It was another Battle of the Strait, in the Okanagan of all places, in the anomalous 2021 Western Hockey League B.C. Division season. The Vancouver Giants rallied from a 4-2 deficit to defeat the Victoria Royals 6-4 on Wednesday evening at Prospera Place in Kelowa.
The Giants also came from behind to win the first meeting against their coastal rivals 5-4 on March 30 in Kamloops All games are being played, without fans, in the two Interior hubs.
“It was a rollercoaster and Vancouver had good pushback tonight,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.
Brayden Tracey’s fourth goal of the season staked the Royals to the lead at 4:53 of the opening period before the Giants went into the first break leading 2-1 on goals by Washington Capitals draft-pick Alex Kannok Leipert and Bryce Bader, the latter a deflating counter with just 22 seconds remaining.
The Royals began the second period in furious fashion with goals by Brandon Cutler, Brayden Schuurman and Alex Bolshakov in the first five minutes. That was it for Vancouver starting goaltender Drew Sim, who allowed four goals on just eight shots. Sim was replaced by Colorado Avalanche draft-pick Trent Miner, who has been a storyline with shutouts in each of his three starts this season. Miner, yet to be scored on this campaign, stopped all nine shots to extend his shutout streak to 215 minutes and 30 seconds this season, and 225 minutes and 48 seconds including into last season, to set a new franchise record.
“He is a very good goalie, who is going to be a good pro, who makes himself big in the crease and has good rebound control,” said Price.
Miner’s entrance into the fray seemed to inspire the Giants, who got three consecutive goals of their own from Tristan Nielsen, with his sixth of the season, third-round Florida Panthers draft-pick Justin Sourdif and Bader to take a 5-4 lead before the hectic middle period concluded. Sourdif’s second of the night pretty much sealed it at 10:42 of the third period.
The rookie-laden Royals fell to 1-4-1 while the older Giants recorded their fifth consecutive victory to go to 5-1 atop the division table.
The game was Victoria’s second in as many nights in a stretch of four games in six days amidst a concentrated 24-game season.
“Trying to stay fresh is the key,” said Price of the unusual situation brought on by the pandemic.
“Both teams were tired tonight and that made it into a bit of a scrambly game.”
The Royals next have back-to-back games against the Kamloops Blazers (4-1) on Friday in Kamloops and Sunday in Kelowna.