Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
December 5, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – It was pretty much as expected at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on a blustery Saturday night, as the Victoria Royals, second overall in the Western Hockey League (WHL), dominated the last place Kootenay Ice, outshooting them 43-22 and rolling to a 5-1 win in front of an announced 4,593 fans.
Alex Forsberg (16), who would finish with a goal and three assists, lets a shot go during the Royals 5-1 win over the Kootenay Ice on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The loss was the seventh in a row for the now 6-23-2-0 Ice, who, unless their fortunes turn quickly, look like they will fail to make the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.
Things actually started well for the Ice on Saturday, as just 1:57 into the game, winger Roman Dymacek rifled a shot over the shoulder of Royals starter Coleman Vollrath to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
The Royals Ethan Price (8) is denied on this first period scoring chance by Kootnay goaltender Wyatt Hoflin (30) (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That did not last long however and less than two minutes later, at 3:46, the Royals Vladimir Bobylev knotted things up, putting one past Kootenay starter Wyatt Hoflin, with assists going to Ryan Gagnon and Regan Nagy.
While he was not challenged often, Royals’ goaltender Coleman Vollrath came up big when needed, here making a nice glove save – one of 21 on the night – during second period action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
While the Royals continued to dominate the period, outshooting the Ice 15-7, they would not strike again until 2:37 of the second period when Matthew Phillips would convert a nice two-on-one pass from Alex Forsberg for his 16th goal of the season.
Kootenay goaltender Wyatt Hoflin (30) executes a perfect sweep check on the Royals Ethan Price (8) during the second period Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Goals later in the frame by Dante Hannoun, his 15th of the season and Phillips, his second of the game and 17th of the season on a breakaway, saw the Royals head into the second break with a comfortable 4-1 lead.
Rookie sensation Matthew Phillips (11) continued his great run, scoring a pair of goals, his 16th and 17th of the season, in the 5-1 win Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
In the third, the Royals would continue their solid play, outshooting Kootenay 13-5, but only managing to beat Hoflin just one more time, when Alex Forsberg, who had assisted on the three previous goals, scored one of his own, converting a nice passing play from Ethan Price and Bobylev.
The Royals Vladimir Bobylev (23) would have a goal and an assist in the win over Kootenay (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals Dante Hannoun (19) swoops past Kootenay defender Shane Allan (16) during third period action Saturday. Hannoun would score his 15th goal of the season earlier in the game (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
With the win, the now 19-8-1-1 Royals keep pace with the Kelowna Rockets who also won Saturday – a 4-2 win over Portland – sitting just five points behind the Rockets for both the BC Division and Western Conference lead. The Ice, who now face a long bus trip to Prince George for a Tuesday night game against the Cougars, sit last in both the Central Division and the Eastern Conference, five points behind Medicine Hat and Swift Current, who they hope they can catch to have a chance at a possible wild card playoff spot down the road.
The Royals Ralph Jarratt carries the puck during action against Kootenay on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
The Royals, who in a quirk of WHL scheduling, now play the Vancouver Giants in four straight games – Friday Dec. 11 in Vancouver, Saturday and Sunday Dec. 12 and 13 here in Victoria and Wednesday Dec. 16 in Vancouver – will need to gear up for those games and for the next 13 in total, without the services of Head Coach Dave Lowry, defenceman Joe Hicketts and Equipment Manager Matt Auerbach who are all headed off to the National Junior Team Selection Camp and then to Finland for the World Junior Championships where Hicketts and Lowry hope to defend the gold medal that they both brought home last season.
The Royals Regan Nagy (24) battles for the puck with Kootenay’s Matt Alfaro (21) during second period action Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Game Notes: Forsberg, with his goal and three assists was named first star Saturday, while Phillips with his two goals was second star. Ryan Gagnon picked up third star honors. Royals goaltender Coleman Vollrath has now started 26 of the 29 games the Royals have played. He now has 16 wins which ties him with Kelowna’s Jackson Whistle for the league lead and his 2.15 goals against average is good for fourth in the league. Forsberg remains the team’s leading scorer and WHL’s 11th place scorer with 10 goals and 28 assists, while Phillips, leads the team in goals with his 17.