Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

October 18, 2012, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Alex Gogolev scored a pair of goals, including an empty netter with 39 seconds remaining to clinch a gritty 3-1 win for the Victoria Royals over the Eastern Conference leading Calgary Hitmen in WHL action Thursday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria.

The Hitmen came into the game on the heels of a 5-0 pasting of Prince George Tuesday night and went with Chris Driedger in goal, while the Royals, 3-2 winners over Kelowna last Saturday, countered with Patrik Polivka.

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Calgary’s Brook Machek tries to slide by Royal’s defenseman Jordan Fransoo in Thursday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

The teams came out and played a close checking game for the first 20 minutes with neither team generating much offence and the teams totaling just 7 shots on goal over the first 15 minutes.

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Victoria’s Jesse Zgraggen looks to move the puck during a Royals power play Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

The period ended with a bit of a flurry and saw the Royals outshoot Calgary 7-6 but with the score tied 0-0 as both Polivka and Driedger made solid saves when called upon.

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Royals’ defenceman Joe Hicketts fights to win the puck away from two Calgary defenders (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

Notable for the Royals in the first period was Steven Hodges who made his return to the lineup after missing 7 games with an injury, and provided some noticeable jump to the Royals on offence.

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Calgary goaltender Chris Driedger watches the puck fall past his glove on this Royals’ first period scoring chance Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

In the second period, the defensive struggle continued until the 12:37 mark, when a familiar face to Royals fans, former Royal Zane Jones, managed to fight through the Royals defence for a breakaway, snapping a shot through the 5-hole of Polivka for his third goal in the past two games, giving the Hitmen a 1-0 lead.

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Former Royal Zane Jones would score Calgary’s only goal on this breakaway in the second period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

The Royals would keep battling however and just after a Calgary penalty had expired, Steven Hodges managed to deflect a Logan Nelson point shot up and past a screened Driedger to tie things up 1-1 with just 2:23 remaining in the period.

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Steven Hodges would return to the Royals lineup after a lengthy absence and contribute a goal in the 3-1 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

Just when the crowd of 4,739 thought the teams would head to the second intermission knotted up, the Royals seemed to catch a break, as a weird bounce made its way to the edge of the net, where Alex Gogolev jammed it past a confused Driedger to suddenly put the Royals in the lead with 40 seconds remaining in the period.

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Alex Gogolev would lead the way for the Royals with a pair of goals, including an empty netter in the win over Calgary (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

The third period was much like the first, but this time more on the offensive side of the puck as the teams traded some good opportunities, all without success.

The Royals also benefitted from three power play opportunities, but were not able to beat Driedger and the game remained in doubt, until, with an empty net, Ben Walker fought to get the puck into the Calgary zone, where a streaking Gogolev picked it up a put it into the net with 14 seconds left to seal the 3-1 win.

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The high-flying Ben Walker had a pair of assists on Thursday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

For his hustle and the spark he provided to the team, Steven Hodges was awarded the first star of the game, while Victoria’s Gogolev was second star and Calgary’s Zane Jones the third.

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Goaltender Patrik Polivka would stop 20 of 21 shots to earn his 6th win of the season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Ialand Sports News)

Notes: The Royals outshot the Hitmen 29-21 for the game, with Patrick Polivka making 20 saves for his sixth win of the season. Victoria went 0/5 on the power play, while Calgary was denied a power play chance. Ben Walker added a pair of assists for the Royals in the win.

The Royals’ next home game is Tuesday, October 23rd when they host the Brandon Wheat Kings at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

For the full set of Christian J. Stewart’s images from this game please visit his GALLERY HERE