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Sunday, The Victoria Royals (29-17-3-1) played their third game in less than three days (70 hours). Two of those games were against the Calgary Hitmen (15-27-5-1). The Royals won all three.
Friday, the team ferried over to Vancouver and narrowly defeated the Giants 4-3. Saturday, they defeated the Hitmen 4-1 and Sunday the Royals won by the score of 7-3. It was their seventh win in their last eight games. They have now scored four or more goals 10 consecutive times.
The Hitmen opened the scoring, while the Royals were on the powerplay. The Royals were dominating, but Luke Coleman stole the puck at centre, skated down the right side and placed a seeing-eye wrister, to the top left corner on goaltender Dean McNabb. The goal was unassisted and shorthanded. The rookie goaltender had no chance on it.
Tanner Kaspick nearly got his own short-handed goal around the 9:00 mark, when he stole the puck at his own blue line, skated in and got a shot off, but it was deflected back to Phillips who was just entering the zone. He circled the net with the puck, but it ended up in a very crowded crease.
At 16:57, Noah Gregor, who Victoria fans haven’t had a chance to see much of due to injury, demonstrated the speed that the San Jose Sharks drafted him for in the fourth round in 2016. He stole the puck in his own end, skated down the right side and blew by everyone to wrist the puck glove-side, across the net on goaltender Nick Schneider. It was his 17th of the season. The Beaumont, Alberta native was originally drafted by the Royals, and was picked up in a trade this year with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Kade Jensen scored his third of the season at 17:57, Gregor and Lane Zablocki assisted. The period ended with the Royals on the powerplay and holding a lead of 2-1. Jensen from Calgary was picked up at the end of November in a trade with the Brandon Wheatkings. The 6’3” defender has 3 goals and 3 assists so far this season.
Asked about the response to being down early and then scoring seven goals, Tyler Soy said, “It goes to show that Cam (Hope) made some really good moves on the trade deadline. I think we have had scoring from all four lines and at least three of the lines from pretty much every game. We are getting contribution from a lot of different guys.”
The Royals started the second period with 1:50 remaining in the powerplay.
At 2:30 of the second period, Zablocki skated into the slot, curled and let loose a wrister that found the back of the net.
At 6:14, while on the powerplay, Soy buried his 23rd of the season from Kaspick and Dante Hannoun. The Hitmen Coach Dallas Ferguson had seen enough and replaced Schneider with the winless Matthew Armitage, who has a record of 0-6-0 in 13 games.
The goaltender change seemed to motivate the young Hitmen squad. At 10:46, Tristen Neilson, while aggressively forechecking, forced Jensen to cough up the puck in his own end and he pounced, going backhand and five-hole on McNabb.
The improved effort was short-lived as Brayden Buziak scored his fourth of the season, also going five-hole at 12:46. It was a wrist shot from the side boards – a goal that Armitage will wish he could have back. Buziak, a centre from North Battleford, Sask was picked up on the trade deadline from the Regina Pats. 5,785
Andrei Grishakov (16) and Dante Hannoun (21) padded the Royals lead during the third period, scoring at 32 seconds and 5:32 respectively. Matthew Phillips continued his 11-game points streak with an assist on the Hannoun goal, he delivered the puck from his office, behind the net. Hannoun shot a wrister short side on Armitage.
“A lot of goals are scored from around the net, so eventually a puck has to go there at some point,” said Phillips.
In regards to positioning himself behind the net ala Wayne Gretzky, he said, “Well it’s a good idea as you are playing behind the goal line and the goalie has a hard time trying to read the play. We work on that on the powerplay from time-to-time and when it works it creates pretty nice goals.”
McNabb earned the win stopping 28 of 31 shots, while Armitage took the loss for the Hitmen stopping 18 of 21, while Schneider had stopped 15-19 before being pulled.
Asked about McNabb’s play, Price said, “He works so hard in practise to be prepared and ready. That’s not an easy job as a goalie. You have got to be focussed, mentally strong, you have got to be competitive, you have to work on your game and often come in during difficult situations. So for tonight he came in and did a great job.”
The Royals went 2/8 on the man-advantage, while the Hitmen were held to 0/3.
The Royals next play Wednesday, Jan 31 in Tri-City against the Americans (24-16-7-0), then return home for one game Friday, February 2nd when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers. Both games have a 7:05 pm puck drop.