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The Victoria Royals and the Vancouver Giants will be squaring off in the second round of the Western Hockey League post-season starting Friday in Langley at the Langley Events Centre. The Giants will host Saturday as well. The series will move to Victoria on Tuesday the 9th and Thursday the 11th. Should the series get to give games, Kody McDonald, currently on suspension, will be back in the line-up.
The Giants will be difficult to beat. They finished the 2018-2019 regular season in second place overall and first in the Western Conference with a record of 48-15-3-2. The only team to finish ahead of them was the Prince Albert Raiders. The Raiders won the Eastern Conference with a record of 54-10-2-2.
Anything can happen during the post-season, that is why the teams go through the process of playing the games – upsets happen. The Royals compiled a record of 34-30-2-2.
The Giants dispatched the Seattle Thunderbirds in six games as did the Royals over the Kamloops Blazers.
The conference final will be between the winner of the Vancouver – Victoria series against the winner of the Everett and Spokane series.
The Giants were neither a particularly offensive team with 228 goals scored over the 68-game regular season, nor stifling on defence with 168 goals against. Three teams in the Western Conference scored more goals with the Spokane Chiefs topping the conference with 267. The Everett Silvertips were the stingiest with just 130 goals against, but the Giants own the best differential with 66 more goals scored than let in.
The Royals and Giants have a heated rivalry. Over the course of the 2018-2019 season, the teams traded wins until they were 4-4. The Giants won the final two meetings of the regular season schedule against Victoria.
The Giants have a dangerous player in right-wing Davis Koch. The White Rock native scored 28 times during the regular season and picked up 50 assists to lead the team. The 20-year-old will need to have passing lanes taken away. Physical play will be a good deterrent.
To contain Bowen Byram, The Royals will have to take his time and space away and keep him under pressure at all times. The NHL scouts have been looking at him and he should go fairly high in the 2019 NHL Entry draft. The midseason rankings had him #4th in the WHL. He led all defencemen in the league in goals scored. He has continued his points pace in the post-season.
The defender scored 26 goals and earned 45 assists for a 71 point season – good for second on the Giants.
The Calgary Flames drafted Milos Roman in the fourth round and 122nd overall during the 2018 draft. The Slovak is dangerous around the net scoring 27 goal and earning 33 assists for 60 points in just 59 games. He would have challenged for the team lead in points if he played a full season.
The Royals will have their hands full with either goaltender, David Tendeck and Trent Miner. Miner finished the regular season with 1.98 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Tendeck went 2.48 and .911. Both goaltenders are lanky and may not have the cat-like reflexes of Griffen Outhouse or the strength of the bigger goaltenders. They position themselves well, but getting them to move laterally often will be their Achilles heel, especially with sharp cross-slot passes.
The series will have tension as the two teams don’t like each other and every time they play, there is some level of nastiness that takes place.
Expect an exciting and heated series.