Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
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Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Royals used goals from five different players to defeat the Vancouver Giants 5-2 Saturday evening in WHL action in Victoria.

Playing with an intensity that they will need to maintain down the stretch, the Victoria Royals took another small step to securing a WHL Western Conference playoff position by soundly defeating the Vancouver Giants 5-2 in front of 6,727 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria on Saturday evening.

The Royals gave Jared Rathjen, who is playing his best hockey of the season, his sixth start in net in a row, showing great confidence in his run of good play late. That decision proved to be a good one as Rathjen was solid in the first period stopping all 10 shots the Giants threw his way.

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The Royal’s Jared Rathjen made his sixth consecutive start in net and was solid from the start, stopping all 10 Giant shots in the first period and 29 of 31 in total for the win (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Meanwhile the team in front of him was also doing their part. Right from the puck drop the Royals came out flying, pinning the Giants in their own end with an aggressive forecheck. This paid off quickly, as just 1:28 into the game, Jordan Fransoo would pick up a loose puck behind the Giants net, walk out and jam the puck in the short side past Giant starter Adam Morrison to open the scoring.

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The Giant’s Neil Manning had his hands full early of the likes of the Royal’s Steven Hodges, as Victoria used a strong forecheck in the first two minutes to generate their first goal of the game (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The Royals would add to this lead at the11:12 mark when Jamie Crooks would complete a nice passing play from Logan Nelson and Robin Soudek and sneak a back-door power-play marker past Morrison to bump the lead to 2-0.

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Jamie Crooks celebrates his 34th goal of the season that gave Victoria a 2-0 lead over the Giants in the first period (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

Despite each team having two other power-play opportunities, there would be no other scoring in the period and while the Giants would emerge with a 10-6 edge in shots, they had nothing to show for their efforts thanks to the fine penalty killing of the Royals and the solid play of Rathjen.

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“Super Fan” Cameron Hughes was on hand to entertain the crowd Saturday night and was warmly received by the 6,727 fans in attendance on Military Appreciation Night (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

In the second period, the Giants would get on the board on a somewhat controversial goal. A shot was directed at the net and while the Giants Brendan Gallagher clearly bowled over Royal’s goaltender Rathjen, the Giants Nathan Burns got his stick on the rebound just enough for it to slowly roll across the line before Rathjen could recover and make the save.

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Royals goaltender Jared Rathjen is bowled over by the Giant’s Brendan Gallagher while Nathan Burns’ shot rolls slowly over the goal line during the second period Saturday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

That goal would not phase the Royals though and after showing incredible patience on a power-play opportunity, working the puck around the perimeter numerous times, Zane Jones would knock home the rebound off a Hayden Rintoul shot at the 15:05 mark to restore the Royals two-goal lead at 3-1.

The Giants kept pressing though and after receiving a nice clearing pass from Neil Manning, the Giants Jordan Martinook fed a beautiful cross-ice pass to a streaking Brendan Gallagher, who made no mistake in depositing his 40th goal of the season past Rathjen to once again cut the lead.

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Vancouver scoring machine Brendan Gallagher would record his 40th goal of the season against the Royals in the second period Saturday night (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

In many games this season, a goal like that would have spelled disaster for the Royals, but not tonight, as they would respond just 29 seconds later when a purposely wide Jordan Fransoo point shot came off the boards on to the stick of Logan Nelson then bounced over to Ben Walker, who managed to eke the puck through the legs of Morrison for the Royal’s fourth goal.

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Victoria’s Ben Walker would get back into the scoring column when he notched the Royal’s fourth goal in the second period Saturday (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

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Logan Nelson had a solid night for the Royals, notching a pair of assists and being named the game’s second star (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The third period featured opportunities for both sides, but notably for Vancouver who were denied twice by Rathjen on great Vancouver scoring chances, one on a cross-crease pad save and another on a breakaway attempt by Marek Tvrdon. The Royals also had their chances, notably when Brandon Magee could not convert a breakaway chance early in the period.

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Much to the relief of the Vancouver bench, Victoria’s Brandon Magee would miss on this third period breakaway attempt (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

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While he did not factor into the scoring, the Royal’s Steven Hodges was all over the ice Saturday, making a number of good plays and keeping the Giants on their toes (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

With just over 1:15 remaining, the Giants would pull the goalie for the extra attacker, but to no avail as Royals Captain Hayden Rintoul would deposit one into the empty net just seconds later to secure the 5-2 win for the Royals.

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Hayden Rintoul lets go a shot into the empty net to seal the 5-2 win for the Royals (Photo by Christian J. Stewart – ISN).

The win, combined with wins Saturday by Everett and Prince George and a loss by Seattle, means the Royals maintain their hold on 7th place in the WHL’s Western Conference by a single point over 8th place Everett and four and six points respectively over 9th place Seattle and 10th place Prince George.

The Royals and Giants will turn things around quickly and face off Sunday afternoon at 1:00 pm.

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The Giant’s Wes Vannieuwenhuizen dumps the puck into the Royals zone during action Saturday (Photo by Chrisitan J. Stewart – ISN).