GDB 49.0: ROYALS
(Photo Courtesy of Kevin Light)
After five days “off”, the Hurricanes are in Victoria to play the Royals tonight. It’s the second, and final time Lethbridge will visit British Columbia’s capital. It worked out alright last time, but that was October and this is now. What do these two team’s have in-store for us tonight?
It ain’t long, and it ain’t pretty, but here’s today’s game preview.
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The Royals and the Hurricanes hooked up back in October, and on that occasion, Lethbridge escaped with a shoot out victory. Just as they were back in October, the Canes enter tonight’s contest riding a monster winning streak. With a win, Lethbridge can extend the streak to 11 straight victories – obliterating their previous season high 8 game streak from October. It’s a good time to be a Hurricanes fan.
Can they make it 11 tonight?
We will have to see. Beating Victoria is no small task.
The Royals, like the Hurricanes, are one of this season’s surprise stories. They have been battling neck in neck with the Rockets for first in the BC Division all season and have to be considered as one of the favorites in the West at this point. The Royals can score (having tallied 172 goals), and are the only team in the league that might have a better goaltending duo than Lethbridge. The combo of Griffen Outhouse and Coleman Vollrath has been sensational. They sit first and third respectively in league wide GAA (though Outhouse has only played 17 games) – have combined for four shutouts – and with numbers like that, it’s hard to argue they aren’t the best one-two combo in the WHL.
Here is a great pre-game write up by Any Neal from the Royals Website.
Quite a weekend faces the Victoria Royals as they get set to meet the top two teams in the WHL, starting with the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday night to end the Royals’ six-game home stand.
While they might not be as hot as the Hurricanes, who have won 10 straight, the Royals are heating up as well. After they swept the Vancouver Giants on the weekend with victories of 8-0 & 5-1, the Royals have three straight wins and points in six in a row. Over their last nine games, the Royals are 6-1-1-1. Still in second in the BC division, the Royals come into the game three points up on Prince George and have closed the gap to six behind Kelowna for the division lead.
Although the Royals have scored 21 goals over their win streak, they are not interested in a high scoring affair with the Hurricanes.
“They’re a very dynamic group; they’re the first team to score 200 goals. So they can score. If we get into that trading chance game with them then we’re not going to do ourselves any favours,” says Royals’ Head Coach Dave Lowry.
This is the second time the teams have come together in Victoria. On October 27, the Hurricanes pulled out a 4-3 shoot-out win. Friday’s tilt will be a big match-up on special teams. The Royals have the second-best penalty kill in the WHL at 84.3%, just a tenth of a percent behind Seattle. Lethbridge, however, has the best power play unit at 30.3%. The message is simple for the Royals to slow down the Hurricanes’ power play.
“Don’t take penalties,” says Lowry. “That’s the reality. The penalties that you take are penalties that you earn.”
Lowry added, “It makes a huge difference when you manage the puck the right way and do the right things with the puck and put yourself in position where you don’t have to take penalties. Usually when you’re not very good in the neutral zone is usually when you’re turning pucks over and that’s usually when you have errant sticks and take the unnecessary penalties.”
Staying red-hot is forward Tyler Soy, who has the longest goal-scoring streak in the WHL at six games for 25 goals on the year. That’s one back of Matt Phillips for the team lead in goals. Also bursting into the offence is Ethan Price who has five goals over a three game goal streak after going 13 games without a goal. Needless to say for the 18-year-old, finding production has taken some weight off his shoulders.
“I’ve been waiting for that to happen all year and it feels great. I think I’m finally finding my niche and that’s what it’s all about. Just having fun out there and playing my game and that’s what I’m doing,” says Price, who has eight goals and 17 points on the season. “For me it’s getting to the blue paint. I think before I was a little too perimeter and not getting in there. I think now I’m just getting right into the blue paint and hopefully good things will come and they ultimately have.”
“He’s finally getting rewarded for chances that he creates,” says Lowry. “The big thing with him is he is starting to hit the net with his shots and he’s starting to stop and hang around the net. He was getting a lot of quality looks early on and turning away and ending up in the corner. You see where he’s scoring his goals from they are in the blue paint and that’s where he’s going to have to play to be effective.”
The Royals have taken almost full advantage of their home stand so far. Victoria has earned nine of a possible 10 points through five games.
“We’ve been able to stay here, get some real quality practice in and that really translates and reflects on how our team is playing,” says Lowry.
The Hurricanes are making their second trip to BC, this time a shorter excursion with three games. It’s been a remarkable turnaround in Lethbridge for a team that has not been to the playoffs since 2009, and have really floundered the last two seasons. But with Brent Kisio at the helm behind the bench, the Hurricanes are not only leading the Central division, they’re starting to run away with it. The Hurricanes are 36-12-0-0 and now seven points up on Red Deer for the Eastern Conference lead. Brayden Burke, who was part of a deal with Devan Fafard from Red Deer for Riley Sheen and a draft pick that didn’t move many richter scales early in December of 2014, leads the WHL in scoring with 74 points. Giorgio Estephan, who is on a four-game goal streak and 14-game point streak, Tyler Wong and rookie Egor Babenko are also in the top 12 in WHL scoring.
Friday night will also eature a great rookie scoring race as Babenko and the Royals’ Phillips are the top two in points by league freshmen. Babenko has 57 points to Phillips’ 52, but Phillips has the lead over Babenko for goals at 26 to 25.
Lowry gave credit to Hurricanes’ General Manager Peter Anholt for the job he’s done to turn things around in Lethbridge, and added his best move was the man he hired behind the bench, Brent Kisio.
“He’s put in a lot of time and he’s got great experience. He’s come from a winning program and he’s a young guy and he thinks outside the box and I know that young players can resonate with him and the respect factor is there,” says Lowry.
“They’re a hot team and it definitely gives us fuel with a top team like that coming in and to our building especially,” added Price. “It gives us the drive to keep doing our thing, keep sticking with the game plan and it’ll be a good contest for us.”
The test doesn’t get much easier for the Royals Saturday night when they go to Kelowna for a showdown with the Rockets. After that game, the Royals will come home to meet the Calgary Hitmen Wednesday.
The Canes are a little beat up right now. There’s no denying it. With a few extra days between games, it possible some of the bruises have subsided and we might see some returns. It’s also possible that there are lingering injuries. As of Monday, the only injuries officially listed were to Ryley Lindgren (day to day), and Justin Gutierrez (day to day). We saw Burke and Kroeker both leave Sunday’s game against Edmonton with apparent injuries, but it seems like they are both going to be okay. Either way, predicting tonight’s lineup is next to impossible, so we will have to eagerly wait to find out.
That’s it for today. I apologize for the short preview. It happens to be a very busy weekend for me outside of hockey, and coverage might be a little spotty. Again, apologize in advance.
Ya’ll are fantastic! Thanks again for reading.
Enjoy tonight’s game, and of course, Go Canes Go.
What do you think? Who are you excited to watch tonight and what will be the outcome. Comment below.
Don’t forget to check out the sponsor of all this season’s game day articles, Graham Reimer of Dominion Lending here in Lethbridge. I personally know and vouch for the amazing work he does. If you need any advice or help with a mortgage or want to look into getting one, I cannot say enough good things about Graham and the Mortgage Crusher team.
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