By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
A hush fell over Interior Savings Centre early Saturday evening when D Ryan Gagnon of the Victoria Royals was injured during a WHL playoff game with the Kamloops Blazers.
It was at 3:34 of the first period when Gagnon, a 16-year-old from Quesnel, caught an edge and fell awkwardly into the boards. He laid on his back and didn’t move for a minute or two, but eventually got to his feet and was helped off the ice. He didn’t return, leaving the Royals to finish with five defencemen.
“I saw him in the dressing room right afterward,” Royals general manager Cam Hope told Marlon Weldon, the team’s play-by-play man, “and he was walking, and talking and quite upset that he had put himself in that position and was out of the game.”
After the game, Victoria head coach Dave Lowry said Gagnon would be “re-evaluated” when the Royals get home.
The Royals were hanging on by a thread during the game, but it all came unravelled in the second period, leading to the Blazers’ 6-4 victory.
Two minutes into the second period, with the Blazers leading 2-0, Victoria G Patrik Polivka was penalized for handling the puck outside the trapezoid. The way the Royals saw it, it was a borderline call at best.
A few minutes later, the Royals thought they had a power-play goal when F Steven Hodges whipped a shot from the right side that beat G Cole Cheveldave. However, it was waved off as referees Devin Klein and Tyler Adair called incidental contact by F Ben Walker on Cheveldave. While there was contact, the Royals claimed it was well before Hodges took the shot.
Then, at 12:43, just a minute after F Jamie Crooks had cut the deficit to 2-1, Kamloops F Tim Bozon was credited with a goal when a D Joel Edmundson shot glanced off him and beat Polivka. The Royals wondered if Bozon — like Crooks before him — should have been called for incidental contact with Polivka.
Nothing of the sort happened, of course, and the Blazers quickly scored two more goals to take a 5-1 lead into the third period.
One of the results was a running dialogue — most of it one-way — between Victoria head coach Dave Lowry and the officiating crew.
“That’s playoff hockey. Right?,” a much cooler Lowry stated afterward. “It’s all about the wave and tonight we were on the wrong side of it. Momentum is huge in the playoffs. You have to find a way when you have it to keep it; when you don’t have it, you have to find a way to get it back.”
Kamloops F Chase Souto was penalized late in the third period after he took the feet out from under Polivka. At the time, Lowry could be seen barking in the direction of the Blazers’ bench.
Kamloops associate coach Dave Hunchak had backup G Taran Kozun begin loosening up, perhaps thinking it might be prudent to send him in for Cheveldave just in case things took a turn.
But that never happened and the game finished without mishap.
The Royals got a huge break on their first goal when Edmundson tried to fire the puck around his net and out the other side, only to have it hit Klein in the feet.
The puck went directly to Crooks beside the Blazers net. He skated out front and beat Cheveldave to get the Royals to within 2-1 at 11:49 of the second period.
JUST NOTES: Counting regular-season and playoff games, the Blazers are 17-3-2 against the Royals since the franchise relocated from Chilliwack in time for the 2011-12 season. . . . Crooks’ goal gave him the franchise record for most career goals (8), breaking a mark he had shared with F Ryan Howse. Crooks also played in his 17th postseason game, setting another franchise record. . . . Former Blazers D Austin Madaisky, who is working to come back from wrist surgery, played three games with the ECHL’s Evansville Icemen last week, scoring once in a 5-2 loss to the visiting Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday. He now will join the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
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