The opinions of a Western Hockey League radio broadcaster
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Royals play to strengths in shut-out win vs. Rockets
Shoot the Breeze Photography
The Victoria Royals may not be the best team in the Western Hockey League yet, but they sure know how to play to their strengths. The visitors played a solid road game last night in a 3-0 shut-out win over the Kelowna Rockets. The Royals weathered the storm early after being dominated in the first 2:03 as the home team buzzed around the Royals net. Rather than panic, they allowed Coleman Vollrath to make saves and slowly pecked their way back into the game by scoring three-third period goals. The Royals are now 6-1-0-0. Not bad for a team that many predicted would be a weak sister in the BC Division this season.
The Rockets played mostly a perimeter game in the offensive zone. No one was willing to get inside for secondary chances on Vollrath, who was named the first star with a 26 save performance. The Royals physical defence had something to do with that, not allowing the quick skating Rockets forwards to hang around in front of the veteran goalie. I though Ryan Gagnon, Chaz Redikopp and Joe Hicketts played great games. Those three d-men played a dumbed-down affective game and didn't make high risk plays. All three played physical and made it tough sledding for any opposing forward to get inside.
Honestly, it was a rough night for the Rockets top scorers. Tyson Baillie had one good scoring chance in the first-two minutes of the game and never had a solid look after that. Justin Kirkland and Dillon Dube also had significant chances on Vollrath, but those two opportunities came from the face-off circles that Vollrath handled with relative ease. To score last night, the Rockets needed a goal mouth scramble type of goal, but few if any of the forwards were willing to create a scoring chance the old fashioned way.
The Rockets were shut-out for the first time at home since February 8, 2012. The Seattle Thunderbirds, led by Calvin Pickard, earned a 2-0 win on that night.
Were the Rockets tired? It may have been part of the problem. They just didn't have the jam to fight through checks in order to create scoring chances. They were non physical against what appeared to be a rather physical team, which the Royals traditionally are under head coach Dave Lowry. It was the Rockets fifth game in eight night's and it showed.
Despite the negatives, the brightest spot for the Rockets was their play in their own zone. They limited the Royals to a season low 26 shots on net. They did play a cleaner game in their own end, but the visitors aren't exactly gang busters offensively. Two the Royals three goals came from rookie forwards who are 16 and 17 respectively. Who has more fire power between the two teams? The Rockets win by a landslide. But in saying that, who played a more determined game? The Royals did.
The first goal saw Victoria rookie forward Ryan Peckford poke a puck past Jackson Whistle while standing right in front of the net with no one wanting to push the 16 year-old out of the way. Then on the power play, 17 year-old Mathew Phillips, the smallest guy on the ice surface at 5 foot 6, wouldn't give up on a puck after being stoned by Whistle's left pad. Instead of quitting on the play, Phillips ended up banking the puck off defenceman Joe Gatenby's leg and into the back of the net to give the Royals a 2-0 lead. That determination by Phillips resulted in a greasy goal....one the Hockey God's often reward.
The Rockets played this game without Rourke Chartier.
Gage Quinney was again the odd man out among the four 20 year-old's on the roster.
The Rockets have the entire weekend off before hosting the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday. Following a quick two game home stand, the 5-3-0-0 Rockets are in Prince George for a pair of games against the Cougars next weekend.