As a result, the Victoria Royals put down one of the hottest teams in the Western Hockey League on Tuesday night in defeating the Portland Winterhawks 5-1 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Coaches don’t care how the goals go in for their team, just that they do. So it should have gladdened the heart of Dave Lowry to see his Royals go ahead 3-0 in the first period on a trey of near-identical goals by Jack Walker, Ryan Peckford and Carter Folk that were each the result of sheer, stubborn stay-with-it pluck in the crease area.
“When you go to the blue paint, you get rewarded,” said Folk.
“We were getting to the net and looking for pucks.”
Those goals to start were the reason the hockey fortunes in Portlandia suffered a bit of a setback Tuesday. The Winterhawks (18-14-1) have seen a nine-consecutive games losing freefall followed with a run that now stands at 10-2-1.
“That was the game plan: To get pucks to the net and get to the dirty areas,” said Peckford.
Joachim Blichfeld scored on the power play to finally get Portland on the board at 12:33 of the second period before an announced crowd of 3,157. The Royals (17-14-3) got that back on a power-play goal of their own in the second frame as a flashing Dante Hannoun snapped home a quick pass from behind the net by Matthew Phillips. Another Victoria power play goal, this one a two-man advantage in the third period, was scored by Peckford for his second counter of the game on a three-point night.
Phillips had three assists and was unlucky not to score on several darting chances throughout the game. The veteran Royals forward Walker was among 12 American players in the game (four on Victoria and eight on Portland) and finished with two points.
Victoria centre Vladimir Bobylev was held point-less in his first game back since returning from Moscow Spartak of the pro KHL.
“He balanced our attack and gave us size up the middle,” said Royals coach Lowry, of Bobylev’s initial game back.
Meanwhile, why keep Portland weird, when you can keep it off balance, instead? Victoria did a good job of blunting a Winterhawks roster that includes the likes of New York Rangers third-round draft pick Keegan Iverson, 2017 projected first-round NHL draft pick Cody Class, goal-a-game sniper Skyler McKenzie, Oilers blue line prospect Caleb Jones and the emerging six-foot-five defenceman and Victoria-native Brendon De Jong.
“If you give a player like Glass time and space,” he will capitalize, said Lowry.
The Royals afforded little of either time or space to the Winterhawks on Tuesday.
Victoria starter Griffen Outhouse made 32 saves in a solid performance, while Cole Kehler blocked 29 shots for Portland.
The Royals go into their final meeting of the regular season against Portland tonight at 1-1-1 against the Winterhawks.
ICE CHIPS: Victoria captain Ryan Gagnon returns tonight after sitting out a four-game suspension.