It is said that your top players have to be their best to win big games and in two games versus Victoria, Kieffer Bellows showed that he is a big-time player. In a tight-checking affair where each team tried to smother the opposing firepower, Bellows still stood out as a threat and scored three of the five Portland goals over the weekend.
The Victoria Royals (35-22-3-2) came into action Saturday night looking for the split after losing a close game the night before to the Portland Winterhawks (37-20-1-3). The Royals looked for a home crowd boost as the game was sold-out early as part of the team’s annual Pink in the Rink promotion in support of the BC Cancer Foundation.
The physical play carried over from the night before as both teams were still playing each other hard. Matthew Phillips seemed to be a target of the Winterhawks physical play, as they clearly were looking to put the sniper off his game.
Bellows opened the scoring early at 3:50 on the power play, as he as able to find the puck in a scrum and put it past Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse. A video review to see if it was clipped by a high-stick just prior to the shot confirmed it was a good goal and the Winterhawks had the all important first strike.
Royals Head Coach Dan Price continued to make adjustments, matching the top lines midway through the first, ensuring there was lots of combined firepower on the ice between the two teams.
Hard working Royals forward Braydon Buziak found himself involved in lots of physical action throughout the night, getting under the opponent’s skin. He also had a key shot block on a late Portland power play.
A late Victoria power play saw five forwards out for the man-advantage and the move paid off as a double-deflected pass made it to Noah Gregor who tied the game 1-1 at 17:08 of the first.
Portland took the lead again just four seconds into the middle frame as Bellows scored his second of the night while the teams were 4-on-4. The N.Y. Islanders first rounder caught Outhouse going down and wired a shot over his shoulder, shooting from nearly the exact same spot of the high right circle as his goal the night before.
Victoria pulled even on with a power play goal as Igor Martynov carried the puck into the Hawks’ zone and then fed Gregor with a nice pass to the slot. Gregor made no mistake as he buried it past Portland netminder Shane Farkas for his second of the night at 6:58.
The Winterhawks showed an immediate push-back, scoring a goal that was eventually disallowed due to incidental contact on Outhouse by Skylar McKenzie. It was the second goal in as many nights that went to video review and both were eventually called off for Portland. Similar to the first intermission, the end of the second saw the teams deadlocked in a tie game.
The third period saw some great action, with neither team relinquishing an advantage until a late penalty was called on the Royals. Tanner Kaspick was called for checking to the head, and after seeing the in-house replays, the Royals and the large crowd on hand were not happy with the call.
Jumping at the opportunity, the Hawks scored almost immediately. Cody Glass scored six seconds into the power play at 16:56 and it proved to be the game-winning goal. For Glass, it was a personal milestone as it was his 200th career point. Glass had three points on the evening, and was able to break free from the hard-checking of the Royals.
Victoria pulled Outhouse in an attempt to comeback, but the Winterhawks continued to do a good job of shutting down passing-lanes and were able to close out the game for the 3-2 victory.
Winterhawks trade deadline pickup Dennis Cholowski had a nice night, factoring in on all three Portland goals and finishing with three assists.
Saturday’s game in Victoria was another display of great WHL action, as both teams played each other extremely close. Of the five goals scored on Saturday, four of them were with the man-advantage, showing that each team will capitalize if given an opportunity. Unfortunately for Victoria, one of those prized advantages went to Portland late in the game and resulted in a victory.
Portland now travels south to face the Tri-City Americans in a divisional tilt on Tuesday, Feb.27th. The Royals travel to Kamloops to play the Blazers on Wednesday, Feb.28th.
- Streak Snapped -Matthew Phillips was held pointless on Saturday, ending his franchise record 22 game point streak. “It was fun while it lasted, but it is time to start another one.” said Phillips post-game.
- Return of Chaz- Chaz Reddekopp appears closer to his return as he skated in warm-ups and was a game-time decision. The 20-year-old defenceman has been out since mid-January with an arm injury.
- Brickhouse -Griffen Outhouse became the franchise leader for most career saves with 4,107. That is a lot of action seen by Outhouse, considering he still has a possible full year remaining next season.
— Victoria Royals (@victoriaroyals) February 25, 2018