Copyright – 2016 – Victoria Sports News
A boisterous, sold-out crowd of 7,006 witnessed a Victoria Royals team that, seven months prior where on no one’s radar; they were not given a chance. The pundits had them fighting for a wildcard playoff spot, yet they accomplished so much more including a first place overall finish in the Western Hockey League.
Tonight, during game seven of the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs the Royals thoroughly outplayed the Kelowna Rockets – the defending WHL champions, but as they had all series long, they faced an outstanding goaltender in Michael Herringer. The Royals lost in overtime by the score of 3-2.
“I am very proud of the way our guys played tonight and all season, no one gave us a chance at the beginning of the year,” shared Coach Dave Lowry.
The first period was all Royals, they out-shot the Rockets 13-6, dominated territorial play and at one point were up in shots 8-0.
Soy opened the scoring early. At the 1:44 mark he scored his seventh of the post-season depositing a Jared Dmytriw rebound off of Rockets’ goalie Michael Herringer. Walker earned the second assist on the play.
Captain Joe Hicketts, who displayed a great comeback during game six, after coming back from injury was again very determined, dumping the puck deep and pinching repeatedly; taking hits.
At the 10:31 mark, Alex Forsberg buried his fifth on the powerplay. It was a play that started in the Royals’ end with rookie Matthew Phillips handing Hicketts the puck, who skated the length of the ice, depositing the puck behind the Rockets’ goal and proceeded to retrieve it, serving Forsberg a pass just as he skated through the deep slot; he made no mistake, the score was 2-0.
Dante Hannoun skated miles for the Royals, setting up several excellent scoring opportunities. Shots were 20-6 mid-way through the second period.
Frustration was starting to show on the Rockets. Jack Walker, driving hard to the net, was driven hard into the goaltender Herringer and knocked the net off its moorings, the puck entered the net, but the goal was called off after a short video review. Moments later Dillon Dube was assessed 2:00 for interference, subsequently he shot the puck at the glass in disgust, nearly hitting the referee; he was fortunate not to take an additional minor for unsportsmanlike conduct.
While the Rockets finally put pressure on the Royals during the third period and with three men deep, they gave up two break-a-ways in 10 seconds to Jack Walker who failed to convert on both opportunities.
Michael Herringer was pulled with 2:05 left on the clock. After two Royals’ icings and desperation in their own end, Justin Kirkland scored with .02 seconds left on the clock to send the game into sudden death overtime.
The Rockets play-by-play announcer Regan Bartel had thought the Rockets had given up until then, meanwhile Cleve Dheensaw of the Times Colonist said, “that was the best rope-a-dope that I have ever seen.”
The boisterous crowd gave the Royals six standing ovations during the night.
With 5:56 gone in overtime Calvin Thurkauf scored on Vollrath who had minutes earlier made a spectacular glove-hand save.
The Royals outshot the Rockets 30-25 and scored one goal out of three opportunities on the powerplay, while the Rockets failed on all four of their chances.
The end of the playoffs spells the end of junior careers for Logan Fisher, Coleman Vollrath and Alex Forsberg and it is unlikely that Captain Joe Hicketts will be back as he signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings and will likely be playing pro next season.
An emotional Hicketts praised his billets, the team, the city and the fans, “it was easy to play for these fans,” said Hicketts when asked about his relationship with the faithful at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.