Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
November 28, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Royals would score four times with the man-advantage to power their way to a 5-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in Western Hockey League action Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria.
The Royals Alex Forsberg (16) carries the puck over the blue line. Forsberg would have a goal and an assist in the Royals 5-1 win (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals win, their 17th of the season, snapped the Rockets’ five-game winning streak and avenged their 3-1 loss to the Rockets on Friday night.
Vancouver Island native Michael Herringer got the start in net for the Rockets in place of Jackson Whistle, who was stellar on Friday, and in an omen of what was to come, Herringer’s night got off to a poor start just 1:14 into the game when he misplayed a clear-in behind the net, banking it off his own defenceman and on to the stick of a wide-open Reagan Nagy, who buried it into the wide-open net for an early Christmas present and an early 1-0 lead for the Royals.
Victoria’s Jack Walker charges to the net for an early scoring opportunity. Walker would finish the night with three assists (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
After that, it would be the Royals power play and the play of rookie Matthew Phillips that would be the stories of the night. Phillips, who would stake the Royals to a 2-0 lead just 1:37 into the second period by sniping the top corner on Herringer during a power play, would also add three assists on the Royals remaining three goals, all also on the power play, to finish with a four-point night.
Victoria’s Vladimir Bobylev (23 right) stays one step ahead of Kelowna’s Justin Kirkland (23 left) during first period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Also scoring for the Royals in the second period were Tyler Soy (his 12th), while Alex Forsberg (his 9th) and Joe Hicketts (his 2nd) added markers in the third to round out the Royals scoring. The Rocket’s Cole Linaker scored the lone goal for the Rockets early in the third to spoil the shut-out bid of the Royals Coleman Vollrath who earned his 14th win of the season, tying him for the league lead in wins with the idle Whistle.
Kelowna’s second leading scorer Nick Merkley (10) would be kept quiet by the likes of the Royals’ Jared Dmytriw (27) as the Royals would hold the Rockets to just 15 shots on net for the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Another key to the victory on Friday was the defensive play of the Royals, as they held the high-flying Rockets to a meager 15 shots on goal for the game, four of which came late in the third period during a key 2-man advantage on which they could not convert.
Victoria defenceman Joe Hicketts (2), who would have a goal and an assist on the evening, avoids the check of Kelowna’s Calvin Thurkauf (27) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The defensive shut-down of the WHL’s top team did not go un-noticed by Royals Head Coach Dave Lowry. “Our guys did a really good job tonight, they played tight, they played a solid team game and made it hard for Kelowna to get pucks in the zone and did not give up any second chances. We were in control of the game and we did a good job to kill their momentum after their goal early in the third and that translated into success for us.”
Victoria defenceman Joe Hicketts (left) knocks Kelowna forward Calvin Thurkauf (right) off stride during this puck battle behind the Royals net (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Lowry also complimented Phillips on his solid night and the key reason the young rookie is enjoying success in the WHL. “Matthew succeeds because of his courage. He has an understanding of how to create offence and he understands our key rule that if you go into the corners, your are either going to be physical, or come out with puck. He uses his quickness and smarts to get the puck and as a result is able to create some great offensive chances for himself and his linemates.”
Kelowna defenceman Joe Gatenby (28) leads the charge up ice ahead of the Royals Ethan Price (8) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals, who many felt would spend the year in a re-building mode, continue to surprise many, except perhaps themselves and Head Coach Lowry. “I don’t think surprise is the word, but I have certainly been pleased that the team is able to play at a high level on a consistent basis. I think a key to our success, is that while the boys all have pride and they all have leadership and they all want to win, they all realize that they need each other to win and playing as a team is what is leading to the success we have had and will continue to have moving forward.”
Kelowna’s Devante Stephens (21) and Victoria’s Ethan Price (8) reach for a loose puck during Saturday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The win keeps the Royals in second place in both the B.C. Division and the Western Conference, now just three points behind Kelowna and third overall in the WHL behind Kelowna and Red Deer. The next opportunity to gain ground in those standings will come on Tuesday night Dec. 1 when the Royals host the Medicine Hat Tigers in a 7:05 pm start. That will be followed by a Saturday night tilt on December 5 when the Kootenay Ice come to town.
Game Notes: Phillips with his four-point night was the first star, while Forsberg (goal and an assist) and Jack Walker (three assists) were the second and third stars respectively. Phillips now has a six-game scoring streak underway, the longest on the team at the moment. He has six goals and six assist during that span. Shots on goal finished at 27-15 for the Royals. Attendance was 4,781. The Royals have now outshot their opponents in five consecutive contests and hold a 13-3-1-1 record this season when leading in the shot department. Head Coach Lowry is now just seven wins away from 200 wins as a coach in the WHL. 134 of those wins have come with the Royals.