The Kamloops Blazers badly wanted for the Victoria Royals to beat the Rockets in Kelowna on Wednesday night.
It almost happened, too, but the Royals, who were forced to scratch their head coach and nine skaters, dropped a 4-3 decision that took a six-round shootout to decide.
Victoria was without head coach Dave Lowry, defenceman Keegan Kanzig and forward Tim Traber, all of whom were suspended by the WHL for their roles in third-period antics during the Royals' 6-0 loss to the host Blazers on Tuesday night.
According to the WHL, Lowry, in his first year with the Royals, was suspended "for conduct" of his club.
Traber drew a suspension for his "actions" during the game, while Kanzig is gone "for one-man fight" late in the third period.
All three were hit with "tbd" suspensions, meaning the length is to be determined.
During a skirmish at 3:22 of the third period, a scrum occurred where both teams' benches meet. Traber was trying to entice Kamloops forward Kale Kessy to fight. Kessy, although seen chirping at the Victoria bench, showed no inclination to scrap. In the end, Kessy was knocked down into the entrance to the Royals' bench. Through it all, Traber was pulling on Kessy's sweater.
"He just came out and choked me," Kessy said after the game, an angry-looking red ring in evidence on his neck. "I kind of woke up on their bench."
Traber was given a fighting major and game misconduct.
Kanzig, meanwhile, came out of that situation with a double minor for roughing and a misconduct. He was back on the ice with fewer than 10 seconds to play, which is when he had the "one-man fight" - he tried to get Kamloops forward Chase Souto to fight - that earned him a major and game misconduct.
The Royals ended up taking 108 of the 156 penalty minutes, and giving up nine power-play opportunities.
"Our penalty-killing did a good job," Lowry told Marlon Martens, the Royals' radio voice, after Tuesday's game, "but let's be real - nine penalties, don't give yourself a chance to win. We became unravelled and discipline was a huge issue for our team.
"We want to be smart . . . that's not what we want to be known for. We want to be known as a team that plays hard whistle to whistle."
Lowry, 38, played 1,084 NHL games, retiring after the 2003-04 season. He spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames. Lowry is the first WHL coach to be suspended his season.
The Royals went into Kelowna having lost 10 straight games. They also were without nine skaters, including Traber and Kanzig. They also scratched Logan Nelson, who is one of their best forwards. The team said Nelson was ill, although he went to the bench on Tuesday while favouring his left leg with 50 seconds to play. The Royals also are without Russian forward Alex Gogolev, their leading scorer, and defenceman Tyler Stahl, the team captain.
Having now lost 11 straight games, the sixth-place Royals next play Friday against the visiting Vancouver Giants.
The Blazers, who have won four straight games, are at home to the B.C. Division-leading Rockets on Friday. Game time is 7 p.m.
After last night's game, the Rockets hold a three-point lead over the Blazers and Kelowna has a game in hand. The teams also will play Saturday in Kelowna.
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Defenceman Joel Edmundson of the Blazers has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL's St. Louis Blues.
Edmundson, 19, was a second-round selection, 46th overall, in the NHL's 2011 draft.
From Brandon, Edmundson was a sixth-round pick by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL's 2008 bantam draft. He played two-plus seasons with the Warriors before being dealt to the Blazers. In exchange for Edmundson, the Blazers surrendered defenceman Tyler Bell, 18, centre Jayden Halbgewachs, who plays for the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians and had been Kamloops' first-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, and a first-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Edmundson has 17 points in 32 games with the Blazers, after earning eight points in 29 games with Moose Jaw. In his WHL career, he has 68 points in 188 games.
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The Blazers announced Wednesday that they will open the first-round of the playoffs with games at Interior Savings Centre on March 22 and 23.
23rd. An opponent has yet to be determined.
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