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Trent Miner slides across just in time to stop a wrap-a-round. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Division rival Vancouver Giants brought out the best in the Victoria Royals Saturday. They played the full 60-minutes; perhaps their most complete game this season, winning in dramatic fashion by the score of 4-3.

“I would have liked to have gotten that taken care of earlier in the game,” shared Coach Dan Price, regarding the game-winner, which was scored with 10 seconds remaining in the game by Dino Kambeitz. “But that was as close to a full-team game, 60-minutes played, we have had this season.”

The Royals (35-21-3-1) hosted the Giants (31-19-5-3) for the 10th and final time this season on Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, thrilling the 5,816 fans in attendance, with classic high-octane hockey through four lines.

A hot divisional rivalry between the two is exacerbated by the team’s positions in the standings. The Giants sat three points back of the Royals (entering Saturday’s action) in the BC Division and have three games in hand. The Royals have the upper hand on the season series going 7-3-0-0 after the win.

The Royals dominated the first period, with all lines playing almost exclusively in the Giants end. The period ended scoreless, despite Matthew Phillips earning a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway and there were several glorious scoring opportunities for Phillips, Noah Gregor, Tyler Soy, Dante Hannoun and the hard-working Tanner Kaspick. The Royals outshot the visitors 19-3.

“I think we played a really good first period, even though we didn’t score,” shared Tyler Soy, who ended up notching his 31st and 32nd goals of the season.

The Giants’ Ty Ronning, a New York Rangers pick, sits second in the league in goals with 51, three positions up on Phillips. At 1:41 of the second, while Kade Jensen was off for two minutes for cross-checking, Ronning got his 52nd goal. It was a goal-side scramble that Ronning jammed in. The goal was assisted by Bowen Byram and Brayden Watts.

The Royals immediately went back to work on goaltender Trent Miner, who was putting up a wall.

The boy’s in blue were being thoroughly robbed.

On the Royals, 30th shot, Dino Kambeitz neatly slipped the puck around Miner at 11:57 of the second, far-side after blasting past both defenders. He was sprung by Phillips from his own blue-line and went wide, then cut in on goal.

The assist for Phillips means that he continues his team-record points streak of 21 games (16g, 24a). The Calgary native now owns the team record for most points in a season with 99 with his three assists in the game. He is now aiming for Mark Santorelli’s all-time franchise record of 101 points – set when he was a Chilliwack Bruin.

Soy scored at 1:59 of the third period. He received a five-foot pass from Phillips, who was parked behind the net; Soy released the puck as quick as he received it. Miner had no chance.

Kade Jensen releases one of 19 shots during the first period. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

After a prolonged stretch, where the Royals had most of the possession and several good scoring opportunities, again, against the flow of the play, the Giants scored to tie the game up at 2-2. Watts scored his 15th of the season with a hard wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle to Outhouse’s blocker side.

Soy scored again at 16:06 from the same spot as his first goal. Phillips took a shot, then the puck rebounded off of Miner’s leg pads to Soy, he made no mistake. Scott Walford earned the second assist.

Ty Ronning was keeping pace, scoring his 53rd at 19:23 to threaten overtime. It was a powerplay marker, while Jensen sat for two minutes for interference.

Defenceman Ralph Jarratt spotted a high-flying Kambeitz, sent him on a breakaway and the 17-year-old from Parker, CO neatly slipped the puck five-hole, to a thunderous ovation and a mobbing from his teammates.

Asked if that game was as close to a 60-minute effort as they come, Soy said, “Yeah, I think so. That first period was maybe the best this season.”

“You hope to win a game a little earlier than that, but you take those anytime, it was a good game.”

Kambeitz agreed. “Yeah for sure, we played a full 60, besides the mishap at the end, but even with that, we are a group that knows that we don’t need to panic. Philly is a great leader and he was on the bench and just said, let’s get this next one.”

Shots were 42-27 for the Royals. The special teams 2/3 for Vancouver and 0/1 for Victoria.

The Royals next play at home on Friday and Saturday, February 23 and 24 as they host the Portland Winterhawks.

EXTRA: The Giants were coming off of a 2-1 win at home against the Edmonton Oil Kings.

The Kelowna Rockets occupy first place in the BC Division by two points (entering tonight’s action) and also have two games in hand on the Royals; however, the Royals took three of four points in two games against the Rockets the week prior.