The Victoria Royals skate onto the ice for the start of a Western Hockey League game.

The Victoria Royals skate onto the ice for the start of a Western Hockey League game.

Victoria Royals start the WHL playoff season tonight against the Prince George Cougars

The Victoria Royals have home ice advantage in their first round WHL playoff series against the Prince George Cougars.

The Victoria Royals head into the Western Hockey league’s playoffs tonight with the first game of an opening round best of seven series against the Prince George Cougars.

The regular season ended with a 39-29-4 record, second best in the team’s nine year franchise (Victoria Royals/Chilliwack Bruins) history. Only the 2013/14 season was better with 48 games won.

The team finished their regular season play last weekend with a two game win/loss split with the Everett Silvertips.

Coach Dave Lowry hopes that his team remembers how they played in that final regular season win saying “we have to bring that emotion from Saturday to the playoffs”.

He thinks his team is in great shape for the series. “Our energy levels are good and we just need some minor tweaking” he said.

Lowry feels the Cougars will be a strong opponent. “They’ve been playing with a playoff mindset and feel good about their game right now” he said.

Third year goalie Coleman Vollrath agrees with his coach’s assessment of the Cougars. They’ve been playing desperate hockey to make the playoffs” he said.

For his own team  Vollrath says “ we can’t look too far ahead, we have to focus on this series and we have to match their intensity.” “Our practices have been intense” and  personally “I’ve been working on tracking the puck” he said.

The Royals have home ice advantage starting with two games (tonight and Saturday) at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre before heading north to Prince George.

Travel is a minor factor for the team. The Royals will head out to Prince George Monday morning, even though they don’t play until Wednesday, due to the distance. The reality is “travel is the same for both teams’ said coach Lowry “that’s just hockey”.

In order to save time on their return to Victoria. The team will leave immediately after their Thursday night game, travel as far as 100 Mile House, stay overnight and leave early Friday which should allow them to catch the 5 p.m. ferry back to the island for a fifth game (if needed) on Saturday.

Victoria is ranked fifth in the Western Conference while Prince George sits at seventh. The Cougars ended their season with a 31-36-5 record. This is the first time in four years that the Cougars have made the playoffs.

The two teams have an interesting history with the Cougars being originally from Victoria, before the long time local franchise was moved in 1994.

Last word on the series goes to goaltender Vollrath. “This is an exciting time, these (playoffs) are the times every hockey player lives for” he said.

 

The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. for tonight’s opening game.

 

 

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