The Vancouver Giants gave indications they were a good team in early season losses to the Victoria Royals.
And as the Western Hockey League settles in for its Christmas break, the Giants have proven they deserve a place among the leaders in the B.C. Division, beating the Royals in both ends of a home-and-home series last weekend in Langley and Victoria.
The Royals’ 6-2 loss on Saturday at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre was their third straight and seventh in the past nine games. The slump has seen Victoria (20-13-3-0) caught for top spot in B.C. by the surging Kelowna Rockets (20-11-2-1). The Giants (18-13-2-2), winners of six straight games and three in as many nights last week, now sit just three points back of the leaders.
Saturday’s home game saw the Royals lead 1-0 after 20 minutes on Matthew Phillips’ team-leading 24th goal, despite being outshot 19-6. The shot margin was essentially reversed in the second but it was the Giants who took a 2-1 lead.
Eric Florchuk’s seventh of the season gave the Royals a 2-2 tie at 1:09 of the third. Then the visitors went to work, scoring four unanswered goals and finishing with 44 shots to Victoria’s 27. Dylan Plouffe, Ty Ronning and Brayden Watts each had two goals in the win.
On Friday Vancouver built a 3-0 lead and cruised to a 3-1 win, yielding only a late second-period goal from Royals newcomer Noah Gregor. He scored his 15th goal and first as a Royal since coming from the Moose Jaw Warriors earlier this month.
The Royals return to action with home games against the Prince George Cougars on Dec. 27 and 28 before hitting the road for games in Kelowna and Kamloops Dec. 30 and Jan. 1.
Cougars grab share of first in South
The Victoria Cougars (16-12-1-1) have an opportunity this week to move into first place alone in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League’s South Division.
The Cougars caught up to the Westshore Wolves (16-13-1-1) atop the division with a 2-2 tie in Saanich on Friday, one night after beating Kerry Park 3-1 in Esquimalt.
Victoria hosts Kerry Park for a second straight Thursday this week (Dec. 21, 7 p.m.) at Archie Browning Sports Centre. The Islanders (13-14-0-4) won the previous game 4-3 over the Cougars on Dec. 7 in Mill Bay and sit just four points back of the leaders in the ultra-tight South Division standings.
On Friday the Cougars head to Campbell River to take on the powerful Storm (23-6-2-0, second North Division) for just the second time this season. Campbell River won the previous encounter 6-1 in Esquimalt back on Nov. 19.
After the Christmas break the Cougars return to action Jan. 4 at home with a key matchup against the Wolves.