Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 6, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – A goal by Taylor Crunk midway through third period turned out to be the game winner as the Victoria Royals skated to a 4-2 come from behind win over the Vancouver Giants in Western Hockey League (WHL) action Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.
That Crunk would score the game winner is not surprising, as his line, including teammates Mitch Skapski and Logan Fisher, has been on a tear lately, combining for nine points (4 goals and 5 assists) over the past five games. All three would factor into Crunk’s game-winning goal, as Fisher would move the puck to Skapski, who then fed a nice cross-ice pass to Crunk who skated in on the left wing and wired a slap shot past the left pad of the Giants’ netminder Jared Rathjen.
This Taylor Crunk slapshot would elude Vancouver defenceman Dmitry Osipov as well as goaltender Jared Rathjen and end up being the game winner on Friday evening (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
That goal brought the Royals all the way back against a scrappy Giants squad, that until that point, looked ready to skate away with an upset.
The Giants had opened the scoring early when Trace Elson tipped a point shot past Royals goaltender Patrik Polivka at the 2:27 mark of the first period, quickly quieting the 4,315 in attendance.
Vancouver defenceman Mason Geertsen tries to avoid the forecheck of the Royals Taylor Crunk in Friday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Royals would recover however and thanks to a five-minute boarding major to the Giants Tim Traber, the Royals would go to the powerplay and at the 13:34 mark of the period, Brandon Magee would tie the game when he skated into the slot and snapped a shot past the shoulder of Rathjen.
Victoria’s Brandon Magee would score the Royals first and last goals of the evening, here getting ready to snap the puck into an empty net late in the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Magee had another chance late in the period to put the Royals into the lead, as he broke in all alone, but was unable to beat Rathjen and the teams headed to the intermission in a 1-1 tie.
The second period saw both teams have glorious chances early on, as the Royals Steven Hodges came close to giving the Royals the lead on a powerplay midway through second frame, but saw his shot ring off the post. Vancouver’s Thomas Foster then broke in on a shorthanded breakaway moments later, but Polivka stuck out his left pad to keep the game tied.
Victoria’s Steven Hodges swoops in over the Giants blueline during second period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Vancouver’s Travis McEvoy keeps ahead of Victoria’s Steven Hodges during second period action Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Giants would then capitalize on a Royals penalty, as Cain Franson’s powerplay marker at the 12:31 put the Giants up by a goal. While both teams had their chances – the Royals outshot the Giants 10-9 in the period – no other goals were scored and the score remained 2-1 after 40 minutes of play.
Vancouver’s Brett Kulak (left), Cain Franson (centre) and the Royal’s Brandon Magee (right) battle for the puck after a faceoff Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Victoria defenceman Brett Cote does his best to keep Vancouver’s Joel Hamilton away from goaltender Patrik Polivka (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
After the first few minutes of a third period that would see both sides have some early chances to score, the Royals would once again tie the game at the 6:22 mark. Brandon Fushimi stole the puck at the Giants blue line and made a pass to Ben Walker before the Edina, MN native slipped a backhanded shot high short side on Rathjen for his 9th goal of the season.
Ben Walker would have a big third period goal for the Royals, tying the game 2-2 at the 6:22 mark (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
That set the stage for Crunk’s heroics just 3:37 later, as his 3rd goal of the season, put the Royals in front for the first time in the evening.
The Giants would continue to battle hard over the last half of the period, eventually pulling Rathjen for the extra attacker with just over one minute left in the game, but Magee added his second of the night into the empty net with 17 seconds left to play to seal the win.
The Royals Brandon Fushimi, here looking to avoid the check from Vancouver’s Dalton Sward, would have an assist in the Royals 4-2 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
With the win the Royals move their record to 20-11-0-1 on the season, good enough for second in the BC Division just three points back of Kelowna, and fourth in the Western Conference, three points back of both Kelowna and Everett and five back of first place Portland. The Giants fall to 13-12-5-2 and they sit in eighth place in the Western Conference.
Victoria’s Axel Blomqvist skates the puck up ice during the 4-2 win over Vancouver. Blomqvist would add an assist on the first Royals goal of the evening (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Victoria will play their final home game before Christmas against Vancouver on Saturday night at Save-On-Foods Memorial where it’s the Royals’ annual Teddy Bear Toss Night! Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m.