Heroics by Captain Matthew Phillips and sleight-of-hand goaltending by Griffen Outhouse capped a thrilling seven-game playoff series with a narrow defeat of the Vancouver Giants, 4-3 at home. Until the final buzzer sounded on Tuesday night, it was anyone’s series.
“It was just a hard-fought series and a hard-fought game. Vancouver competed so hard It took us…it was everything we had to overcome it and get through it. Every player, every minute of every game and we are just really proud of the fact that we were able to persevere and get through it,” said Coach Dan Price after the game.
The Royals forced Game 7 after defeating the Giants in Langley in overtime, 4-3 on Monday. Phillips carried the team on his back scoring twice and setting up two others.
Phillips, a Calgary Flames-signed player, scored the game-tying goal and set up Noah Gregor for the game-winner. Phillips also set up the Royals’ first goal, which provided a momentum shift; it was a game-changer.
He would need to be all that again during Game 7.
Both teams had seemed tentative at first to avoid giving up the first goal on Tuesday, but the Royals opened the scoring at 18:36 while on the powerplay.
Chaz Reddekopp parked himself in front of goaltender David Tendeck, while Phillips, Dante Hannoun and Gregor threw the puck around. Gregor shot from the point and Reddekopp deflected the puck in. It was the only goal of the opening frame.
At 1:17 of the second period, Lane Zablocki, skating in on Tendeck’s stick side, shot and the goaltender deflected the puck in with his trapper – that was a goal he would want back.
Phillips scored from his office – at the side of the net – he stuffed the puck in on Tendeck’s stick side at 6:01. Hannoun set the goal up with a tidy pass from behind the net.
Coach Jason McKee pulled Tendeck in favour of backup Trent Miner, who immediately let in the puck, which was reviewed and disallowed, as the officials blew the whistle before the puck crossed the line much to the displeasure to the 6,467 fans in attendance.
The Giants came right back and scored one of their own.
Tyler Popowich scored at the side of the net from Owen Hardy and former Royals player Jared Dmytriw at 7:49.
At 10:29, Phillips skating down the right side, wristed a seeing-eye shot that went top-left corner on Miner, glove-side. Mitchell Prowse and Kade Jensen earned assists on the play.
The Giants got another back and some momentum when they pulled Miner in favour of Tendeck. Matt Barberis, skating through the slot, had a Tyler Benson shot from the half boards hit him and direct in behind Outhouse to climb to within two at 14:27 of the second period.
The Giants came within one with a late second period goal. Brendan Riddle fired a rocket that went upstairs, short-side on Outhouse. The goal was assisted by Davis Koch and Tyler Benson
During the third period, both teams avoided making mistakes, but the Giants with their season hanging in the balance pressed the Royals in their end, for most of the third period.
Cue Outhouse and his magic saving tricks, pulling pucks out of the air, left and right, facing down shooters and steering shot after shot to the corners and over the net. He was putting on a clinic.
“It’s great, it’s a great feeling. Really proud of the guys in front of me, being down 3-2 in the series and looking at some of the guys that are out of the lineup and not feeling too good. The guys put everything on the line and I am really proud of them,” said Outhouse.
With a handful of seconds remaining on the clock, the diminutive leader of the team, 137-pound Matthew Phillips, dove face first in front of a slap shot from the point to block a final Giants shot and deflected the puck heroically into the neutral zone – the buzzer sounded and the fans cheered vociferously, while the Royals players mobbed each other.
“Unbelievable series,” said Phillips. “That’s two really competitive teams playing really good hockey, start to finish and nothing but respect for their team.”
“That diving play really epitomizes him as a player and as a person. It epitomizes the game and the series. It was just about whatever it took, even if it was ugly. We could see it from the bench; basically, he slid face first into the puck, to get the shot block and get it out of the zone and secure the victory. What can you say about him and the team,” said Price.
The Tri-City Americans are on tap next, with two games at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday and Saturday.
EXTRAS: It was a big series win considering the Royals scratched from the line-up key players Dino Kambeitz, Tyler Soy, Tanner Kaspick and Scott Walford.