© Copyright – 2016 – Victoria Sports News
The Victoria Royals met the Kelowna Rockets tonight in game one of the second round of the 2016 Western Hockey League playoffs at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in front of 5,113 boisterous fans.
The Royals prevailed on the strength of big-league goaltending by Coleman Vollrath and fearless shot-blocking by the Royals’ defense, especially Chaz Reddekopp.
“The guys played great in front of me tonight. Reddekopp must have had 10 shot blocks by himself,” Said Vollrath.
Asked if all-star defenseman Joe Hicketts may be back in the line-up for game two after skating earlier today, Coach Dave Lowry just looked away and replied, “it’s the playoffs.”
Jack Walker opened the scoring, notching his sixth of the playoffs. He was the lucky recipient of a give-a-way by the Rockets’ Rourke Chartier who generously handed Walker the puck at his own blue line. Walker skated in and dished the puck to Soy who was parked behind the net. Soy executed a slick give and go play with Walker, who made no mistake burying the puck behind Rockets’ goaltender Michael Herringer.
The Rockets responded 63 second later when Tyson Bailie potted his first on a controversial goal, which was reviewed due to the net being dislodged as the puck crossed the goal line. The goal stood. The crowd disagreed.
The Royals killed off a four-minute double minor to Jared Dmytriw for high sticking thanks to excellent shot blocking by Chaz Reddekopp, who prevented at least four point shots on one shift.
The teams skated to the dressing rooms tied 1-1.
During the second period, Matthew Phillips threaded a tape-to-tape pass on a 2-on-1 break to Dante Hannoun who made no mistake to put the Royals up 2-1 at the 1:25 mark. The second assist went to Alex Forsberg.
At 5:37, Logan Fisher hit Tanner Wishnowski in the corner. Wishnowski went down easily and stayed down, drawing a five-minute major to Fisher for boarding and a game misconduct. It was a call that the ref made based on the player’s reaction, as opposed to the actual hit that was thrown. When the league wants to get rid of head shots, refs may be overly diligent when assessing majors. Twice during the playoffs the Royals have been unfairly called for game misconducts. The crowd disagreed with the call and they voiced their opinion when the video replay showed the hit.
When the Royals killed off the penalty, they earned a standing ovation from the hometown crowd.
The Royals, the first place team in the league during the regular season, dispatched the Spokane Chiefs in six games during the first round, while the Rockets took out the Kamloops Blazers in a hard-fought seven game series that ended in overtime during the final game Sunday, April 3rd in Kelowna. They may not have fully recovered from their tilt with Kamloops, but they demonstrated that they are a much better team the the Chiefs.
The Rockets pulled Herringer with nearly two minutes remaining and proceeded to pelt Vollrath with 10 shots, but to no avail; Vollrath stood on his head. The game ended 2-1. The crowd loved it.
The Rockets are the defending league champions and Memorial Cup finalists, they should continue to prove to be a tough opponent, as they were one of the top-two teams in the WHL all year until the injury bug bit them during the latter stages of the season.
The shots were 41-31 for the Rockets, which earned Vollrath the first star honours, while Herringer was given the third star.Tyler Soy got the nod for second. Both teams went zero for four on the powerplay.
Game two takes place at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 PM.