Royals fend off Americans

Both teams aim to be heard from next spring in the WHL with the Royals moving to 11-7-2 and Americans falling to 12-7-1.

Victoria led 4-0 after two periods. The third period drew the ire of Royals coach Dave Lowry: “We have to learn to play 60 minutes.”

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Ryan Peckford opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:12 of the first period. Veteran Jack Walker went coast-to-coast for one of the goals of the year to make it 2-0 at 19:23. It was Walker’s 11th of the season.

“I saw the lane and ran with it,” he said.

Royals forward and Calgary Flames prospect Matthew Phillips, playing under the watchful gaze of Flames director of player development Ron Sutter, made it 4-0 with his 10th and 11th goals of the season at 1:13 and 1:27 of the second period. Peckford picked up assists on both of Phillips’ goals and Dante Hannoun the crafty first assist from behind the net on the second one.

“We see each other well on the ice . . . I am fortunate to be playing with linemates like [Peckford and Hannoun],” said Phillips, last season’s WHL rookie of the year.

Phillips, a native of Calgary, said he felt no additional pressure because of Sutter’s presence this week in Victoria, including at two practices.

The Americans finally got on the board early in the third period on a lacerating point shot by veteran defenceman Dylan Coghlan from Nanaimo, who went to the training camp of the Detroit Red Wings this fall as a free-agent invitee. It was the Island blue-liner’s fourth goal of the season.

The Americans also feature former Cowichan Valley Capitals forward Jordan Topping from Salt Spring Island, who scored 33 goals last season in Tri-City, but who has yet to play this season due to injury.

Vladislav Lukin made it 4-2 on the power at 5:45 of a third period in which Tri-City outshot the Royals 20-6.

“We are not satisfied with our third period. We were up four goals and we shouldn’t be letting them back into the game,” said Phillips.

Victoria’s league fourth-ranked penalty kill was perfect up until Lukin’s goal and ended the night holding Tri-City 1-5.

“We escaped our penalties tonight, but we better learn from it,” said Lowry.

Both starters were good. Griffen Outhouse made 32 saves for Victoria and 20-year-old over-ager Rylan Parenteau 26 for Tri-City.

In typical Lowry style, meanwhile, the Royals head coach on Friday quietly appointed 20-year-old defenceman Ryan Gagnon as team captain 20 games into the season. The Royals, in five seasons under Lowry, have had an infamously slow annual process in selecting their captains.

The Royals and Americans conclude their two-game set tonight at the Memorial Centre.

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