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Noah Gregor threatens, while goaltender Trent Miner keeps his eyes on the puck. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

The Victoria Royals (39-27-4-2) and Vancouver Giants (36-27-6-3) played game one of their first round playoff series at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre Friday and the Giants narrowly squeezed out a 2-1 win, despite being outplayed.

“It’s just an event, just a plot point in a story and I don’t think anyone expected it to be over in four,” said Coach Dan Price. “We have to continue to put our best foot forward and try to win one game at a time and the series. We understand that there is going to be ups and downs over the course of a game and the course of a series. Sometimes the puck bounces your way, sometimes it doesn’t bounce your way. Sometimes you lose games, sometimes you win games, but the key is, is to be level, to be consistent and never change and keep doing things that you believe will give you success.”

It’s a tight rivalry; only three points separated the teams during the regular season, 84-81.

This was the first ever post-season game between the BC Division rivals and it got off to a heated start.

Tanner Kaspick levelled a defenceman into goaltender Trent Miner seconds into the game. At 1:45 6’4” 216-pound Darian Skeoch caught Dino Kambeitz in the head with his shoulder as Kambeitz skated into the slot. Skeoch earned himself a five-minute hit-to-the-head penalty and a game misconduct. On the ensuing powerplay, the Royals spent nearly the entire five minutes in the Giants’ end. They mustered five shots, but no goals.

Tanner Kaspick starts the game off with a big hit. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

“I thought both teams did very well on the powerplay and the penalty kill as well. Vancouver got some good chances, we knew they would. They are a really good team with a good powerplay. We got some chances that didn’t go. Both teams did a really good job of sacrificing and blocking shots,” added Price.

The Giants got on the board first at 5:48 of the second period.  Ty Ronning nearly stuffed the puck on the short side on Griffen Outhouse, but a Royals’ defencemen cleared the puck, but not far enough handing it to Milos Roman in the slot, who fired the puck past a sprawling Outhouse. James Malm earned the second assist on the play.

At 11:36 Kaspick scored. Defenceman Chaz Reddekopp started the play from his own end handing the puck off to Matthew Phillips. Phillips skated into the Giant’s zone down the right side and placed the puck onto Dante Hannoun’s stick, he fired, Miner kicked the puck back out and Kaspick drove home the rebound.

Kaspick made several forays around the defenders to get shots on net throughout the game. The Giants had trouble containing him.

“Tanner is such a competitive player. He really embodies that work ethic. He is physical, he works so hard and he’s always all around the puck,” said Price when asked about Kaspick’s play that earned him second-star honours.

Asked if he needs to change anything to capitalize on those opportunities Kaspick said, “No, I think as long as I am getting chances, I am happy with my play and as long as I get those chances they will start going in a little more,”

At 18:25 of the second period, the Giants went up 2-1 with Matt Barberis capitalizing. Tyler Benson and Brennan Riddle assisted. The Royals would start the third period on the powerplay as Dylan Plouffe took a high sticking penalty at 19:45, but nothing doing.

While Jared Freadrich was off for tripping, the Royals had several glorious shorthanded scoring opportunities and when they were caught deep, Outhouse made two tremendous saves to keep the game close. But in the end, the Royals just couldn’t solve Miner.

Dante Hannoun throwing his weight around like a giant. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

“I thought it was a good game,” said Matthew Phillips. “I thought both goaltenders played real well. That’s how playoff games go. It was a fun, tight game and it was what we expected.”

Griffen Outhouse stopped 31 of 33 shots from the Giants, while Miner stopped 40 of 41.

Both powerplays went  0/4.

The teams renew acquaintances again Saturday in Victoria before heading to Langley for games three and four, Tuesday and Thursday at the Langley Events Centre. Saturday, March 31 if necessary will be game five in Victoria as well as game seven Tuesday, April 3.

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