SPOKANE 3 (OT)
There was a playoff-type vibe to Saturday night’s Western Hockey League game at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. That was only appropriate because there were playoff implications.
Matthew Phillips’ goal in overtime, in front of 6,089 fans, gave the Victoria Royals a 4-3 victory over the Spokane Chiefs to clinch a playoff berth for the Royals, something they have accomplished in each of the six seasons they have played in Victoria.
Phillips’ goal was his 46th, tying Tyler Soy’s single-season record for the most scored in the six seasons the team has played in Victoria.
The water-bug quick Phillips now stalks the Chilliwack Bruins/ Royals all-time franchise record of 51, held by former Bruins sniper Ryan Howse. The Royals have seven games remaining.
“We’ll see, hopefully the bounces will come,” said Phillips, a five-foot-six draft pick of his hometown Calgary Flames.
Griffen Outhouse, who in Friday’s 4-3 win over Spokane, set the all-time franchise record for wins in a season with 33, was very good in a 37-save, first-star performance.
Former Royals goaltender, 20-year-old Jayden Sittler, made 24 saves for Spokane and was named third star.
These teams met in the first round of the playoffs last year, with Victoria winning in six games, and there was definitely spillover as emotions roiled before and after whistles in the rough-and-tumble affair.
Hayden Ostir opened the scoring for Spokane before Phillips’ first goal of the game tied it at 19:02 of the first period on the power play. Spokane then struck on two power-play goals by Hudson Elynuik to make it 3-1 by 11:21 of the second period.
But, for the second night in a row, the Royals rallied from a 3-1 deficit for victory over the Chiefs.
“That’s not an ideal situation to fall into . . . but we showed that when we stick with it, anything can happen,” Royals captain Ryan Gagnon said.
Defenceman Loch Morrison’s goal from the point brought Victoria to within one at 12:59 of the second period before a power- play goal by Regan Nagy pulled the Royals level 3-3 at 15:10 of the second. It was the 11th power-play goal for Victoria over the past five games.
Victoria won its sixth consecutive game, but all against teams eliminated from the playoffs (Vancouver and Kootenay) or about to be (Spokane).
Sports fans in Spokane can now pretty much turn their full attention to Gonzaga University basketball.
The Chiefs are 26-29-9 and their run of 10 consecutive playoff appearances is in extreme doubt. Spokane’s hopes are dangling by the slenderest of threads as they trail the eighth-place Portland Winterhawks by 13 points with only eight games remaining.
The West seventh-seed Royals are 37-23-5, with sights perhaps set higher.
ICE CHIPS: The Royals, who have only one more regular-season home game remaining, are in Kelowna on Tuesday and Kamloops on Wednesday . . . The Royals were again missing key regulars Soy, Chaz Reddekopp and Ryan Peckford . . . Royals head coach Dave Lowry reached the 400-game mark of games coached in the WHL on Friday night.