Chirping away at the lead: Bizarre penalty helps Blazers even series with Royals

In what has been a bruising, punishing and emotional series against the Victoria Royals, it's hard to believe all it took to pull the Kamloops Blazers even at two games apiece was a few words.

Eight minutes into the third period, the Royals' Kody McDonald was hit with a match penalty for swinging his stick at Zane Franklin's face while the two had an exchange on the bench. The Blazers would score twice during the five-minute penalty to blow the game open on the way to a 6-3 win on Wednesday (March 27).

As for what Franklin said to get McDonald going, he wasn't too keen on sharing. 

"I think it was a little a run-of-the-mill," says Franklin. "He didn't like it obviously, whatever I said. But we'll keep that between the two benches. Maybe I'll use it again, so I don't want you guys to know."

A night after Kamloops head coach Serge Lajoie said his team had to "eat crap" and not get sucked into taking penalties, the Blazers didn't really heed that advice, racking up 20 minutes in the box. But it's clear after four games, Franklin and his teammates are burrowing under the Royals' skin as well.

Victoria had eight minor penalties along with McDonald's ejection to give them 32 minutes on the night.  

"We've got ourselves a playoff series and that's to be expected," says Lajoie. "It's two teams that compete hard, that are competitive, won't back down and have players that toe the line, play on the edge and get under opponents' skin. I think that's just a recipe for a bit of a powder keg."

Franklin was also hit with an unsportsmanlike penalty for his comments after McDonald's ejection and on the ensuing four-on-four, Connor Zary gave the Blazers a lead they would not relinquish.

A minute and a half later, on the power play, Luke Zazula put a wrister from the point top shelf to give Kamloops a two-goal cushion. 

Martin Lang would ice the game away with his first off the playoffs, putting home a Zazula rebound on yet another power play. 

Though the final score and the 47-18 shot total in favour of Kamloops make the game look one-sided, it was a tight affair after two periods. Twice Victoria was able to tie the game up after some miscues by the Blazers back end.

Dino Kambeitz scored the Royals' first goal shorthanded after a bouncing puck got through Zazula and Josh Pillar and Dylan Ferguson fell down leaving the net to play it.

Kambeitz added another one on the power play shortly after that. Kamloops got caught changing lines and Griffen Outhouse made a nice stretch pass to Igor Martynov, who set up Kambeitz for the tap-in. 

However, Zary, who has developed a knack for scoring big goals, potted one before the end of the first to even things up. He finished the night with a pair of goals and 10 shots on net, getting named the game's first star.

After Franklin broke his scoring drought to put the Blazers up 3-2, Ferguson allowed another one he'll want back. Martynov beat the Vegas Golden Knights prospect from the widest possible angle, ripping a shot over Ferguson's shoulder from the goal line. 

Zazula had three points to lead the Blazers, while Kyrell Sopotyk, Montana Onyebuchi, Orrin Centazzo, Quinn Schmiemann and Zary all had two-point nights.

Kamloops was three for six on the power play, while Victoria scored on just one of six opportunities. 

As the series shifts back to Victoria for Game 5 on Saturday night (March 30), it would be foolish to think things will suddenly cool down. But Victoria will need to find more scoring help as McDonald — who has three goals this series — will be facing a suspension for his actions.

"I'm not sure what's going to happen, that's definitely above my pay grade to make a decision on that," says Lajoie. "But in all the years that I've coached, to show that much disrespect to the game... I don't know what was said, but to act the way that he did and put some of our players on our bench in danger with some stick swinging, I'll be interested to see what the league does."

This will be the third suspension handed out this series. Kobe Mohr returned from a two-game suspension tonight, while Brodi Stuart served a one-game suspension for a hit he delivered in Tuesday night's loss, that didn't result in a penalty.

Game 5 starts at 7:05 p.m. at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena. 

Tonight's win means that regardless of what happens, there will be a Game 6 in Kamloops on Monday night (April 1). 

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