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Blazers hand Vancouver first regulation home loss of the season, 2-1

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VANCOUVER, B.C. - It was a bittersweet Saturday for the Vancouver Giants.

The Giants were ecstatic after their high-scoring winger Evander Kane furnished two assists to help Canada advance to the gold medal game at the world junior hockey championships.

But the Kamloops Blazers later curbed Vancouver's enthusiasm, skating to a 2-1 victory over the Giants on Saturday night in the Western Hockey League.

"We're happy for Team Canada, but we're disappointed for our group," said Vancouver coach Don Hay.

It was Vancouver's first regulation loss in 23 home contests this season. It also ended the Giants' winning streak at 11 games.

"It's disappointing to lose," said Hay. "We take a lot of pride in playing well at home here."

Alex Rodgers and Tyler Shattock scored for Kamloops (17-20-1-2) while Mikhail Fisenko replied for the Giants (32-3-0-3).

The Giants outshot the Blazers 34-33 but struggled on the power play going just 1-for-8. Officially, the Blazers converted one of five man-advantage opportunities, but that marker proved to be the winner and their other goal came moments after a Vancouver penalty had expired.

Kamloops led 1-0 after the first period and the score was tied 1-1 after the second.

Rodgers opened the scoring 7:50 into the game as he fired in Dalibor Bortnak's goalmouth pass. The goal came only four seconds after an interference penalty to Vancouver defenceman Curtis Kulchar had expired, and he did not have time to get back into the play.

Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith was busier than usual as the Blazers outshot Vancouver 17-10 in the first 20 minutes. Fisenko, the overtime hero in a win over Red Deer on Friday, created a 1-1 tie only 1:17 into the second period as he deflected Brent Regner's harmless-looking shot in mid-air past Kamloops goaltender Jon Groenheyde. The Giants dominated the period as Kamloops took four penalties. But the hosts could not convert on four second-period power play chances including a five-on-three advantage that lasted a minute and 23 seconds while outshooting Kamloops 14-2 in the middle session.

Shattock netted the winner only 43 seconds into the third period as he put in C.J. Stretch's rebound on a power play just 43 seconds into the third period. The goal came only nine seconds after Vancouver's Lance Bouma was penalized for holding. Vancouver clearly missed Kane, one of their top scorers, who furnished two assists earlier Saturday in Canada's 6-5 shootout semifinal win over Russia, and high-scoring defenceman Jon Blum, who is playing for the U.S. at the world juniors.

Save for an 8-3 victory over Moose Jaw, the Giants have struggled offensively without their two stalwarts. Hay said his club was tired after playing five games in eight days, but the tough schedule was no excuse.

The Vancouver coach was happy to see Kane shine at the world junior tournament in Ottawa. Kane, a 17-year-old Vancouver native, who is projected as an early first-round pick in this summer's NHL draft, was cut during Team Canada's training camp.

But Quinn quickly invited him to play after Dana Tyrell of the Prince George Cougars suffered a season-ending knee injury.

"I'm really happy for Evander 1/8Kane 3/8," said Hay. "It's a great experience for him to go through that type of pressure situation on the biggest stage there is for junior hockey. It's going to make him a better player and it's going to make the Giants a better team."

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