Victoria Royals Kade Jensen and Andrei Grishakov scramble with Vancouver Giants player Jared Dymitriw during Western Hockey League Game 1 playoff action at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday. The Giants won 2-1. Game 2 goes Saturday night in Victoria. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Giants draw first blood in WHL playoff series vs. Victoria

Home ice advantage non-existent for Royals against arch-rival Vancouver

The Victoria Royals ran into a hot backup goaltender Friday who got some help from the iron, and the visiting Vancouver Giants stole a 2-1 victory to open the teams’ Western Hockey League playoff series.

Sixteen-year-old rookie Trent Miner, playing in place of the Giants’ injured No. 1 starter David Tendeck, made 40 saves and gave the Royals few rebounds to pounce on.

“It was pretty awesome to come in here, especially into Victoria where there’s that big B.C. rivalry,” Miner said.

After a shaky start with a couple of big hits and a couple of killed-off penalties, he said, the Giants’ confidence began to build. Where the shots were once 14-3 Royals, they ended up 14-13 by the intermission and the Giants showed good composure under pressure. Miner expected more of the same for game 2 Saturday night back at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

“It’ll be a hard fought battle, gritty, two teams that hate each other, but another great game.

All the goals came in the second period, with the winning marker coming off the stick of defenceman Matt Barberis and snapping a 1-1 tie at the 18:25 mark. The shot, coming with plenty of bodies in front of Royals goalie Griffen Outhouse, seem to float through a gap and beat the netminder high to his right.

Giants head coach Jason McKee noted his team will have to continue that strategy to have success against the veteran.

“He’s a great goalie and he’s very athletic, so we’re going to have to get some second-chance opportunities and the only way that’s going to happen is if we get to the net,” he said.

Of his own young goaltender, McKee was thrilled to get such a performance from Miner, but noted that Tendeck’s condition — he was listed as having an upper body injury – will be evaluated after the Saturday morning skate.

“He’s been our go-to guy all year, he’s earned that, so when that time comes that he’s ready, he’s going to get his opportunity in there,” McKee said.

The Giants drew first blood in the game on a breakout from their own end. James Malm took a pass over the Royals blueline, sent a nifty backhand pass to Ty Ronning, who shot on net, then Milos Roman scored off the rebound 5:48 into the period.

About six minutes later the Royals’ Tanner Kaspick tied it up. He finished off a slick three-way passing play in front of Miner begun by Matthew Phillips, who found Dante Hannoun, who dropped it for Kaspick.

Royals head coach Dan Price sounded calm after the game, noting there are bound to be ups and downs for his team in the series and that no one expected it to be over in four games.

“I thought it was a really strong effort on both teams, kind of like we expected,” he said. “It was very physical, it was fast, a lot of tenacity on both sides with scrums around the net. I thought both teams competed very hard.”

The Royals had plenty of good chances, he added, not to mention hitting the post or crossbar four times on the night. He echoed McKee’s comment on the importance of getting traffic in front of the net, and said they may need to be more selective with their shots.

The Royals finished the night outshooting the Giants 41-33. Both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play.

Game time Saturday is 7:05 p.m.

editor@vicnews.com

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