The Peterborough Petes are off to the semi-final after a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory over the Kamloops Blazers in the tournament’s tie-breaker game. Philadelphia Flyers J.R. Avon was the hero scoring his third of the tournament 10:54 into the extra frame. Here are four takeaways from the game.
Blazers Take a Commanding Lead
Despite the Petes scoring first, the Blazers were the better team in the first, scoring three times while outshooting Peterborough 15-6 through the first 20 minutes. They would also add another early in the second, pushing their lead to 4-1. Kamloops was able to establish zone position, get bodies to the net and play a physical style of hockey. It was clear they were feeding off the energy in the arena as the hometown fans were doing everything in their power to cheer on their team in this must-win game.
The most surprising part of the Blazers’ scoring was who ended up scoring for them. After Dallas Stars’ Logan Stankoven and Anaheim Ducks’ Olen Zellweger made it 2-1, defencemen Harrison Brunicke and Logan Bairos not only scored their firsts of the tournament but firsts of the entire playoffs. Unfortunately, those would be the only goals Kamloops would score, as Peterborough started to fight back just before the midway mark of the second.
Petes Fight Back
After Kamloops made it 4-1, the game looked over, but as the Petes have shown all season, no one should count them out of a game. The scoring started when New York Rangers’ Brennan Othmann stole the puck from Barios, beating goaltender Dylan Ernst at the 7:50 mark of the second period. The goal was his first of the tournament and started to shift the momentum back in the Petes’ direction.
Just like Kamloops, Peterborough would get goals from the blue line before the period was done, with Samuel Mayer and Philadelphia Flyers’ Brian Zanetti each getting their firsts of the tournament. The teams then went on to play over 30 minutes of scoreless hockey before Avon ended the game and Kamloops’ dreams of hoisting the Memorial Cup in overtime. It was a hard-fought battle which chances at both ends of the ice, but in the end, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) champions skated away victorious and will move on in the tournament.
Simpson Stands Tall
The player of the game was an easy choice as Petes’ goaltender Michael Simpson was phenomenal, keeping Peterborough in the game. He stopped 43 of the 47 shots he faced, including 24 straight in the third and overtime. There is a reason he was named OHL Playoff MVP as for the sixth time this postseason he helped his team win a game they were outshot in.
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After being pulled during Peterbourgh’s game against Kamloops in the round-robin, where he allowed five goals on 20 shots, Simpson got his revenge, producing another stellar performance. It is safe to say he has found his form, as he has stopped 69 of his last 75 shots faced and looks to be heating up at the right time. Now, his focus will shift to another revenge game, this time against the Seattle Thunderbirds, who put five past him on 39 shots during their matchup in the round-robin.
The End of An Era for Two of the CHL’s Best
One of the sad realities of playing junior hockey is that players have a limited window to participate in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Whether it is because of aging out or moving on to the pro leagues, it is always difficult seeing these young players take their final lap around the ice, especially when it is in front of the hometown fans. With the Blazers, that was the case for Stankoven and Zellweger, who both are set to move on from the Western Hockey League (WHL) and will be remembered as two of the best to play in the league over the past five seasons.
Starting with Zellweger, he leaves as one of the most accomplished players in WHL history. Not only did he win back-to-back gold Medals with Canada at the World Juniors, but he was also named the WHL’s Best Defenceman in back-to-back seasons, joining players like Ty Smith, Dion Phaneuf and Nolan Baumgartner in the exclusive club. He also finished his WHL career with 50 goals and 183 points in 180 games, showing just how dangerous he was on a nightly basis. A dynamic defender when the puck is on his stick, he should be a regular at the NHL level in the next few seasons.
As for Stankoven, the Kamloops native wore the Blazers jersey with pride for all 179 games he played during his WHL career. He will finish his career with 279 points which will see him ranked 12th on the all-time franchise points list. Just like Zellweger, he also won back-to-back gold, but his most impressive accomplishment may have been being named the CHL’s Player of the Year at the end of the 2021-22 season when he scored 45 goals and recorded 104 points in just 59 games. A true leader, he will be remembered as one of the best players to ever play for the historic Blazers.
Tournament Continues With the Semi-Final
There will not be much rest for the Petes as they are right back at it on June 2, facing Seattle in the semi-final. When the two met in the round-robin, the Thunderbirds walked away with a 6-3 win, but as the Petes have shown already in this tournament, they are determined to ensure history does not repeat itself. The winner will then go on to face the Québec Remparts in the Final, where they will be playing for the opportunity to call themselves Memorial Cup champions.