New lines help ignite Royals’ offence

Growing up in youth hockey in Cloverdale, Soy was a set-up guy. Fans tend to forget that aspect of his game in the wake of his breakout 46 goals last season for the Victoria Royals.

Soy reverted more to old-school form in being named Western Hockey League player of the week with seven assists being part of his nine-point total in four games.

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“I like to think I have good vision and awareness,” said the NHL draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks.

Meanwhile, no one has ever accused Royals linemate Matthew Phillips of being anything but a sniper, as attested by two back-to-back hat tricks last week, which have Phillips sitting at 35 goals, good for second best in the league.

It’s all the result of a few tweaks to the forward lines made by Royals coach Dave Lowry, including putting Soy together with Phillips and Russian import Vladimir Bobylev.

That new top line leads the Royals into a three-games-in-three-days set against the Vancouver Giants tonight at the Langley Events Centre, followed by Saturday and Sunday matches at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

Lowry said he felt his top forwards were “all getting stale and needed a change.”

Mixing and matching Soy, Phillips, Dante Hannoun and Jack Walker in different configurations worked wonders as Victoria answered a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 record on its recent road swing.

“It’s not uncommon throughout the year to change things up a bit to get a spark,” said Phillips.

That line certainly seems to be sparking.

“Tyler Soy distributes the puck well. He sees the play unfold and sees the open guys,” said Phillips.

The Royals (26-19-4) will be looking to climb the tables against lowly Vancouver, but Lowry is wary, as well he might be.

The Giants are last in the Western Conference at 17-27-4 and appear on their way to missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season and fourth time in the last five years. They are 10 points adrift of a playoff berth. Yet, Vancouver played feisty against two of the B.C. Division heavyweights, beating the Kelowna Rockets 5-4 last weekend and taking the division-leading Prince George Cougars to a 2-1 shootout loss Monday. Interspersed was a 6-1 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Vancouver traded away four veterans earlier this month in a full-out rebuild and was missing eight players to injury or illness Monday against Prince George, including high second-round Edmonton Oilers draft pick Tyler Benson and New York Rangers draft selection Ty Ronning.

“The Giants are playing their best hockey of the season with a depleted lineup,” said Lowry.

“They think they have a chance [to make the playoffs] . . . and there are lots of points still on the table.”

Six of them are in quick succession over three days against Victoria. A Giants sweep, however unlikely that might seem, would be a huge boost to Vancouver’s hopes.

“Vancouver is going to be a desperate team. These are not going to be easy games at all,” added Soy.

But the form charts point to Victoria picking up most of those six points on offer, in its own attempt to overtake B.C. Division rivals Kelowna and Kamloops. The Royals are two points in arrear of the divisional third-place Rockets and five of the second-place Blazers.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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