Royals Outgun Hitmen


Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

February 4, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – Austin Carroll had the hat-trick and the Victoria Royals exploded for five goals over a span of ten minutes to overcome a 2-1 deficit and soar to a 7-2 victory over the Calgary Hitmen in Western Hockey League action at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre Tuesday evening.

On paper, the visiting Hitmen matched up well against the Royals, sporting near identical records and sitting in 3rd place in the East with 70 points, one less than the Royals, who themselves sit 3rd in the West. On the ice Tuesday, while the teams played things close to the vest and fairly evenly over the first period and a half, it was the Hitmen who came out ahead on the score sheet early on, despite being outshot heavily by the Royals.

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ISN’s favourite anthem singer Michelle Szulc was on hand Tuesday to sing O’Canada for the crowd (Photo Courtesy Jonathon Howe / Victoria Royals)

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The Royals Joe Hicketts, who would finish with an assist on the evening, here avoids the check of Calgary’s Brady Brassart (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Connor Rankin would get the Hitmen on the board first, sneaking one by Royals starter Coleman Vollrath at the 12:17 mark of the first frame for his 16th goal of the season and the 1-0 Calgary lead.

The Royals would keep pressuring and would respond at the 16:35 mark, when Steven Hodges fed a nice pass to the lanky Axel Blomqvist in the slot and he would deftly tip it over the shoulder of Calgary netminder Chris Driedger for his 18th of the year, tying the game at 1-1.

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Axel Blomqvist drive hard to the net Tuesday. Blomqvist would finish with a goal and an assist against the Hitmen (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Before the period was out however, the Hitmen would regain the lead on the powerplay, as Brady Brassart would backhand his 23rd goal of the season past Vollrath and give Calgary the 2-1 lead into the break.

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Calgary’s Brady Brassart would score one of the two Hitmen goals in the loss to Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Hitmen and goaltender Driedger would continue to stymie the Royals for most of the second period, and just when it looked like they would ride that 2-1 lead into the second intermission as well, the wheels fell off the Calgary bus.

First, after being stopped cold on a breakaway, the Royals’ Logan Nelson was able to retrieve the loose puck behind the net and flip it back out front, where Austin Carroll swatted home his first of the game at the 18:46 mark, tying the score at 2-2.

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Victoria’s Tyler Soy would earn a pair of assists in the 7-2 win against Calgary (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Just 51 seconds later, Nelson again found himself with the puck at the side of the Calgary net and threw a shot out front, where it deflected off a Calgary defender and behind Driedger, sending the Royals into the second intermission with a rather sudden and unexpected 3-2 lead.

In the third, the Royals picked up right where they left off. Carroll notched his second of the game and 24th of the season just 3:46 into the frame when he banged home a Joe Hicketts rebound into an empty net.

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Austin Carroll celebrates his second of three goals against Calgary on Tuesday evening (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Just 51 seconds later, Braden Oleksyn would jam home his first career WHL goal during a mad goal mouth scramble, putting the Royals up 5-2 and putting the 4,031 fans in attendance into a frenzy.

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The Royals Braden Oleksyn (28) would stuff the puck home in this goal mouth scramble for his first ever WHL goal (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

At the 8:11 mark, the Royals would add to their lead when Logan Fisher took advantage of a strange bounce off his initial shot to pick up the puck behind the net and wrap his 4th goal of the season into an empty net, as he caught Driedger looking the other way.

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Victoria’s Logan Fisher would make no mistake on this wrap around attempt, scoring his 4th goal of the season and 6th for the Royals in the game against Calgary (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

That mistake, plus the five unanswered goals in a span of less than ten minutes over periods two and three, spelled the end of the night for Driedger and he was replaced by Mack Shields in the Calgary net the rest of the way.

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Calgary’s Pavel Padakin carries the puck into Victoria territory under the watch of Victoria’s Ben Walker (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

That move would stem the flow somewhat for the Hitmen, but it was too little too late, as Vollrath was solid the rest of the way and in addition, Carroll would complete his hat-trick at the 15:03 mark of the period, taking a nice pass from Tyler Soy and redirecting the puck past Shields, to add an insurance marker and complete the scoring in the Royals 7-2 win.

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Coleman Vollrath would stop 24 of 26 shots for his 15th win of the season against Calgary Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

In addition to Carroll’s three goals – for which he earned first star honours – the Royals had strong outings from Soy, Steven Hodges and Jordan Fransoo who tallied a pair of assists each. Logan Nelson and Blomqvist also both added a goal and an assist. Hodges and Blomqvist were named second and third stars respectively.

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Victoria’s Steven Hodges does his best to protect the puck from Hitmen defender Travis Sandheim during third period action Tuesday. Hodges would finish with a pair of assists (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Royals outshot the Hitmen 46-26 and Vollrath stopped 24 of 26 to earn his 15th win between the pipes for the Royals.

The win moves the Royals record to 35-16-0-3 on the season and gives them 73 points, 4 back of second place Portland and 2 up on fourth place Seattle in the West. The Hitmen, now 32-15-3-3 hold at 70 points and stay in third in the East, 5 points back of first place Edmonton.

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Calgary leading scorer Greg Chase was held silent by the Royals Tuesday, finishing the game with no goals or assists and a -3 plus/minus rating (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Royals continue their two-game series against the Hitmen Wednesday night at Save-On-Food Memorial Centre. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. as the Royals host Country Night! Wear a cowboy hat or boots and receive $4 off your ticket at the Select Your Tickets box office windows!

Christian J. Stewart
Christian is a professional photographer and media professional based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently working as the Assistant General Manager for Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club, a Senior Contributing Editor and photographer at Independent Sports News (ISN) and operating his own freelance photography and media/pr company.