VICTORIA 2, VANCOUVER 1
Victoria Royals GM Cam Hope admitted he had his "fingers crossed" as Vancouver Giants forward Cain Franson bore in on Royals goaltender Patrik Polivka for a penalty shot with less than two minutes remaining in Sunday's Western Hockey League game at the PNE Pacific Coliseum.
"But I knew Patrik had not allowed a shootout goal this season and was confident," said Hope.
Polivka stopped Franson to preserve Victoria's 2-1 victory as the surging Royals moved to a 6-2 record to remain one of the early-season surprises in the WHL.
This is a team that even survived an own goal by forward Jamie Crooks, on a delayed penalty call, in Saturday night's 4-3 shootout win over the Tri City Americans in Washington state as the Royals went 2-1 in their weekend road swing in which they played three games in three days.
"You make your own breaks," said Hope.
"Those things [own goal and penalty shot against] are some of the little pieces of adversity we've had but overcome."
Victoria is tied with the Prince George Cougars (4-1-1) for the second-best winning percentage in the B.C. Division behind the Kamloops Blazers (5-0-1).
"It's hard to point to any one thing we're doing well," said Hope.
"But our coaches have got our team believing that we can play with the lead or play from behind [the Royals have three rally victories on the young season]. If players starts believing in themselves in sports, they gain confidence in knowing they can do it, and can then accomplish a lot of things."
Some key older players have come through so far for Victoria.
"Veterans like Logan Nelson, Brandon Magee and Alex Gogolev hit the ground running and have shown leadership that our younger guys have picked up on," noted Hope.
Austin Carroll, an unheralded but quietly effective veteran, scored the winning goal Sunday in Vancouver at 6: 15 of the second period on the power play to make it 2-1.
Special teams were again a factor for Victoria as the Royals went 1-3 on the power play while holding Vancouver scoreless in its five power-play attempts before 4,507 fans at the Pacific Coliseum. Not only that but Magee, with his sixth goal of the season on a quick wrister, opened scoring at just 30 seconds while the Royals were shorthanded with the Giants on the power play.
Winger Nathan Burns tied it 1-1 at 40 seconds of the second period but that's as good as it got for struggling Vancouver (2-5).
Polivka made 29 saves and was named game first star while Tyler Fuhr made 20 saves for the Giants in being selected third star.
The second star named was Nelson, the 2012 Buffalo Sabres draft pick, who stayed with the puck in front of the net to assist on Carroll's power-play game winner.
Victoria plays its fourth consecutive road game Wednesday in Kamloops against the Blazers.
The Royals return to Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for a back-to-back set against the Kelowna Rockets (3-3-1) on Friday and Saturday evenings.
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