The Western Conference playoff teams are set as the Western Hockey League regular season enters its final week.
For the Victoria Royals, however, the picture remains unsettled, despite the two 4-3 home wins they posted over the Prince George Cougars on Sunday afternoon and Friday night.
The Royals (39-25-4-2) sit fifth in the West, tied with Spokane (39-23-3-3) on points with 84, but with the Chiefs holding two games in hand. No. 4 earns home ice advantage over No. 5 for the opening round of the playoffs.
Then there’s the B.C.-leading Kelowna Rockets (40-22-5-2), who sit three up on Victoria with a game in hand, meaning the division title has yet to be determined.
The Royals are in tough to improve their lot with just two games left, both against conference-leading Everett. Friday they’re in the Washington city, then the teams face off at the Save-On Centre next Saturday at 7:05 p.m. during Fan Appreciation Night in Victoria.
Comeback in third wins it for Royals
The Royals were busy breaking franchise records on Sunday, setting a new mark for goals in a season with 284 to eclipse the old standard by three goals. The previous team record was set two seasons ago. The Royals are second in the Western Hockey League behind only the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Tyler Soy, the longest-serving veteran on the current roster, played in his 320th WHL game, tying him with former captain Ryan Gagnon for the most career games with the franchise.
And Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse, who posted both wins, broke his own single-season victory record with win number 35 on Sunday, stopping 33 Cougars shots in the process.
After the Cougars took a 3-2 lead into the final period in today’s afternoon encounter, Victoria’s Igor Martynov scored his 18th of the season unassisted to tie it up 8:09 in. Then Matthew Phillips bagged his 47th goal and second power play marker of the game with under seven minutes to play to give the locals their final margin.
Prince George’s Aaron Boyd opened scoring 15 seconds into the game, but Tarun Fizer, with his second of the season, got the equalizer two minutes later. Phillips scored from Tanner Kaspick and Soy to make it 2-1 at the 13:53 mark to give the Royals their first lead of the game.
Goals from Joel Lakusta, late in the first, and Jackson Leppard in the second pushed the Cougars out in front again.
Kaspick the hero in overtime
On Friday the Royals wore Don Cherry-style warmup jerseys and socks, which are being auctioned off as part of a league-wide fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation.
Our Don Cherry inspired jersey auction is LIVE! Check out https://t.co/bFJtznPOKQ for more info, pictures, and how to bid.— Victoria Royals (@victoriaroyals) March 10, 2018
All proceeds of this auction benefit our local chapter of @kidneycanada! pic.twitter.com/CJ2ogHaSxe
On the ice, Kaspick scored his second of the game and 25th of the season 2:39 into overtime to clinch a Royals comeback victory.
Dante Hannoun, who had a three-point game, set up the winner along with Martynov, and joined Phillips in setting up Soy for his 36th goal to tie the game at 3-3 late in the third period.
Goals from Hannoun, with his 24th, and Kaspick saw Victoria hold a 2-0 lead late into the second, but Reid Perepeluk got one back for Prince George with 30 seconds left in the period. Goals from Rhett Rhinehart and Josh Maser made it 3-2 Cougars in the third and chased starter Dean McNabb from the Royals net.