It didn’t take long for the bears to fly on Teddy Bear Toss Night, Saturday as D-Jay Jerome scored at 4:50 of the first period. The goal came on the rush with Brandon Cutler, breaking in on the left side, slid the puck across the slot to Jerome, who fired the puck past goaltender David Tendeck. Jameson Murray picked up assists on the play.

It appeared that at least 1,000 stuffed animals hit the ice – the game was delayed for several minutes as Royals staff and players took to the ice to clear the stuffed animals.

Then the Giants scored two of their own, the second goal was reviewed, but the video was inconclusive, so the call on the ice stood as a goal. Unfortunately, the video did not show the puck crossing the goal line. The 6,812 fans weren’t happy.

“It felt like the playoffs, how tight checking it was how every inch mattered. Our guys really clawed for those inches and that ended up being the difference,” said Coach Dan Price.

Owen Hardy scored his seventh at 9:22 of the first, followed by Tristen Nielsen’s controversial goal at 17:29. Dawson Holt assisted on both goals and former Royal Jared Dmytriw earned an assist.

The teams skated to their respective dressing rooms with the score 2-1 for the Giants.

The second period saw great defensive control for both teams. It appeared that the Royals have cleaned up their game from the 7-2 loss to Portland earlier in the week against the much more disciplined Giants. Most shots for both teams were kept to the outside, but both goaltenders were playing particularly well when they needed to, especially Griffen Outhouse who became just the 16th goaltender in Western Hockey League history to collect 100 career wins.

“It was exciting, great defensively. I thought the guys were good in front of me with blocked shots. Sidaway in particular had two on the same play. It is exciting to get the 100 wins, it is a big milestone. I am not going to get there if I don’t have the team that I have in front of me. And I have to thank the team for letting me have the opportunity to play that much,” said Outhouse.

Outhouse was particularly outstanding during the final few minutes of the game as the Giants were playing desperate hockey.

Ty Yoder scored his second goal of the season late in the second period, on the rush. He slid the puck in, short-side on goaltender Tendeck on the back-hand.

Emotions took over as the buzzer sounded to end the second period with the score tied at two apiece.

Both teams seemed to step up the pace of the game for the third period. Victoria took a 3-2 lead on a carbon copy goal by Jerome at 8:46, this time it was Dante Hannoun who picked up a loose puck at centre, skated into the slot and passed the puck to Jerome, who again made no mistake. On that play, it was Phillip Schultz who on the back-check stole the puck from a Giants player in the neutral zone.

“The goals start from the defensive zone. You get into a slump and you should go back to basics,” said Jerome. “Obviously Vancouver is our rival, we want to beat them. The whole team played well especially Sidaway on his shot blocks and Outhouse stood up all night. And if Schultz did not make that play, we would not have had that goal.”

After the Royals had failed to score on a late man advantage with Bowen Byram in the sin bin for tripping at 17:38 and after many chances to clear the puck, Dante Hannoun scored into the empty net at 19:40. Fitting that it was Schultz who turned the puck over in the neutral zone and fed a two-line pass to Hannoun. It was his 13th goal of the season. Both players skated miles all night.

The shots were 30-26 for the Giants.

The Giants went ¼ on the man advantage, while the Royals were stymied on their five opportunities.

The Royals hit the road to make way for the IIHF World Junior (U20) Championships and return to Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to host the Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday, Jan 9.