Victoria Royals’ Jeff de Wit (8) keeps an eye on the flying puck in front of Medicine Hat goalie Jordan Hollett’s glove, while being checked by the Tigers’ James Hamblin. The action came during the teams’ Western Hockey League game last week at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. The Royals won this game in overtime, 4-3, and 3-2 in OT the next night in Seattle. Don Denton/Black Press

Royals face critical weekend ahead with three WHL games against Kelowna

Victoria made the most of OT opportunities last weekend at home and in Seattle

The Victoria Royals are getting hot at the right time.

The Western Hockey League team, fresh off a pair of overtime wins and having gone 8-2 in their last 10 games, begin the week tied with the Kelowna Rockets for top spot in the B.C. Division.

While the Royals (32-18-3-1) roll into Portland for a game against the Winter Hawks this Wednesday, they are no doubt anticipating the critical weekend coming up at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

The Rockets (32-16-3-1), who just lost both ends of a weekend home-and-home against Everett Silvertips and play Vancouver on Wednesday, are in Victoria this Friday and Saturday (Feb. 9 and 10). Kelowna then hosts the Royals on Monday in the final head-to-head game between the clubs in the regular season.

While he wasn’t keen on looking past the Portland game, Royals head coach Dan Price said Tuesday the games against Kelowna, with the travel involved, will have the feel of a “mini-playoff” series for both teams.

“It’s not really a six-point weekend it’s more of a 12- or 15-point weekend,” he said of what’s up for grabs. “It’s huge, for sure, but it’s exciting. There’s really no pressure, no stress involved to it, it’s just a challenge, just an opportunity to go in and compete against another really good team with first place on the line, two awesome buildings and two teams that love to go head to head.”

The Kelowna transition game and speed have been successful against the Royals of late, with an 8-4 Rockets win in Kelowna the most recent example. Overall the teams have two regulation wins each, with a 3-2 Kelowna shootout win in December the lone exception.

Royals veteran defenceman Ralph Jarratt said Kelowna is always a “fun team to play against.” He knows it’ll be a challenge to get the better of the Rockets, even if they have cooled off a little, going 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.

“[We’re] just going to have to play a full 60, you can’t take any shifts off against those guys,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of scoring power and they have pretty solid defence, so I think we’re just going to have to play our game.”

For the most part, he said, the team is loose, and “I think we play our best when we’re loose … [even if] at the end of the day sometimes the points mean a little more than other games.”

Matthew Phillips was the hero for Victoria on Saturday, scoring two goals including the winner shorthanded from Tyler Soy and Scott Walford in the final minute of overtime, as the Royals beat the Thunderbirds in Seattle, 3-2. It was Phillips’ 38th goal of the season, keeping him on pace a second straight 50-goal campaign.

Jeff de Wit scored the other goal for Victoria, who trailed 2-0 after two periods and were outshot 40-34 overall.

At home on Friday, it was Noah Gregor scoring a beautiful goal from Soy and Phillips, 51 seconds into OT to give the locals a 4-3 win over Medicine Hat.

The Tigers had erased a 2-0 deficit with three straight goals, two of which came from James Hamblin. It was Soy who knotted the score at 3-3 with his 24th of the year at the 18:41 mark of the third period.

Phillips and Kade Jensen scored 1:09 apart early in the first to give their team a quick lead.

The overtime wins eased the sting of the 7-1 trouncing the Royals suffered last week against the Tri City Americans in Kennewick, Wash.

editor@vicnews.com

 

Victoria Royals Igor Martynov and Medicine Hat Tigers Dylan MacPherson (6) focus on chasing the puck and don’t notice the stick jammed in the boards ahead of them during first-period Western Hockey League action Friday at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Don Denton/Black Press

Just Posted

UPDATE: Barb Desjardins clinches another win, will serve fourth term as Esquimalt mayor

Three new councillors will join three veterans at Esquimalt Township council

EDITORIAL: Voters across Greater Victoria embrace progressive ideas, new course in regional governance

Election results also reveal regional fissure between core and outer communities

B.C. Guide dogs is looking for volunteer puppy raisers

Labrador retrievers need to learn obedience and socialization before heading to work

Voters in Saanich and Victoria support creation of citizens’ assembly on amalgamation

Group will continue to keep pressure on Victoria and Saanich councils after amalgamation referendum

Victoria and Saanich voters elect to move ahead with amalgamation talks

Victoria and Saanich voters have chosen to move ahead with exploring amalgamation… Continue reading

UPDATE: Lisa Helps re-elected as mayor of Victoria

Nine people were seeking the mayor’s seat for the City of Victoria and 29 candidates hoped to be chosen for council

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for Oct. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. Youtuber to seal himself ‘in a jar’ to demonstrate impacts of climate change

Kurtis Baute wants to see how long he can last in a 1,000 cubic foot, air-tight greenhouse

One of Taiwan’s fastest trains derails, killing at least 18

The train was carrying more than 360 people

Scheer marks one-year countdown to federal election with campaign-style speech

Conservative Leader insists that it will be Justin Trudeau who ‘makes it personal’

B.C. VIEWS: Residents have had enough of catering to squatters

Media myth of homeless victims offends those who know better

B.C. man sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Cam Levins ran it in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds

B.C. Liberals’ hopes high as Nanaimo by-election approaches

Historically safe NDP seat vacated by long-time MLA Leonard Krog

Most Read