by Bryden Burrell
March 2, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The South Island Royals welcomed the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds to Oak Bay Recreation Centre on Sunday morning for the second game of a weekend doubleheader. The Royals gave Chris Smith the start in goal, while the Thunderbirds countered with Gunnar Neilsen.
South Island opened the games’ scoring four minutes into the game as Brandon Tutte banged in a loose rebound in the crease area. The Royals doubled their lead less than a minute later as forward Haydn Hopkins skated down the middle of the ice and rifled a shot past the blocker of Neilsen. Josh Matzek replaced Neilsen in the Thunderbirds’ net after South Island’s second goal. Royals’ forward Cameron Coutre pushed the score to 3-0 at the 13:44 mark as he sniped a shot off the crossbar from the right face-off circle. Fraser Valley found their first of the game just past the halfway mark of the frame after Austin Wellsby corralled a loose rebound and slotted it past Smith. Justin Bowerman added the Thunderbirds second tally with 2:43 remaining in the period off a defensive miscue, before Hopkins added his second of the game for the Royals after a nice cross-crease play. After 20 minutes of the play, South Island led 4-2.
Fraser Valley nabbed their third marker of the game just over five minutes into the middle stanza after Brice Sharp finished off a three-on-one rush. Less than a minute later the Thunderbirds tied the game as Hayden Guilderson corralled Sharp’s initial shot and fired it past the outstretched South Island netminder. The Royals looked to regain the lead at the 10 minute mark of the frame as Tutte broke in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, but found his chance turned aside by Matzek. The teams headed into the final period tied 4-4.
The opening half of the final period saw both teams exchange chances as they looked for the go-ahead marker. South Island’s best opportunity came just after the 10 minute mark when Hopkins split the Thunderbirds’ defence, but found his shot slide past the left post. With only three minutes left in the game, Fraser Valley took their first lead of the game when Arsh Shergill wired a one-timer from the high slot over the glove of Smith. The Royals pulled their netminder with two minutes left in the game, but could not find the tying marker as Matzek made several point-blank stops. Thunderbirds 5 Royals 4
South Island wrapped up the final playoff spot in the BCMML as the North Island Silvertips dropped their final game of the season to the Valley West Hawks. The Royals will square off with the Vancouver NW Giants in the first round. Dates and game times are set to be announced shortly.
For more information regarding the South Island Royals be sure to follow the team on Twitter at SIRoyals, or at www.southislandroyals.ca.