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The Victoria Royals hosted the Portland Winterhawks for Game 1 of their two-game back-to-back set at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Tuesday and handily defeated them by the score of 7-4. It was a welcome change from the low-scoring losses that the Royals suffered four times in a row recently.
“We have been in the games. Tonight was about the constant conversation with the players over the past 10 games or so. The other teams were playing very hard, very well and quite competitively, well structured, but for us the puck has been going post and out, crossbar and out or across the goal line. It’s a matter of sticking with the process and they will start going post-in and crossbar-in and being redirected in,” said Coach Dan Price.
The Royals dug themselves into a hole early, when Portland took a two-goal lead by 10:51 of the first period on goals by Cross Hanas (4th) and Joachim Blichfeld (27th). The Royals climbed out of it with five consecutive goals in a span of 13:19. By 13:47 of the second period Tarun Fizer earned his first Western Hockey League hat-trick. Dante Hannoun picked up four points on the night.
Ralph Jarratt and Brandon Cutler scored their third and sixth of the season respectively.
Jarratt’s goal was a harmless looking point shot, a wrister that a Winterhawks’ defender was trying to knock out of the air with this stick, but inadvertently redirected the puck to the back of his own net from chest height.
Fizer’s first goal on the night and fifth of the season was scored at 11:18 of the first, when he took a Hannoun feed from behind the net, the Winterhawks goaltender Shane Farkas was going to his left, Fizer wristed the puck top left corner (top right for Farkas).
Cutler scored at 17:49 of the first. The Spruce Grove, Alberta ninth-round draft pick from 2015 was originally drafted by Red Deer. He spent two seasons with the Rebels before ending up in Victoria. In 27 games with Victoria, he has already matched his 68-game goal total from last season of six.
Griffen Outhouse stood on his head while shorthanded as Jarratt sat for two minutes for slashing at 4:43 of the second.
“Outhouse is a heck of a goalie. He played well, but we have to play better in front of him,” said Hannoun after being asked about Outhouse’s stellar play despite giving up four goals on the night.
The second period started with a two-minute powerplay for the Winterhawks, which failed to score – Outhouse made a couple of tremendous point-blank saves to thrill the 3,206 in attendance. Then the Royals turned it on with Hannoun scoring his 11th on the wraparound at 3:07. Then Fizer got his second of the game at 3:47 and third at 17:48.
“Really proud of Fizer and how hard he works,” said Price. “He is one of our better defensive players. He understands the game, he is smart, he has got a great shot and he is courageous enough to be around the net where the pucks are going to come and you are going to take cross checks and slashes and all those things, but if you stand there you will get rewarded.”
“It was a really special experience for me. You got to give credit to my linemates. Dante passed a nice one to me in front of the net and Walford took two nice shots that I got my stick on and they happened to go in,” said Fizer.
The Winterhawks got one back from Mason Mannek at 15:49, who fired a rocket from the top of the slot, top-right corner on Outhouse, who was partially screened by a Royals defender. It was the 5’8” 18-year-old Utah native’s eighth goal of the season.
Fizer completed the hat-trick with 2:12 left in the second period. It was another redirection from a Scott Walford wrister from the left point.
Hannoun got his fourth point and second goal of the game at 5:09 of the third period to take a 7-3 lead, however, Cross Hanas scored his fifth of the season at 9:51, bookending the scoring with his second on the night.
There was some feeling in the game, which will likely carry over to Game 2 Wednesday night.
Portland outshot Victoria 39-37. Both penalty kills were strong rendering the powerplays ineffective, both teams went 0/4 on the night.
The teams tee-up again Wednesday at 7:05 pm.