2008-09: Edmonton Oil Kings (2) at Prince Albert Raiders (1) – OT 1989-90: Brandon Wheat Kings (4) at Swift Current Broncos (5) 1983-84: Calgary Wranglers (8) at Saskatoon Blades (7) – OT 1980-81: Spokane Chiefs (10) at New Westminster Bruins (9)
About the Western Hockey League Regarded as the worlds finest development league for junior hockey players, the Western Hockey League (WHL) head office is based in Calgary, Alberta. The WHL consists of 22 member Clubs with 17 located in Western Canada and five in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A member of the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL has been a leading supplier of talent for the National Hockey League for over 50 years. The WHL is also the leading provider of hockey scholarships with over 350 graduates each year receiving WHL Scholarships to pursue a post-secondary education of their choice. Each season, WHL players also form the nucleus of Canadas National Junior Hockey Team.