Victoria Royals head coach Dan Price demurred when asked if he was a sentimentalist.
Yet he proved himself to be, at least this weekend, by giving back-to-back starts at CN Centre in Prince George to Griffen Outhouse.
Victoria’s graduating 20-year-old goaltender, raised in northern B.C, made his final weekend appearances in the rink in which he played many games growing up. Outhouse, a native of tiny Likely, turned in a fine 32-save performance to be named the game’s first star in Victoria’s 4-1 victory on Friday night for his 109th career WHL win to climb into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time WHL list.
Saturday night’s game between the clubs was tied 4-4 at press time heading into overtime.
“I talk it over with the player when it comes to situations like this, and Griff and I discussed it,” Price said.
“He told me it was very important for him to play at least one of the games up here. He was very mature and reasonable about the possibility that he may not start both games.”
In the end, the sentimental side of Price prevailed on both nights.
The issue of rest is not moot for Outhouse or his teammates. The set in Prince George concluded a more than 1,700-kilometre, five-game road swing to eastern Washington state and then through the B.C. Interior and north.
Saturday night’s game was followed by a brutal overnight drive from Prince George down to Tsawwassen and a ferry ride this morning to be ready for a Monday home matinée at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the Kelowna Rockets in what is looking increasingly like a preview of a first-round B.C. Division playoff series between the clubs.
“This is actually good for us because it gets us used to what the short-turnaround travel is going to be like in the playoffs,” Price said.
“It’s an important learning moment.”
Meanwhile, Saturday was also a farewell to Prince George for Royals 20-year-old forward Kody McDonald, who spent most of this WHL career with the Cougars. McDonald gave himself a fitting send-off by scoring twice in his final appearance at CN Centre last night.
Things haven’t gone well for the Prince George team since McDonald was traded last season to Prince Albert, and this season by the Raiders to Victoria.
The Cougars (16-33-6), who fired head coach Richard Matvichuk on Feb. 6, were winless in 14 games heading into Saturday night and their playoff hopes are dim in the extreme.
The Royals, second in the B.C. Division at 28-23-3, however had to guard against complacency.
“We knew [Saturday] was going to be the toughest of the two nights,” Price said.