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

Two Oak Bay officers recognized at 10th anniversary of anti-impaired driving program

Alexa’s Team has grown from 26 members in 2008 to the current 2,400

Oak Bay plans pop-up public consultation starting this week

Online survey now live at www.oakbay.ca and hard copy versions available at municipal hall

VicPD cuts school liaison program over budget impasse with Esquimalt

Six officers, including three school liaisons, to be reassigned to frontline duties

UPDATE: Recycling truck destroyed by fire in Victoria

Emterra truck sitting on McLure Street in residential neighbourhood, driver safe

Victoria Shamrocks acquire NLL and MSL all-star

Rob Hellyer brings offensive power to the Shamrocks

Artist crafts conversation with days-long painting in Uplands

‘I’m interested in the conflation of natural with human as if they express one another’

Former Social Credit MLA dies at 88

Lyall Hanson was mayor of Vernon in 1981 and moved to provincial politics from 1986-96

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of April 24

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

Police searching for escaped prisoner in B.C.

Ralph Whitfield Morris, 83, is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder

B.C. set to introduce pot laws, but years of fine tuning likely: minister

Legislation regulating recreational marijuana is expected to be introduced Thursday

Arrests made after truck crashes into unmarked police cars in Nanaimo

Two men facing numerous charges after allegedly fleeing scene on the mid-island

Canadian driver uses lawn chair as driver’s seat, gets caught

Ontario police detachment caught the male driver during a traffic stop

B.C. moves to restrict pill presses in opioid battle

Minister Mike Farnworth says federal law doesn’t go far enough

VIDEO: Vets, volunteers set up vaccination station for sick bunnies

Volunteers, vets try to stop spread of lethal virus

Most Read