April 5 ISN -All the optimism in Victoria heading into the second round was completely flipped upside down on Friday night, as the Victoria Royals were demolished by the Portland Winterhawks by a score of 8-2 in the first game of the best of seven.
The Royals were torn apart on the scoreboard, but they also lost their composure entirely in the process, which is much more frightening than the lopsided score. The Winterhawks were given ten power plays to work with, many of them including two-man advantages, and they capitalized three times, which was the eventual downfall for the Royals in game one. It was a dreadful start for an already uphill battle.
The Royals came into the series with a respectable 3-1 record against the Winterhawks during the regular season, all of the games were within a goal, but the Royals never gave up and found a way to win in three of the four meetings. Everything the Royals accomplished in the regular season was non-apparent in game one of the second round series. The Royals were picked apart by the Winterhawks in nearly every aspect of the game. The Winterhawks capitalized on the chances they were given, while the Royals were stuck searching for answers for the Hawks star-studded roster.
The Royals gave up chances to all the wrong players, as it was the core of the Winterhawks’ mobile, quick-strike offence that did the majority of the damage in the game. Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic were sprung on a 2-on-0 in the second where they could’ve stopped to grab a water break before coming in and beating the helpless Royals goaltender Patrick Polivka. Minnesota Wild prospect Mathew Dumba also filled the scoresheet, potting a couple of one-time blasts from the point on the powerplays plus a beautiful save at the blue line to keep the play alive before Derrick Pouliot snapped the puck past Coleman Vollrath. Nic Petan was the catalyst for the Winterhawks offence, scoring a goal of his own and adding three helpers with a plus/minus of +4. The Royals defence needs to tighten up, big time, if they want to contend with the Winterhawks.
The scariest part of the game for the Royals, was their composure. After The Winterhawks had a comfortable four goal cushion, the Royals completely lost their discipline. Brandon Magee was ejected after he took a flat out stupid slashing penalty, then mouthed off the referees for a minute or two before being escorted to the dressing room. Logan Nelson also took some dumb penalties that resulted in Winterhawk goals. The climax of the Royals’ crumble came in the form of a line brawl, as Keegan Kanzig initiated a fight in the defensive zone which quickly turned into a full line brawl. Ryan Gagnon was tossed from the game after pummeling a defenseless Portland player in the middle of the chaos. For the Royals, as much as the lopsided score is a concern, their biggest issue moving forward will be their composure, as they’ll need to be much more cool and in control if they want to make the series interesting.
Another aspect that the Royals have to work on moving forward is their discipline. The Royals combined for seventy-four penalty minutes in the game, compared to Portland’s 43, most of which came from the line brawl and odd makeup calls. The Royals are known for being a physical team, but they have to make sure they’re not crossing the line. In game one, the Royals couldn’t control their physical play and it quickly turned into dumb penalties and goals against. The only clean hit that got called was Austin Carroll’s hit on Dominic Turgeon behind the Royals net, which seemed like a clean, hard hit, but was called a hit to the head by officials.The Royals cannot get into the same amount of penalty trouble that they did in game one, or else the results will be the same as Friday night.
It was not the start the Victoria Royals wanted in this best-of-seven series, and it will be an increasingly uphill climb for the already underdog Royals moving forward. The Royals may be missing some personnel in game two, due to Magee’s ejection, Kanzig’s instigation of the line brawl and Gagnon’s relentless attack. It won’t be easy, but the Royals have to find traction and bounce back from an embarrassing display in game one.