A three-win weekend kept the Victoria Royals neck and neck with B.C. Division leading Kelowna in Western Hockey League play.
The Royals took a pair of games off visiting Calgary here Sunday (7-3) and Saturday (4-1), after going into Langley and beating the surging Vancouver Giants 4-3 in overtime on Friday night.
Victoria (30-17-3-1) is in Kennewick, Wash. on Wednesday (Jan. 31) for a road game against the Tri City Americans, and returns home for a Friday game against Medicine Hat Tigers at 7:05 p.m. The Royals head back out for a Washington road game the next night against the Thunderbirds in Seattle.
Kelowna (31-14-3-1) is two points up on the Royals with two games in hand, while the third-place Giants (25-16-5-3) now sit six back of Victoria.
On Sunday the Royals showed their balance, getting goals from seven different players in finishing a sweep of the weekend over the Hitmen.
The locals spotted Calgary a 1-0 lead early in the first on a shorthanded marker from Luke Coleman, then went to town, scoring the next four goals before the Hitmen found the net again, midway through the second period.
Victoria, which outshot Calgary 40-31 overall, led 5-2 after 40 minutes and padded their lead with early third period goals from Andrei Grishakov (16th) and Dante Hannoun (21st).
Other Royals goal scorers included Noah Gregor, Kade Jensen, Lane Zablocki, Tyler Soy and Braydon Buziak. Zablocki, one of several players with two-point nights for Victoria, scored his first goal since being acquired from Lethbridge earlier this month and was named the game’s first star.
Dean McNabb, making a rare start for the Royals in net, stopped 28 Calgary shots for the win.
Saturday’s game was a tighter affair, with the shots 24-22 in Calgary’s favour, but the Royals began building their lead early.
Victoria captain Matthew Phillips bookended the scoring, tallying his 34th of the season just 1:01 into the first period and adding his 35th later in the second on the power play to make it 4-1 Royals.
Tanner Kaspick had another solid game since coming over from Saskatoon at around the same time Zablocki joined the team. Kaspick scored two goals for the second straight game (see below), giving him six in eight games with his new team.
Coleman scored the lone goal for the Hitmen, midway through the second cutting the Royals’ lead to 3-1. Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse kicked out 21 of 22 shots he faced, before giving way to McNabb in the dying minutes of the third.
Kaspick was the hero
on Friday night as well
Mitchell Prowse set up Kaspick for the winner 2:28 into overtime to give the Royals a critical win over Vancouver.
Victoria trailed 2-1 after one period, but power play goals by Grishakov and Kaspick three minutes apart midway through the second gave the Royals the lead heading into the third.
It was looking like a Royals regulation victory until Tyler Benson beat Outhouse for the tying goal with less than a minute remaining. Kaspick’s second goal came on the only shot of overtime.