Victoria Royals Matthew Phillips flips a backhand pass from behind the Vancouver net over the stick of defenceman Marcus Kichton during Western Hockey League action Sunday at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The Royals, paced by a pair of goals from Phillips, won 4-3 to sweep the weekend following a 6-5 shootout win Saturday. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Royals back on track, with WHL wins over Vancouver

Victoria has good start to hockey homestand against a much improved opponent

Faced with the potential to let a lead slip away for the second straight game, the Victoria Royals put their trust in their captain on Sunday.

Matthew Phillips’ second goal of the game, a beautiful individual effort scored while the Royals played shorthanded in the third period, proved the winner in a 4-3 Western Hockey League victory that completed a not-so-easy weekend sweep over the fourth-place Vancouver Giants.

Phillips scored the lone goal in a shootout the night before as the Royals won 6-5 after leading 5-2 more than halfway through the final period.

READ: Royals capture round 1 against Vancouver, round 2 goes Sunday

“Even from the first two games of the year they’ve showed pretty good improvement,” he said of the Giants (5-7-1-2), who are 12 points behind the B.C. Division-leading Royals (12-4-1-0). “They have some really good top-end guys and they’re a hard-working team, so I think we realized that every game against Vancouver is going to be tough.”

For a second straight game the Giants outshot Victoria, 35-24, but couldn’t convert enough of their chances. Sunday’s game was close, with neither team leading by more than a goal at any time. A three-goal second period (Phillips, Ryan Peckford, Regan Nagy) put the Royals ahead 3-2, but the Giants clawed their way back in again with a goal from Milos Roman 2:23 into the third.

The Royals stymied the Giants’ power play, leaving them goalless in seven opportunities. The second Phillips goal showed just how dangerous their special teams can be.

“The puck kind of bounced to me, got lost in [the Giants player’s] feet and from there I though I had a step on him and I just tried to get to the net and flick it over the goalie, so it was a pretty exciting play,” he said.

Royals head coach Dan Price gave kudos to the Giants, who were a much different team than the one Victoria beat 7-1 and 6-1 last month.

“We have a lot of respect for the Giants. They play hard every night and you saw that this weekend, two games where they left everything on the ice and gave us everything we could handle,” he said.

Victoria got another solid performance from rookie goaltender Dean McNabb, who made 32 stops to record his second win of the season. Price said the young netminder came up big when he had to as the game heated up.

After going 3-4 on their longest road swing of the season, through Washington and the Prairies, the Royals are in the middle of a five-game homestand.

Kelowna Rockets are in town for a pair this Friday and Saturday nights, with both games starting at 7:05 p.m. at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

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