Vancouver Giants force Game 6 with win over Blazers in Kamloops

“I don’t know if you call it karma, but it’s funny how things work that way,” said Dyck, whose Giants, with another character win, forced Game 6 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, a 4-hour starts on Sunday at the LEC.

Vancouver Giants head coach Michael Dyck chuckled at the grisly finish to his club’s 5-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers at Sandman Center on Friday.

“I don’t know if you call it karma, but it’s funny how things work that way,” said Dyck, whose Giants, with another character win, forced Game 6 in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series, a 4-hour starts on Sunday at the LEC.

The Giants were penalized late in the third period in Game 4 at the LEC on Thursday with an over-man bench minor, a penalty that enabled Kamloops to add an empty net insurance marker to the power play in a 4-2 win.

Vancouver fans drove officials off the ice.

Dyck danced around a penalty with his post-match comments in a media scrum, but said enough, including that it was the Kamloops bench calling the penalty for too many men, to convey his displeasure at being off duty.

On Friday, late in the third period, the Blazers were handed an too-many bench minor, a penalty that enabled the Giants to take a 4-2 lead with an empty net insurance marker on the power play.

Vancouver added another to an empty just before Kamloops fans repeated the same chorus: “Ref, you suck! Ref, you’re an asshole!” – heard the night before on the Lower Mainland.

“I think the game just has a way of doing that,” Dyck said with a smile that bordered on a grin.

There was another similarity between the games – the referee did not decide.

“They came in with a lot of energy in the third,” said Blazers striker Matthew Seminoff. “A few slip-ups and that was all it took. The playoffs are so tight. You cannot take shifts or periods off. We’re just ready to respond on Sunday.”

Dallas Stars draft pick Logan Stankoven, a WHL candidate for Player of the Year, entered the game with a tie for the playoffs.

That’s lofty status that demands respect from a 2-on-1, making him both a Class A pass option and a perfect distraction for Luke Toporowski, the Bettendorf, Iowa product who was tickled to make his linemate stick, a red herring.

Toporowski’s toe-drag wire job put Kamloops at 1-0 at 4:27 of the first period.

He celebrated his seventh goal of the postseason as he often does – in elaborate style, annoying opponents and jazzing fans with a sliding haymaker fist pump.

The underdog and injury plagued the Giants, whose persistence helped them score an astonishing disruption to the Everett Silvertips in Round 1, an equalizing goal less than five minutes later.

Adam Hall tied Stankoven atop the WHL playoff goalscoring race with an enveloping effort, his ninth goal of the postseason coming at 9:09 to calm the crowd of 4,337.

“There’s a lot of confidence in our room,” said Giants striker Zack Ostapchuk, who had two goals and four points on Friday. “Since February, we’ve struggled a bit to get to where we are today. We have to have the same mentality on Sunday and we will give ourselves a good chance.”

A strange bounce resulted in the only goal of the second period.

Vancouver goalkeeper Jesper Vikman didn’t see the puck bounce off the boards behind him and land right under his nose, where Seminoff sniffed it and slid into his third of the playoffs.

“It’s disappointing, a pretty worthless loss, but in the end we have to use that as motivation and put it in the past and learn from it tomorrow,” Seminoff said.

Leading 2-1 after two periods, the Blazers were 20 minutes away from a trip to the conference final.

“We haven’t really talked about the Kamloops Blazers,” Dyck said of his message in the second break. “We talked more about the Vancouver Giants and the way we should play. Too many passengers in the second period.”

The Giants stunned the Blazers to start the third period, with Ty Thorpe scoring at 1:33 and Ostapchuk burying the game winner at 2:32.

“As we went into third, we wanted to have no regrets and play our hearts out,” said Ostapchuk, who has led 23 points in 11 playoff games. “We knew what was at stake. We knew our season was at stake.”

Blazers’ head coach Shaun Clouston called a time-out to settle his shell-shocked club.

“Just to try and get us back on track, try to get the guys to focus on what to do next,” Clouston said. “I thought there were pieces that we pressed. We had some really good chances to capture it. I thought it was a decent response.”

Hall added the first empty net mark at 6:22 PM, his leading 10th of the playoffs, and Ostapchuk pocketed the second at 6:38 PM.

Vikman stopped 35 shots to take the win, while Garand made 21 saves in a losing attempt.

Neither team scored a power play goal. Kamloops was 0-for-3. Vancouver was 0-for-2.

“With our backs against the wall and one down, we knew we had to give a push,” said Dyck. “Now we are focused on going back home. We don’t worry about winning a series. Going into Game 6, it’s all about our start. †

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