Erich Eichhorn (ISN) – The Victoria Royals fell 4-2 to the Kelowna Rockets Tuesday night in game three action of the WHL, round two playoffs at Save On Foods Arena in front of 5,517 anxious Royal Blue fans.
Royals Taylor Crunk gets about as close as he can to the crease and the Rockets net minder during game three action – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Royals sent starter Coleman Vollrath (.895 sav %) to face the Rockets’ Jackson Whistle (.933%) in net.
Royals would get the jump they need to start the game and it wouldn’t take long for Victoria to get in front on the scoreboard when Brandon Magee would pass a Austin Carroll chipped puck to the stick of Alex Forsberg who would deke around the sprawling Rocket goalie in Whistle to beat him stick side. The Rockets would give the Royals a power play soon after that, putting the partisan Victoria crowd on the edge of their seats hoping for the improbable, early, two goal lead, but Kelowna would turn the tables with a short handed wrister by Leon Draisaitl to beat Royals goalie Vollrath through the legs to even score.
Traffic in front of Coleman Vollrath would give the starting goalie trouble tracking the puck – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
One of the most important keys to the game for the Royals was to stay out of the penalty box against the Rockets’ WHL-best poweplay, however unheeded, a hooking call on Royals Travis Brown would result in a Kelowna marker by Nick Merkley who would skate in untouched to beat the Royals starter high on the glove side at 14:10 to go up 2-1 on the home team. The Rockets would go 2-6 on the powerplay, while the Royals were unable to beat Whistle with the extra man advantage.
Royals Alex Forsberg gets the puck past an outstretched Jackson Whistle for the Royals first goal of the game – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedi.ca)
The Royals would come out in the second period with the same sense of urgency and workmanship and were rewarded when a hustling Greg Chase, on a harmless chip, would beat Whistle 54 seconds into second period to even the score 2-2.
Most spectators would agree the game was fought in the crease during game three. Austin Carroll catches goalie Jackson Whistle outside his crease – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Royals net minder would let his third goal of the night past on defensive screen that would allow Gage Quinney put the Rockets back on top, beating the Royals Vollrath over the left shoulder. The Royals would continue their exodus to the penalty box in the second capped by a 4:00 minute Royals penalty assessed for high-sticking to Brandon Magee with 5:31 left in the second period. Rockets Madison Bowey would make the Royals pay for their sin, beating Vollrath with his fourth goal of the playoffs to put his team back on top.
Rockets Madison Bowey lets this shot rip as team mates and Royals players sacrifice the body in front of the Royals goal – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
Second period would end with the Rockets enjoying a commanding 4-2 lead with the Royals being outshot 17-5 much in part to the profuse trips to the Royals penalty box. The Royals would be penalized a total of eight minutes in the second period alone.
Perhaps opening up another goalie controversy for game four, Coach Dave Lowry would sit out Coleman Vollrath in the third period to give way to backup Justin Paulic. Paulic would stop all eight shots he faced. When asked post game about the move, Lowry would comment, “I have no problem with my goaltending. They’ve given us opportunities to win hockey games, and the made timely saves when we needed it.”
Vollrath looks behind to watch this puck exits the net after beating him from the slot – Erich Eichhorn image (www.allsportmedia.ca)
The Kelowna Rockets, not allowing the Royals to relive any of that game #2 magic that saw the Royals almost steal the game away in OT, would sit on the 2 goal lead, controlling the puck possession. A late penalty by Nick Merkley of the Rockets would leave a small crack in the door for the Royals with 2:04 remaining in the game. The Royals, despite creating multiple chances in the Rockets zone, were unable to capitalize on their opportunities, setting up a do or die, game four Wednesday night.
In a tight checking game, the Royals didn’t get much room to skate uncontested – Erich Eichhorn image (ww.allsportmedia.ca)
Coach Dave Lowry would summarize the night’s loss by saying, “The game got away from us in the second period. I liked the push in the third period and how we played to the end. It’s hard to sit here and be really disappointed about how our team’s playing. We had good looks, we had good opportunities, didn’t take advantage of it, but at the end of the day if you give a team (the Kelowna Rockets) with this skill six power plays it will usually be the difference in the game, and tonight it was. The reality of the situation is that we need to win one game (at a time). There’s only 25 guys guys that can get us out of this situation.”
Game four goes Wednesday night at SOF. Game time is 7:05 pm.