Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley (right) moves around Kamloops defenceman Josh Connolly in WHL playoff action Saturday night at Prospera Place.

Blazers grab Game 1 of WHL series with Rockets

Brendan Ranford notches a pair as Kamloops defeats Kelowna in opener of Western Conference semifinal series

Brendan Ranford scored twice in the opening period Saturday to lead the Kamloops Blazers to a 4-2 victory over the hometown Kelowna Rockets in Game 1 of the WHL Western Conference semifinal series.

The Blazers jumped on the Rockets early as Ranford scored just 30 seconds into the game.

Kamloops added a pair of power play goals during a dominant first period in which they outshot the Rockets 18-3.

The Rockets didn’t yield a power play goal in 27 chances in their opening round series against Seattle.

Kelowna pushed back in the second period on goals by Henrik Nyberg and Cole Linaker to make it 3-2 after 40 minutes.

Chase Suoto provided insurance for Kamloops with a goal at 12:28 of third period.

The Rockets, who were minus seven players due to injury following their series win over the Thunderbirds, got one back on Saturday.

Defenceman Mitchell Wheaton, sidelined since Jan. 25 with a shoulder injury, was given the OK by doctors by Friday to return to the lineup. He was initially though to be out for the  remainder of the season.

Kelowna finished the Seattle series with four regular defence man after the loss of Jesse Lees to an upper body injury.

The Blazers outshot the Rockets 33-23.

Game 2 goes Sunday, 5 p.m. at Prospera Place, with Games 3 and 4 set for Tuesday and Wednesday in Kamloops.


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