Dylan Plouffe (Left) and Phillip Schultz (Right) exchange differing opinions during Saturday night's WHL regular season contest (November 24th, 2018)

Story & Photos by Alex Rodgerson

The Victoria Royals dropped their second straight road decision on Saturday night, falling to the Vancouver Giants by a final of 4-1 at the Langley Events Centre. Saturday night’s clash with the Giants would be an emotional affair between the two rivals, as the game would feature two fights and both teams heading to the penalty box early and often.

Unfortunately for the Royals, their powerplay would come up completely empty as Victoria would go 0/9 on the night while the Giants PP would go 1/5. For Vancouver Davis Koch and Milos Roman would have two points each, while Tanner Sidaway scored the Royals’ only goal in his 150th career WHL game.

Victoria entered Saturday night’s match-up with their B.C. division adversaries playing some inconsistent hockey as of late, compiling a 4-6 record over their last ten games while the Giants would be looking to sustain some momentum after a big win over Seattle just a few days prior. For Victoria it would be their fourth meeting with Vancouver this season, owning a 2-1-0 record against the Giants.

Royals’ forward Igor Martynov would get his teams’ first good opportunity of the game just after the opening two minute mark, working himself free onto a partial breakaway before having his quick shot deflect off Trent Miner before hitting the post and going wide.

Miner, who is currently in his rookie season with Vancouver, entered the game with a 7-1-1 record to go along with a .942% save percentage this season while Martynov, a Belarus-born forward, would be deprived of his second of the season.

The Giants would respond by establishing some good offensive zone possession, keeping the Royals away from the puck while generating several chances from the point position. The B.C. division rivalry between the Royals and Giants wouldn’t take long to spark some animosity, as an early scrum would see coinciding roughing minors send the game to four-on-four.

Giants’ captain Jarred Dmytriw would head off for slashing near the midway mark of the period, giving the Royals their first advantage of the evening. Heading into Saturday nights’ action, Victoria’s powerplay came in ranked fourth worst in the Western Hockey League.

Vancouver would manage to kill off the minor penalty, and just moments later would head to a powerplay of their own. On the Giants’ man advantage, some beautiful passing would see Vancouver’s Bowen Byram send a great cross-ice feed to Davis Koch, who would then connect with Milos Roman right in front for a cross crease tap-in. For Roman, a Calgary Flames prospect, it would be his twelfth of the year while Davis Koch would notch his seventh assist in the last five games.

The Giants’ momentum would continue after the goal, as Vacouver would continue to own possession of the puck and limit the Royals to just three shots through the games’ opening fifteen minutes. The Royals would push back late in the frame but would be unable to find the equalizer, as the two teams would head off to end the period with the Giants ahead 1-0.

Dino Kambeitz would come out with a determined effort to start the second frame, as the Colorado-born forward would lay out Giants’ defencemen Kaleb Bulych against the boards before getting a good lick on Dawson Holt. However, despite the early physical push by Victoria, the Giants would strike just minutes into the second period. After taking a pass on the left wing, forward Davis Koch would get a step and snap a hard low shot passed Outhouse to make it 2-0 Vancouver.

After tempers would flair just passed the period’s five minute mark, the two teams would then play four-on-four once again. This would lead to an exciting chance for Giants’ rookie Tristen Nielson, who would manage to split the defence before Griffen Outhouse would come out to make the challenge a la Dominik Hasek. The two would collide and the puck would squirt free, but the Giants would send the rebound just wide of the empty net.

Dino Kambeitz would continue to play a strong game for the Royals mid-way through the frame, drawing a retaliatory penalty on Giants’ defenceman Alex Kannok-Leipert and sending his team back to the powerplay. On the ensuing man advantage Royals’ winger DJay Jerome would come off the point and snap a hard shot off the cross bar.

For Victoria this would be their second post of the night, in a game they would continue to trail 2-0 with the second period winding down. Another Vancouver penalty would put Victoria on a 5-3 advantage just moments later, but the Royals would be unable to capitalize on numerous second period powerplay chances.

For the Giants they would turn multiple straight penalty kills into momentum of their own, as after picking off a clearing attempt Vancouver captain Jared Dmytriw would walk in all alone on Outhouse. Despite losing the handle on the puck, Dmytriw would get enough on it to slide the puck into the Royals net for the short-handed marker.

The Giants captain and former Red Deer Rebel would not only make a difference on the scoreboard, but would also win nine of eleven face-offs through two periods while putting on a fantastic display of 200-foot hockey. The Royals would now head into the intermission down by three and trailing in shots 21-17.

The third period would once again see Victoria go to the attack early in hopes of getting on the board, however the Giants strong defensive efforts would keep the Royals to the perimeter of the offensive zone. Royals defenceman Matthew Smith would leave the game early in the third period after taking a heavy hit along the boards from Milos Roman, appearing to have cut his face against either the glass or his own visor. This would cause the temperature to rise again, leading to Sean Gulka and Giants’ defenceman Kaleb Bulych dropping the mits in the Vancouver zone just moments later.

