Royals Chase Cougars Out of Playoffs

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

April 4, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Royals Greg Chase almost single-handedly carried the Royals into the second round of the playoffs with a hat-trick, but he needed a little help from Brandon Magee, who scored at 1:42 of overtime, to give Victoria a 5-4 win over the Prince George Cougars in Game 5 of their Western Hockey League (WHL) opening round playoff series Saturday evening at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.

The Royals’ Brandon Magee scored his 6th goal of the series, this time at 1:42of OT to give the Royals the 5-4 win Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win clinches the series for the Royals 4-1 and sends the Cougars, who were making their first appearance in the WHL playoffs in four years, on a long, quiet bus ride back to Prince George and out of the playoffs earlier than they had hoped.

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The Royals Travis Brown looks skyward after a first period scoring chance sailed high over the Cougar’s Ty Edmonds (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Royals now advance to the second round in what could be an epic series against the Kelowna Rockets. That series opens on Friday and Saturday, April 9th and 10th in Kelowna, with Games 3 and 4 back in Victoria on Tuesday and Wednesday April 14th and 15th.

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Victoria’s Jack Walker (9) would have a pair of assists Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The win was not an easy one for the Royals, as the Cougars, with their backs against the wall, would scratch and claw their way back into the contest after giving up three first period goals to trail Victoria 3-1 after the first.

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Victoria’s Jack Walker (14) gets jostled in front of the net during first period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Two of those goals came from Chase, the first on a nice move off of a breakaway at 9:04, the second later in the period, thanks to a sweet pass from Tyler Soy from the side of the net. In between Chase’s goals, the Cougars Zach Pochiro and Royals Brandon Fushimi would exchange goals and the Royals took what looked to be a comfortable two-goal lead into the intermission.

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Victoria’s Brandon Fushimi would find a way to stuff this puck through the legs of Ty Edmonds to give the Royals a 2-1 first period lead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In the second, the Royals dominated for the first five minutes of the frame, but would not be rewarded for their efforts, as Cougars goaltender Ty Edmonds would come up with some solid saves to keep the difference at two. It would be the Cougars who would then re-group, outshooting the Royals 15-8 in the frame and getting another goal from Pochiro at 15:14 to send the teams to the second break with the Royals up 3-2.

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The Royals Tyler Soy would find a way to slip this puck over to Greg Chase (not shown) for the Royals third goal of the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Cougars would continue to dominate play in the third, but would not be rewarded until the 14 minute mark, when Pochiro would notch his third of the night, whistling a wrist shot through the legs of a Royals defender and past a surprised Coleman Vollrath to tie things at 3-3.

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Prince George’s Zach Pochiro did all he could, scoring a hat-trick, but the Cougars still were eliminated from the playoffs with Saturday’s loss to Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The tie lasted all of 1:16, as taking a “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude, the Royals Chase took a nice pass from Jack Walker on an odd man break and sniped a beautiful shot past Edmonds for his hat-trick, putting the Royals back into the lead at 4-3 and sending the crowd of 5,839 into a frenzy.

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Victoria’s Greg Chase (left) celebrates his third goal of the game with Jack Walker and Chad Reddekopp (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

The Cougars would not give up though and after failing to score on a powerplay opportunity just a minute after Chase’s go-ahead goal, they would be provided another opportunity, this time striking paydirt at 18:46, just three seconds after a delay of game penalty to Brandon Magee. With their goalie pulled for a two-man advantage, the Cougars Jansen Harkins would win the ensuing faceoff cleanly to Brad Morrison, who wristed a beauty past Vollrath to make it 4-4 and send things to the extra frame.

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The Royals Coleman Vollrath (35) would stop 34 of 38 shots to get the win Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In that extra frame it was clear that the Royals wanted to try and end things early, as they came out with some jump and had a couple of scoring chances before Magee took a feed from Alex Forsberg and flipped it over Edmonds for the game winner just 1:42 into the frame, giving the Royals their first ever series clinching victory on home ice.

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Prince George’s Jansen Harkins (12) and the ROyals Logan Fisher (20) battle for the puck off a face-off (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Royals Head Coach Dave Lowry was pleased with the win, but knows the team will have to prepare well now for Kelowna, “I liked how we battled tonight and stayed positive despite the back and forth nature of the game. We knew that it was going to be a one shot game and we urged the guys not to pass up any shots, not to pass up any opportunities and that worked well for us in the end.”

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Victoria’s Alex Forsberg splits the defence on this third period opportunity (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

“As to the Rockets, sure they are a good team but we are going to go into game one knowing that if we play a certain way against them, we have a chance to beat them,” added Lowry. “We’ve shown that in the last two games of three we’ve played where we have beaten them. We will respect them, but not fear them and that will be the focus of our preparation this week.”

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Victoria’s Austin Carroll (21) is still looking for his first goal of the 2015 playoffs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

Game Notes: Austin Carroll is still looking for his first goal of the 2015 playoffs. He was limited to just two assists in the series with Prince George. Magee’s OT winner was his sixth goal of the playoffs, while Greg Chase now has five. Magee is now the Royals franchise leader in scoring with 10 goals and 13 assists in 22 post season contests.  Victoria’s goaltender Coleman Vollrath stopped 34 of 38 shots, while Ty Edmonds turned away 22 of 27 shots for the Cougars. The Royals went 1/3=33.3% with the extra attacker and the Cougars went 2/5=40.0%.

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