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

Lambrick to fill the halls with messages of love for Pink Shirt Day

For all the messages of anti-bullying and anti-violence spread on Pink Shirt… Continue reading

North Saanich pedals ahead with bike lane expansion

Road alignment modifications made following resident feedback

After dark: Sandown construction goes overnight

Noise concerns from Sidney could stop nighttime work schedule

Duncan family says care home switched mom’s cat with robot cat

Staff alleged to have said they were taking cat for bath, then replaced her with robotic stuffed toy

BC SPCA proposes fines for animal mistreatment, reduction in commercial trade

Animal welfare group’s ideas brought to Victoria councillors

B.C. Games open with Olympic touch

The 2018 B.C. Winter Games kicked off in Kamloops

Claremont to stage broadway classic Annie

Claremont is staging one of the most successful Broadway hits in Annie,… Continue reading

Suspect and Mountie bitten by police dog during arrest near Nanaimo

Two suspects were arrested in connection with a stolen pickup truck in Cassidy on Thursday evening

B.C. ski cross racer wins Olympic gold

Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa wins the gold medal in thrilling fashion in PyeongChang

All aboard! Job fair ports this weekend in Victoria

Find out about the hundreds of jobs in Victoria’s cruise ship industry

New charges against ex-Trump campaign associates

More charges were laid Thursday against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman and his business associate

Sooke mom hopeful for funding to treat child’s debilitating arthritis

Jillian Lanthier ‘prays’ for $19,000 per-dose drug for her son

Man accused in death of Winnipeg teen Tina Fontaine not guilty

Raymond Cormier was accused of killing Indigenous 15-year-old and dumping her body in the Red River

Saanich steps up recreation registration

Saanich has unveiled its new parks and recreation registration and facility booking system

Most Read