Wheaties Top Royals in Tuesday Night Thriller

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

October 28, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – A third period goal with 8:26 to play by the Brandon Wheat Kings’ Ryan Pilon turned out to be the winner and gave the Wheaties a 3-2 win over the home town Victoria Royals in an exciting Western Hockey League match-up Tuesday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria.

Victoria’s Joe Hicketts (2) would earn an assist on the Royals’ first goal Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Wheat Kings, coming into Tuesday’s game a surprising 10-3-1 on the year, showed the 3,221 in attendance why their record is so good, peppering 19 first period shots at Victoria starting goaltender Coleman Vollrath. They are big, they are fast, they are skilled and they go about their game in a very calm, business-like manner, no doubt part of the philosophy instilled by Head Coach Kelly McCrimmon.

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Brandon’s Colton Waltz (5) uses his long reach to keep the puck away from Victoria defender Regan Nagy (24) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Despite the Wheat Kings first period onslaught, which was helped by an early and lengthy 2-man advantage, the Royals were able to hold fast, and even took the lead on the Wheaties, thanks to a powerplay goal from the Royals Travis Brown with 7:31 to play in the frame. Brown one-timed a pass from Joe Hicketts at the point and it found its way past Brandon starter Jordan Papirny for the 1-0 lead.

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Victoria defenceman Travis Brown would score the Royals first goal Tuesday, on the powerplay, to give the Royals a 1-0 lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That held for all of two minutes or so, when the Wheat Kings would get a powerplay score of their own to even it up at the 14:50 mark when Richard Nejezchleb put one past Vollrath. That score would hold until the break, with the Wheat Kings outshooting the Royals 19-15 in an offensively loaded first period.

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Brandon’s Ivan Provorov (9) moves the puck out of his corner under pressure from Victoria’s Jack Palmer (24)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In the second, both teams obviously made some defensive adjustments and the period was almost a complete opposite of the first. At the halfway point of the frame, Brandon had just three shots on goal, while the Royals could muster only two in what was now a tight-checking affair.

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Lucky fan Laird Clarke shows off a souvenir, while friend Dave Cairns gives him the big thumbs up (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That changed with just under six minutes to play in the period, when the Wheat Kings’ Duncan Campbell skated in on the wing and snapped a pretty shot past Royals defender Chaz Reddekopp and over the shoulder of Vollrath to put the Wheat Kings into the 2-1 lead.

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Brandon’s Duncan Campbell (25) would snap this shot past Royals defenceman Chaz Reddekopp and goalie Coleman Vollrath to give the Wheat Kings a 2-1 lead in period two (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Not to be outdone, the Royals then responded just under three minutes later with what was the prettiest goal of the evening. Brandon Magee broke hard into the slot and slipped a beautiful pass through to a streaking Axel Blomqvist, who backhanded a one-time shot up and over Papirny, tying the score 2-2.

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Victoria’s Axel Blomqvist, here driving hard into the Wheat King’s end, would score the Royals second goal late in the second period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After the second ended in the 2-2 tie and with shots in the period just 5-4 in favour of Brandon, the teams continued their defensive struggle in the third, with just seven shots on net recorded in the first eleven minutes of the frame and the Royals pulling close in the shot count at 27-23.

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Wheat King centre Jayce Hawryluk (8), looks to make a backhand pass during Tuesday night’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

After some close chances for the Royals, including a sprawling save by Papirny on Blomqvist, the Wheat Kings broke the deadlock when Pilon picked up a loose puck and fired a shot through a partially screened Vollrath with 8:26 remaining to put Brandon into the 3-2 lead.

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Wheat King goaltender Jordan Papirny sprawls to rob Victoria’s Axel Blomqvist on this third period scoring chance (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

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Brandon’s Ryan Pilon (6) would score the Wheat King’s winning goal with 8:26 remaining in the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Royals would continue to pressure, pulling Vollrath with just over a minute to play, but the Wheat Kings would persevere and pull out the 3-2 win, their eleventh of the season.

The Wheat Kings victory moves them into a tie with the Medicine Hat Tigers for first place in the Eastern Conference, both teams with 23 points. The Royals fall to 8-7-1 on the season and they now sit fourth in the Western Conference, two points behind both Everett and Kamloops.

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Brandon’s Jayce Hawryluk (8) bolts through Victoria defenders Logan Fisher (left) and Travis Brown (right) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Next up for the Royals are the Tri-City Americans who come to town for a pair of games this Saturday (7:05 pm) and Sunday (1:00 pm). The Americans are just a point behind Victoria in the standings, so fans should be in for some decent battles on both days.

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After a goal-mouth scramble in the third period, Victoria forward Brandon Magee, sans helmet, seems to be checking on the heartbeat of Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: Shots on goal finished up at 32-25 for the Wheaties. Royals new netminder Jayden Sittler saw his first action as a Royal…well sort of. With nine seconds remaining, he was put back into the empty net when a face-off came back toward the Royals end. The loss was the Royals first against Brandon in four games since the franchise moved to Victoria.

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.