#WHLPlayoffs Preview: Victoria Royals (2) vs. Vancouver Giants (1)

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The Victoria Royals head to Vancouver for back to back games Friday and Saturday night and will return home for games 3 and 4 Tuesday April 9th and Thursday April 11 at SOFMC. Photo by Gord Rufh ISN Sports

The coastal clash, the Georgia Strait rivalry, or whatever you want to call it just know the Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals will providing an entertaining addition to their geographical rivalry in the second round of the 2019 WHL Playoffs.

Victoria Royals Kaid Oliver (34) is  listed as out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Victoria Royals Kaid Oliver (34) is listed as out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Photo by Gord Rufh ISN Sports

In their first-round meeting last year, the likes of Tyler Benson, Ty Ronning, Matthew Phillips, and Tyler Soy went head-to-head in an entertaining seven-game series before continuing their hockey careers in the professional and post-secondary ranks. This year’s edition of the rivalry may not feature any of those four names, but there’s no shortage of talent on either side this time around either as last names like Koch, Byram, Outhouse, and Walford take over the spotlight this time around.

This year, the Giants rose from third in their division to first in the Western Conference, earning home-ice advantage. In the absence of two of the team’s all-time leading scorers, the Royals did well to rebound, finishing second in the B.C. Division with another 30-plus win season.

The Giants owned the better record in the 10-game season series with a 6-2-1-1 mark, but only outscored the Royals by six goals, not including shootout goals. While many will happily give the advantage to the Giants based upon the talent they have available at all three positions, that should provide hope and confidence to Victoria that they’re well within striking distance of the Giants and could be one or two bounces away from a series win.

Leading the way for the Giants up front is top-scoring forward Davis Koch. The WHL McSweeney’s Player of the Month for March led the Giants with 10 points (1G-9A) and finished tied for first in scoring through the first round. On defence, Bowen Byram continued to elevate his play with eight points (3G-5A) to stand second among the Giants’ offensive contributors. Jadon Joseph led the Giants with six goals.

The Royals turned to import forward Phillip Schultz to lead them in the first round. The Denmark product responded with nine points (2G-7A) in a six-game series win over the Blazers, earning second star honours for the first round of the 2019 WHL Playoffs. On the blue line, Montreal Canadiens prospect Scott Walford tallied five assists in six games and was a reliable member of the Royals’ defence. If the Royals want to slow down the Giants’ offence, they’ll need Walford at his best throughout the series. Dino Kambeitz led the Royals with five goals in six games.

Despite the wealth of talent at forward and defence, the best battle of the series will most certainly come between the pipes. The Giants rolled with David Tendeck and Trent Miner in the first round with each claiming a 2-1 record. Both had success against the Royals in the regular season, posting sub-2.00 goals-against-averages, and save percentages a shade above and a shade below .920.

At the other end of the ice, Griffen Outhouse played every single minute of team’s series win against the Blazers. The stalwart in the blue paint has 126 WHL victories, combining regular season and playoffs, to his credit and there’s no doubt he’s one of the team’s top performers. Now in the final run of his major junior hockey career, Outhouse has his sights set on another series victory against the Giants and getting the Royals past the second round of the WHL Playoffs for the first time in team history.

Game 1 of the series will take place Friday, April 5 (7:30 p.m. PT) at the Langley Events Centre before shifting to the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena for Game 3 on Tuesday, April 9 (7:05 p.m. PT).

Schedule

Game 1 – Friday, April 5 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7:30 p.m. PT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 6 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT
Game 3 – Tuesday, April 9 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena  –  Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 4 –Thursday, April 11 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena  –  Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 5* – Saturday, April 13 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT
Game 6* – Monday, April 15 –Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena  –  Victoria –  7:05 p.m. PT
Game 7* – Wednesday, April 17 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT