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The Victoria Royals took on the Seattle Thunderbirds Friday for game one of their two-game, back-to-back set at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre this weekend. They won 4-3, but it was a very late come-from-behind effort.
It was the Gord Downie – Chanie Wenjack Fund night, with a special third jersey and a pre-game presentation to the brother of Gord, Mike Downie as well as a ceremonial faceoff.
Asked if the Royals played a full 60 minutes, Coach Dan Price said, “No. We had a good first half of the first period and we played well to earn the win, but I would say 40 minutes was played well.”
The Royals were without key players in Regan Nagy and Scott Walford.
“It was an opportunity for some players to step up,” shared Price. “I thought Remy Aquilon played great in his first ever WHL game. Also, Jeremy Masella had one of his best games.”
Victoria was coming off of one of, if not, the worst loss in franchise history, when they were beaten by the Lethbridge Hurricanes by the score of 10-4. Price had said that it was the type of game, “that we have to move on from, but we have to learn from it as well.”
The week previous, the Royals had lost at home 5-3 to the Red Deer Rebels on Nov. 14. After the game Price said, “Two words, unacceptable and fundamentals.”
The team responded during the following two road games by defeating the Spokane Chiefs 1-0 and the Thunderbirds 7-3.
Then the Hurricanes blew into town.
Friday, the pre-game question 5,079 fans were asking was, how will the Royals respond to the 10-4 loss?
The answer wasn’t clear early on as at 5:04 of the first, Seattle opened the scoring. Sammy Mollanen, scored his 13th goal of the season from Turner Ottenbreit and Donovan Nuels.
One-minute and 35-seconds later the Royals responded when Igor Martynov scored his eighth of the season on a screened play. Dante Hannoun and Kaid Oliver assisted.
The Thunderbirds went up 2-1 at 11:34 when Austin Strand took a wrist shot from the point. Griffen Outhouse failed to control the puck, it was picked up by Zack Andrusiak, who back-handed the puck under Outhouse’s left arm, short-side. Noah Philip earned the second assist on the play.
The Royals powerplay – their bread and butter during the early part of the season – was failing to set up. During the fourth powerplay, Matthew Phillips and Dante Hannoun took matters into their own hands rushing through the slot right at goaltender Matt Berlin. On the third such rush Hannoun, went around three Thunderbird defenders, fed Phillips in his office who swiped twice at the puck for a gritty goal at 9:44 to tie the score at two. Oliver earned the second assist. It was Phillip’s team-leading 19th of the season.
“Oliver was instrumental in starting the play that resulted in that goal,” shared Price.
With 32.9 seconds remaining in the period, the Thunderbirds scored again. Dillon Hamaliuk got his third in a scrambled play that saw Outhouse sprawling – the goal was reviewed, but was deemed good.
A number of stoppages and penalties prevented the game from getting much in the way of flow. At the midway point of the third period, the Phillips, Hannoun and Soy line stepped up the intensity creating several excellent scoring opportunities, starting with a near end-to-end rush by Soy who brought the fans to their feet. Hannoun and Phillips were buzzing.
With 2:05 remaining in the game and the Royals coming off of an impressive powerplay, Martynov skated from behind the net on a power-move, where he reached around slid the puck to the far side behind Berlin, for his second of the game.
With 18 seconds remaining, Jared Legien, who was having a physical night broke down the left side going around a Thunderbird defender and backhanded the puck past Berlin for his 11th of the season. The comeback was complete.
Seattle outshot Victoria 46-23. Victoria went 1/7 on the powerplay, while stonewalling the Thunderbirds on their five opportunities.
The teams meet again Saturday night with a 7:05 pm puck drop.
Post-game comments from Dan Price, Griffen Outhouse and Jared Legien: