Victoria Royals forward Tanner Kaspick (16) looks for a teammate to pass to as Kelowna defender Libor Zabransky during third-period Western Hockey League action at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre. Kaspick scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Royals won 4-3. Victoria beat the Rockets 6-1 here the night before and the teams meet again in Kelowna on Monday. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Royals making noise as WHL heads toward home stretch

Victoria scores two home wins over front-running Rockets, teams meet in Kelowna Monday

Two hard-fought weekend home wins against arch-rival Kelowna vaulted the Victoria one point ahead of the Rockets for top spot in the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division.

Tanner Kaspick, who bagged the winner in overtime Saturday on a four-on-three power play to give his team a 4-3 victory, said the intensity of the games will no doubt help the Royals as they head toward the playoffs.

“Experience is something that never hurts come playoff time,” said the 20-year-old centre, who experienced plenty of big post-season games in his time with the Brandon Wheat Kings, who won the WHL title in 2016.

“Often in playoffs you see games like that with high emotion, lots of penalties and lots of momentum shifts in the game, so any time we can get experience in a game like that will provide us value down the road for sure.”

The Royals (34-19-3-1) and Rockets (33-17-4-1) meet again Monday in Kelowna to wind up a rare three-games-in-four nights regular season mini-series.

The Royals, coming off a convincing 6-1 win on Friday night at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre, trailed 2-1 after one period last night. After Noah Gregor set up Kaspick for his 19th goal of the season to tie the score late in the second, the Rockets took the lead 8:22 into the third when Connor Bruggen-Cate one-timed a shot from the deep slot to make it 3-2.

RELATED: Royals face critical weekend ahead with three WHL games against Kelowna

On a power play less than two minutes later, however, Gregor took a nifty backhand pass from Matthew Phillips behind the Kelowna net and beat goalie James Porter high to the glove side for his second goal of the game to tie it up again.

Both goalies made clutch saves in the remainder of regulation, but the Royals made Kelowna pay for a tripping penalty 1:29 into overtime to Kyle Topping. Kaspick scored his 20th goal with a one-timed slapshot, finishing off a slick passing play between Dante Hannoun and Tyler Soy, who was celebrating his 21st birthday.

With three games in four nights against the Rockets, who have spent the past six weeks on the Canadian Hockey League’s national top 10 list, it’s a chance for the Royals to show what they can do when faced with a huge challenge, said Victoria head coach Dan Price.

“To play in that real competitive cauldron where it’s fast, and physical and so close and every play matters, it’s great for every player involved in that game,” he said.

He pointed to the work ethic and preparation of all of his players as paying off against Kelowna, noting that the fourth line of Dino Kambeitz, Kade Oliver and Tarun Fizer was arguably the Royals’ best in the third period Saturday.

Kaspick agreed.

“It’s definitely huge for guys like that to step up and to give us the kind of confidence that we can compete with anyone in this league and that we’re a team to look out for,” he said.

Soy led the Royals with a goal and three assists in Friday’s game, while Phillips scored twice and Hannoun had a goal and two helpers. Griffen Outhouse stopped 37 of 38 shots in the Victoria net.

The Royals power play was particularly effective in the two games, scoring five times in 14 opportunities, while Kelowna went one for five.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Remember Spunky? Santa came out to Sidney to check on him

Red-tailed Hawk made headlines last year after being stolen, raised by eagles

MISSING: 59-year-old Pamela Fletcher

Fletcher was last seen in the area near Royal Jubilee Hospital on Dec. 10

Mainroad South Island reminds drivers to keep them in the loop

Call the hotlines for concerns on local provincial highways

IIO doesn’t recommend charges after motorcyclist death in Mill Bay

An off-duty VicPD officer was involved in the crash

Custom motorcycle and wood cutter stolen from Sooke motorcycle shop

2006 Husqvarna motorcycle and 2-ton log splitter taken from outbuilding

Strong winds leave BC Ferries’ passengers at Swartz Bay terminal

As 3 p.m. sailing for Vancouver boards, some travellers waited upwards of five hours

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 11, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Coast Hotel and workers reach tentative deal

Deal between hotel chain and union representing Nanaimo, Victoria workers reached early Friday

Windstorm topples tree onto townhouse in Nanaimo

Heavy winds have thousands of B.C. Hydro customers without power

Most Read