Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
April 15, 2105, Victoria, BC (ISN) – There are only a handful of teams in all of sport who have successfully come back from 3-0 playoff series deficits in a seven game series. The Victoria Royals took what is hopefully the first step at being another one of those, as they staved off elimination Wednesday night with a thrilling, come-from-behind 5-4 overtime victory over the Kelowna Rockets in WHL playoff action at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.
Victoria’s Greg Chase would be the hero, scoring 5:30 into overtime to give the Royals a 5-4 win over Kelowna on Wednesday evening (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Playing hero for the Royals was Greg Chase, who banged home a shot after a goal mouth scramble at 5:30 into the first overtime period to send the crowd of 4,909 – disappointingly small thanks to the start of NHL playoffs – into a frenzy and sending the Royals swarming off the bench.
Victoria’s Jared Dmytriw (27) tries to get past Kelowna defender Cole Martin (8) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That the game even got to overtime is yet another story. Trailing 4-2 after two periods, the Royals somehow found a way to rally in the third and goals 24 seconds apart just past the midway point of the period by Jack Walker (his second of the game) and Brandon Magee (his 9th of the playoffs) did the job and sent the game to the extra frame.
Victoria’s Alex Forsberg (16), who would have two assists Wednesday, looks to slip by Kelowna’s Devante Stephens (21) in the first period (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Prior to that, the Rockets, who took off from the Western Hockey League playoffs launch pad on March 27th with a 6-0 win over the Tri-City Americans, have been all systems go and looked like they were well on their way to their eighth straight playoff win and second straight sweep.
With this snap shot, Victoria’s Austin Carroll would score just his first goal of the 2015 playoffs in the first period Wednesday. He would also add an assist in the Royals 5-4 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Dominating first period play, the Rockets built a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Lucas Johansen and Tyson Baillie before the Royals finally got a goal at 17:47 from the conspicuously absent Austin Carroll, who breathed a visible sigh of relief after scoring just his first goal of the 2015 playoffs.
Victoria defenceman Travis Brown carries the puck out of his own end during the second period Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Unfortunately for the Royals, the Rockets would strike back on the very next shift, re-establishing their two goal lead just 22 seconds later thanks to Rourke Chartier’s sixth goal of the playoffs, sending the teams into the first break with the Rockets up 3-1.
Kelowna’s Nick Merkley (10) would garner an assist Wednesday for his 10th point of the 2015 playoffs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals would push back in the second and after a rare Kelowna turnover in their own end, the Royals Jack Walker would cut the lead to 3-2 when he would snap a beauty over the shoulder of Jackson Whistle at the 11:01 mark.
Kelowna’s Rourke Chartier (left) and Victoria’s Bryton Sayers (right) engage in a bit of sword play in front of the Royals net (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals would then find themselves in a spot of penalty trouble, going down two men at one point, which elicited the standard chant from the crowd regarding the capability of the two referees. While the Royals would kill off the two-man disadvantage, Kelowna’s Thomas Soustal would put a rebound past Royals starter Justin Paulic with just 1:32 left in the period to re-establish the Rockets’ two goal lead at the break.
Victoria’s Joe Hicketts (2) looks for an option as he carries the puck into the Kelowna end Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the third, the Royals took the play to the Rockets, outshooting them 13-9 and being rewarded first when Walker stuffed one in with 9:16 to play to make it 4-3. Magee then followed with a shot through the legs of Whistle to tie it 4-4.
Victoria’s Travis Brown (6) prepares to fire a shot during the third period Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the overtime period, Kelowna had a chance to win it early, when the Royals Magee took a goaltender interference penalty just 14 seconds into the frame. But like they did seven other times in the game, the Royals penalty killers and goaltender Paulic, kept the mighty Rockets powerplay off the board.
Victoria’s Tyler Soy (17) and two-goal scorer Jack Walker (9) lead the charge into the Kelowna end in the third period Wednesday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
It was shortly after that, with the Rockets about to be called for an interference penalty on goaltender Paulic, that the Royals rushed down the ice, got the extra attacker off the bench and threw everything they had at the net. Chaos ensued and Chase found the puck and fired it in for the winner.
Kelowna’s Tyson Baillie (24) flips the puck away from the Royal’s Jack Walker during third period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals will now head back to Kelowna for Game 5 on Friday night with the hopes of bringing things back to Victoria for Game 6 on Sunday.
Head Coach Dave Lowry knows that for that to happen, his team will need to be better, especially in minimizing their penalties. “We are playing with fire for sure when we take that many penalties,” said Lowry in his post-game interview. “Credit to our guys, they blocked shots, they paid a price and our goalie made some key saves when we needed it. But we have to figure things out in quick order here. We can’t afford to take that many penalties and expect to win. We got away with it tonight, but it has cost us in a couple of other games.”
Royals’ goaltender Jaustin Paulic makes one of his 36 saves, none bigger than this one off of Kelowna’s Gage Quinney (20) on a powerplay chance in overtime (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
“We will talk about the penalties, when they happened, why they happened and how we can avoid them next game,” added Lowry. We are a team that needs to play with emotion but we need to stay out of the box. We know we dodged a bullet tonight and we will have to improve on that in Game 5 and play an intelligent game.”
Kelowna’s big gun Leon Draisaitl (29) was held to just a single assist on Wednesday by the Royals, who also killed off eight Kelowna powerplay chances, a key factor in their 5-4 overtime win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Five Royals, Magee, Walker, Chase, Forsberg and Carroll, had two-point evenings. The Rockets were 0-8 on the powerplay. Final shots were 40-32 for Kelowna. With his goal and assist, Brandon Magee now sits tied for second in the WHL playoff scoring race. Greg Chase sits in 11th.