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The red-hot Victoria Royals took on the Prince George Cougars at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for the second-to-last home game of the 2015-2016 regular season, Friday night. The Royals didn’t start the game so red-hot, but they ended the game by thoroughly lighting up the Cougars with five unanswered goals to win 6-2.
The Cougars scored 42 seconds into the game on a hard wrister by Luke Harrison from the slot, after some sloppy defensive play in the Royals end. Kody McDonald made a behind-the-back pass to the slot and Harrison, who was left all alone, caught Royals’ goaltender Coleman Vollrath out of position, let the puck fly top right-hand corner.
During the first 10 minutes the Cougars kept the Royals mostly hemmed into their own zone, with a few scoring opportunities the other way, but it was an uncharacteristic start for the Royals who typically hit the ice hard. Over the past 21 games, the first-place Royals have amassed a 19-1-1-0 record.
At the 12:50 mark, the Royals finally came to life, when Alex Forsberg, Dante Hannoun and Chaz Reddekopp combined on a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play for Forsberg’s 26th of the season.
“It is about preparation. We have to do a better job of being prepared, but I like they way we came back and you have to give the Cougars credit for playing play-off style hockey tonight,” said Coach Dave Lowry.
The teams went to the dressing room to end the first period tied 1-1.
The second period was a carbon copy of the first, with the Cougars owning most of the zone time, while the Royals took shots from every angle when they had the opportunities. The shots after two periods were 34-16 for the Royals, yet the zone time play appeared to be the opposite.
The teams exchanged goals in the second, with defenseman Tate Olson scoring from Shane Collins and Chase Witala. The Vancouver Canucks’ fifth-rounder notched his ninth on the play.
As the Royals started the third period with 1:34 of power-play time there was a palpable momentum shift and the team began to dominate the play. At the 2:29 mark, on a scrambled, goal-mouth effort Forsberg found himself the lucky recipient of the puck, dropped by goaltender Ty Edmonds. Forsberg pocketed his second of the night and 27th of the season.
Asked as a rookie, if it helps to have veterans to feed off of like Joe Hicketts, Matthew Phillips said, “yeah, it’s easy to get inspired watching a guy like Joe, he never takes a shift off.”
The play became rough during the middle of the period and the teams exchanged power-play opportunities. On the Royals’ second penalty of the period, a two-minute goaltender interference call on Chaz Reddekopp, Jack Walker scored a 4-on-4 goal on the break-away, making no mistake, roofing the puck back-hand. Seven seconds later he drew a penalty on an identical break-away. On the ensuing power-play Matthew Phillips scored into the yawning cage on a pass from Tyler Soy. Jack Walker earned his second point of the night on the play.
Tyler Soy scored his 41st of the season, where he skated in on the Cougars’ goaltender with a defender draped all over him. The short-handed marker ties the Chilliwack Bruins/Victoria Royals franchise record at eight short-handed goals.
“Yeah, it is amazing how hard he works and how he manages to get shots off with guys draped over him, like that,” shared Alex Forsberg.
The Royals out-shot the Cougars 45-27. The Royals went 2/6 on the power-play while the Cougars were blanked 0/4.
The two teams meet again Sunday for a 12:05 PM puck drop. The Royals are currently in first place in the Wester Hockey League. They are four points up on the second place Kelowna Rockets, but the Rockets have two games in hand. The Kamloops Blazers defeated the Rockets in Overtime tonight.