Royals Ground High-Flying Rockets in OT

1DX 5778

Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

November 18, 2014, Victoria BC (ISN) – The Victoria Royals overcame 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to emerge with an exciting 4-3 overtime victory over the league leading Kelowna Rockets in a marquee Western Hockey League match-up Tuesday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria.

Kelowna’s Rourke Chartier (left) and Victoria’s Logan Fisher (20) look for the puck after a faceoff (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Brandon Magee and Axel Blomqvist played heroes for the Royals with Magee scoring with 1:57 remaining to tie the game and Blomqvist getting the overtime winner, handing the Rockets just their third loss of the season (two in overtime) and putting an end to what had been a seven-game Kelowna winning streak.

The Rockets came to town Tuesday night boasting a 20-1-1-0 record and the top two scorers in the league in Rourke Chartier (23G, 17A) and Nick Merkley (7G, 33A), slick centre Tyson Baillie (15G, 11A), top defenceman Madison Bowey (7G, 19A) and goaltender Jackson Whistle, who is second in the league with a 2.17 goals against average and a .922 save percentage.

1DX 5785
Kelowna’s Rodney Southam (left) winds up for a puch during a first period fight with Victoria’s Ryan Gagnon (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

None of that seemed to matter to the Royals who certainly got the start they were looking for, coming out flying to begin the game and at one point holding an 8-1 lead in shots on Kelowna, testing Rockets starter Whistle with some quality scoring chances, but failing to find the back of the net.

1DX 5924
Kris Schmidli (16) would score the first goal of the game for the Rockets (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

However a questionable goalie interference call on the Royals Taylor Crunk allowed the Kelowna power play to go to work and they capitalized quickly, with Kris Schmidli scoring his 4th goal of the season at 13:39 to give the Rockets the 1-0 lead, changing the momentum of the period significantly.

That goal seemed to wake up the sleeping Rockets and Tyson Baillie scored his 16th goal of the season just over a minute later to extend the lead to 2-0. The Rockets kept pressuring and appeared to score a third goal, but on review, a Kelowna player grabbed the puck with his glove and threw it into the net and the goal was disallowed.

1DX 5893
Kelwona’s Tyson Baillie would have a pair of goals and an assist against the Royals Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

While, inexplicably, no penalty was called on that play, the Rockets were whistled for tripping shortly after that and this time it was the Royals power play that got the job done, with Jack Walker sneaking a point shot past Whistle to get the Royals on the board with 2:17 left in the period, cutting the lead in half, 2-1.

1DX 6046
Jack Walker would get the Royals on the board Tuesday with a powerplay goal in the first period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

That score would hold the rest of the way and shots for the period would finish 14-11 for the Royals.

The teams would trade power play goals in the second, with the Rockets striking first thanks again to another iffy call on Joe Hicketts for closing his hand on the puck that gave the Rockets an early 2-man advantage. The Rocket’s Baillie notched his second of the night just after the first penalty to the Royals expired, putting the Rockets up 3-1.

1DX 5900
The Rockets and WHL scoring leader Nick Merkley would have a quiet night Tuesday, with just a single assist (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Royals would answer back on their own power play a few minutes later as Austin Carrol would get to a puck in the slot and slip a backhander past Whistle for his 15th of the season and his league leading 9th on the power play.

Neither team would score after that and the teams headed to the second intermission with the Royals leading the way on the shot clock 24-20, but the Rockets leading by one where it mattered most, on the scoreboard.

1DX 5930
Victoria defenceman Joe Hicketts moves the puck out of his end Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In a close checking third period that would see the Rockets out-shoot the Royals 9-5, the Rockets had a pair of power play opportunities to get an insurance marker, but an effective Royals penalty kill and some key saves by Coleman Vollrath kept the Royals within a goal.

1DX 5943
Kelowna’s Colton Heffley (right) tries to drive past Victoria’s Austin Carroll in second period action Tuesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Rockets inability to get the extra goal would come back to haunt them with just 1:57 to play as the Royals would catch a break and get the tying goal. Speedy Brandon Magee rushed hard to the net on the wing and tried to make a move around Kelowna defenceman Joe Gatenby. Magee was effectively checked off the puck, but in doing so, Gatenby’s skate would unexpectedly kick the puck directly between Whistle’s legs and into the net, bringing the 3,485 in attendance to their feet.

1DX 6009
Victoria’s Brandon Magee (18), tries to get a shot away in front of Kelowna defender Lucas Johansen. Magee would later score the game tying third goal for the Royals (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In overtime, both teams traded early chances, but with 1:44 remaining, Axel Blomqvist would play the hero, as he positioned himself in the slot and was the beneficiary of a nice passing play from Tyler Soy and Travis Brown, knocking the puck into a wide open net and giving the Royals the dramatic overtime win.

1DX 6075
Kelowna defenceman Madison Bowey (4) shields the puck from the forecheck of Victoria’s Regan Nagy (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win improves the Royals record to 12-10-2-0 and they sit second in the BC Division, still well back of Kelowna, and 4th in the Western Conference, just two points back of Tri-City.

Both teams will be right back at it on Wednesday night in Victoria for the second game of this two game set. Puck drop is set for 7:05 pm.

Game Notes: The Royals announced a trade prior to Tuesday’s game, sending highly touted rookie Matthew Campese and a 2016 5th round draft pick to the Kamloops Blazers in exchange for a 3rd round pick in 2015. Campese had two goals in 14 games with the Royals this season. Victoria’s Ryan Gagnon and Kelowna’s Rodney Southam engaged in a first period fight and were both ejected for a staged fight. Mitch Skapski, Jack Palmer and Dante Hannoun were not in the lineup Tuesday.

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.