Just passed the half way mark of the final frame, the Giants would strike again as Vancouver rookie Justin Sourdif would tally his sixth of the season to make it 4-0 for the home team. Another fight would erupt soon after, with a frustrated Phillip Schultz going after Nanaimo-born forward Owen Hardy.

Hardy’s first punch would be a straight right-hand that would appear to open up Schultz, before the two would go down to the ice quickly after. Hardy would head to the box for the major, while Schultz would head to the dressing room for repairs.

Griffen Outhouse would make the save of the game just passed the twelve minute mark of the third, stretching out his left pad to deny the Giants their fifth of the evening on what would be an open net opportunity.

The Royals would finally beat Trent Miner with under four minutes left in the game, as Tanner Sidaway would get a stick on a loose puck in front and squeak it through the pads of Miner. Sidaway’s third of the year would make the game 4-1, but that’s as close as Victoria would come as Vancouver would go on to win by the very same score.

With his GWG on Saturday night, Giants’ Davis Koch would register his 200th point in the Western Hockey League while extending his point streak to five games. Giants’ defenceman and Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Dylan Plouffe would also extend his point streak to five games, and was a +2 on the night. For the Royals, Dante Hannoun would fire a game-high eight shots on goal but would come up empty on the score-sheet while the Royals would be foiled by the cross-bar twice on Saturday night.

Griffen Outhouse would stop 32 of 36 shots faced in the loss, while battling hard all night to fight through heavy screens and a goal-crashing Giants team. At the other end, Giants rookie goalie Trent Miner would continue his impressive season by stopping 24 of 25 shots for the victory, and seeing his record improve to 8-1-1 on the year.

Matthew Smith and Phillip Schultz would both be forced to leave the game in the third period after sustaining injuries, but both should be expected back when the Royals return home to face Saskatoon on Wednesday.

photo courtesy of Chris Relke
photo courtesy of Chris Relke

After the game I had an opportunity to speak with Giants’ forward Owen Hardy, who is currently in his fourth year with the Vancouver Giants. Hardy, a native of Nanaimo, is a 202-pound forward who through his dedication to hard work and self improvement has seen his game continue to develop at the WHL level.

A former Nanaimo Clipper, Hardy plays a physical all-round game that combines aggressiveness on both sides of the puck, great forechecking and an extremely high-level of puck protection. Hardy gave his thoughts about the Giants 4-1 Saturday victory over the Royals.

“We didn’t feel like the first period was our best,” said Hardy. “We really focused in the second period on playing simpler, and playing our game.”

After seeing a thirty-five point turn around last season, the Giants have continued to trend in an upward direction to start the 2018-2019 WHL season. Currently first in the B.C. division, the Giants are also only a few points back of Everett for first in the WHL’s western conference, sporting a record of 16-6-2 so far this season. In what has been a great start for Vancouver, Hardy spoke about what he believes has led to the Giants recent success.

“We’re a close, tightly-knit group and everyone wants to work for each other” said Hardy. “We’re not perfect and we know there’s a long way to go in our development as a team, but I think everybody is buying into the same system and we all want it.”

photo courtesy of Troy Landreville
photo courtesy of Troy Landreville

Owen Hardy is coming off a career year in 2017/2018 as the 1999-born forward had 23 points in 56 games to go along with 52 PIMs. This season, Hardy continues to work to bring his game to the next level as the nineteen-year old’s role with Vancouver continues to grow.

Hardy’s 200-pound frame doesn’t hurt his speed either, as the hard-nosed forward’s straight-up style of speed and toughness is a much coveted skill-set even in today’s NHL. Hardy then spoke about what his approach to self-improvement has been like.

“I just focus on getting better everyday.” said the former Nanaimo Clipper. “Every practice, shooting pucks, get another work-out in, all the little things. I’m really focused on that.”

In the late goings of Saturday night’s clash between Victoria and Vancouver, Hardy would drop the gloves with Royals’ Phillip Schultz. After getting tangled up just outside the Giants blue-line, Hardy would waste no time in throwing several strong rights that would send Schultz to the dressing room.

Upon watching the fight live it was very difficult to tell if Hardy’s first punch was the one to open up Schultz, due to the two falling to the ice with both still throwing. Hardy confirmed it was the first straight-right that did the damage.

“I would think it would be the first one,” said Hardy. “I got him pretty flush around the mouth area.”

The Royals will look to pick themselves up off the canvas when they return home to take on the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday night, with Victoria looking to rebound from two consecutive losses to B.C. division opponents.

After their one game stop at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre the Royals will then be back on the road for five straight with stops in Prince George, Kamloops and Kelowna before wrapping up their trip with a rematch against the Giants on December 8th at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.