Luke Toporowski scored a goal in the opening frame for for the visitors. (Gary Ahuja/Langley Advance Times)

Luke Toporowski scored a goal in the opening frame for for the visitors. (Gary Ahuja/Langley Advance Times)

Semifinals see Blazers defeated Vancouver Giants again – 4-2

The teams faceoff again Friday, May 13 in Kamloops

A pair of late power-play goals – the second of which was scored into the empty net – both off the stick of Logan Stankoven have the Kamloops Blazers one win away from advancing to the Western Conference championships.

The winning goal came with 2:37 to play and snapped a 2-2 tie as visiting Kamploops Blazers defeated the Vancouver Giants 4-2 in game four of the Western Hockey League semi-final best-of-seven series on Thursday night, giving Kamloops a 3-1 advantage.

After each team scored once in the opening frame – Luke Toporowski for the visitors and Zack Ostapchuk for the home side – Caedan Bankier put the Blazers ahead 2-1 with a goal at the 12:59 mark of the middle stanza before Ostapchuk scored his second of the game just over six minutes into the third.

With overtime looming, Stankoven broke free for a breakaway, forcing the Giants’ Alex Cotton to take a tripping penalty and 33 seconds later, Stankoven scored the game-winner.

Vancouver coach Michael Dyck readily admitted that play was a legitimate penalty, but he – and especially the 4,110 fans in attendance – were irate when the Giants were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty with only 1:50 remaining on the clock.

RELATED: VIDEO: Vancouver Giants win dramatic 3-2 victory over Kamloops

The crowd was further incensed when Ostapchuk was taken down when carrying the puck into the Kamloops zone with less than 30 seconds to play and there was no call. Instead, the Blazers gathered the loose puck and Stankoven buried his WHL-leading ninth goal of the post-season.

“I would love to tell you, but it is certainly not worth the fine that would be levied. I think the fans have a pretty good feel for what was going on,” Dyck responded when asked for his thoughts on the officiating. “With the price of gas these days, I can’t waste my money on fines.”

For the game, the Blazers were 2-for-5 on the power play (and 5-for-23 through the first four games) while the Giants drew just one man-advantage opportunity and have only generated 11 power-play chances in a dozen periods of hockey.

“That would be question for the gentlemen (officials) down the hallway,” Dyck said about what his team can do to draw more penalties.

Game four showed why Kamloops was 46 points ahead of Vancouver during the regular season. After each team had eight shots on goal in an evenly-played first period, the Blazers outshot the Giants 19-8 and 16-4 over the final two periods, suffocating the Vancouver puck carriers at every turn.

“They were connected as five and did a pretty good job of deflecting that pressure. We have to get on the forecheck as five,” Dyck said.

Both teams now head to Kamloops for game five on Friday (May 13) with the Giants looking to stave off elimination and bring the series back to Langley Events Centre for a potential game six on Sunday.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Giants suffer second loss in hard-fought road game against Kamloops

“Short memory, quick response; we are right back at it tomorrow night,” Dyck said of the message to his players and what they need to do to put how game four ended behind them as they look to extend their season.

“It is less about being frustrated and more about being motivated. That’s what we have to be going into Kamloops.”

Final shots on goal were 43-20 with Jesper Vikman earning third star honours for the Giants following his 39-save performance. Through four games, Vikman has a .923 save percentage.

Ostapchuk and Stankoven were the first and second stars, respectively.


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