Story and Photographs by Glenn Ivens (www.javalon.smugmug.com)
The Victoria Royals secured themselves a spot in the 2012 Western Hockey League Playoffs with an impressive 3-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks on Friday night.
“I’m proud of the guys, our last 3 games had us playing in Vancouver, which has been a house of horrors for us and then 2 games at home against probably one of the best teams of the league and to get 5 of 6 points” remarked GM and Head Coach Marc Habscheid “This experience of the last 3 weeks has been great and working themselves into the playoffs I’m just real proud of the guys. We’ll enjoy this for a day and then get ready we don’t want to just participate in the playoffs we want to keep winning”
Victoria’s Steven Hodges carries puck into slot during Friday night’s WHL game against the Portland Winterhawks at Save On Foods Memorial Center. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
The Royals, who have been battling with the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds for the last two spots in the playoffs, would not hold the deciding card in the equation but the win over the Winterhawks would make things much harder for the Silvertips or Thunderbirds.
The Silvertips loss on Friday night was just what the Royals needed as it put them 3 points behind with only 1 game left to play. Seattle sits in the final playoff spot tied with Everett at 52 points with 2 games remaining. Seattle can move into the 7th spot if they can beat the Silvertips on Saturday night and the Winterhawks on Sunday night.
Brett Cote of the Victoria Royals battles for loose puck with Portland Winterhawks Tyler Wootherspoon during WHL action at Save On Foods Memorial Center. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
Victoria who on paper were over matched against the Winterhawks, proved the importance of a team game and defensive responsibility on Friday night.
The Royals opened the scoring when Dakota Conroy capitalized on a scramble in front of Portland’s Mac Carruth and found the back of the net at 14:25 to set the sold out crowd on 7006 into a frenzy.
Dakota Conroy watches as his shot finds the back of the net to open the scoring for the Victoria Royals on Friday night. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
The teams would share chances the rest of the period but Carruth and Victoria’s Keith Hamilton stood tall between the pipes.
Portland would even the game up early in the 2nd period when Ty Rattie picked Jordan Fransoo’s pocket behind the Victoria net and fed a pass to Nicolas Petan alone in the slot and he made no mistake beating helpless Hamilton high to the stick side. Again the teams would trade chances and again both goaltenders played solid sending the game into the 2nd intermission knotted at 1-1.
Joseph Morrow tries to get something going for the Portland Winterhawks. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
There was a sense of urgency in the air during the 3rd period as the fans began chanting ‘Go Royals Go’. It wouldn’t take long before the Royals were back on top. Mike Forsyth collected himself after a collision with the referee in the corner and found the puck on his stick in the left faceoff circle and snapped a shot past the glove of Carruth to record the game winner at 5:40 of the 3rd period.
Victoria Royals Mike Forsyth celebrates his game winning goal against the Portland Winterhawks with teammate Brett Cote. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
The Royals eased the pressure a bit when leading scorer Jamie Crooks took a pass from Logan Nelson danced around the Portland defenseman and buried a shot to the glove side of Carruth for the insurance goal.
The Royals went into defensive mode after the goal, and made life a little easier for Hamilton by getting in the passing and shooting lanes and sacrificing the body by blocking shots.
Keith Hamilton back stopped the Victoria Royals to a 3-1 victory over the Portland Winterhawks on Friday night. Hamilton turned aside 37 of the 38 shots he faced earning 1st star honors. (photo by Glenn Ivens)
“We wanted to outwork them and I think we did that tonight” commented Crooks after the game “it feels great to be in the playoffs.”
The Royals will either face the Tri Cities Americans or the Kamloops Blazers in the 1st round with game dates and times to be determined.