The Victoria Royals came from behind to take a 4-3 shootout victory over the Kelowna Rockets Saturday night.
Down two goals to the Rockets, Royals forward Brayden Tracey scored late in the second period and early in the third to draw the teams even. From there, it took a shootout to decide the game, where the Royals were back-stopped by Adam Evanoff while receiving goals from Kaid Oliver and Gary Haden.
“It’s a special feeling for our team,” said Tracey postgame. “We got a lot of great guys in the room and we put our hearts into this one.”
“To pull out like that was something special,” added Tracey. “Not only for the city of Victoria and the fans but also to our players. We were all fighting for something tonight and so pull that through is really special for us.”
“The guys love playing in front of our home fans so much,” said Victoria Head Coach Dan Price. “They really desperately wanted to get this one for them, also play for each other and then for all their friends and family as part of the Pink in the Rink night for cancer awareness.”
“Sold-out building, Saturday night in Victoria, Pink in the Rink, come from behind victory – doesn’t get much better,” said Price with a smile.
For the annual Pink in the Rink night in support of the BC Cancer Foundation, this year the team honoured Wendi Warm prior to puck drop. Will Warm’s mother Wendi is a breast-cancer survivor and like for many, the evening was emotional for the family. Her story and the Warm family’s journey was a nice tribute to all those fighting cancer.
“I was really excited for tonight and didn’t realize how emotional it was going to be,” said Will Warm. “I thought about the past year my family’s had, my mom and everything she went through. Really emotional for myself.”
“I’m just super proud of the group we have in the dressing room,” added Warm. “We faced some adversity early in the game but everyone battled so hard. They dug deep, thought about who they’re fighting for tonight. I thought it was a really special night for everyone.”
With some many people who have been touched by cancer, the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria held a capacity crowd of 7,006 for the special evening.
“They’re a loud group,” said Tracey on the fans in attendance. “We can’t thank them enough for the support they gave us. We play our hearts out and that’s something we want to hear from the crowd. That’s something that we’ll look forward to a lot more going down the road.”
Even with the shootout loss, the Rockets claimed 3 of 4 points versus the Royals, something new interim Head Coach Kris Mallette took as a positive. “I thought we did a lot of really good things,” said Mallette. “Victoria is a tough place to play. We’re fortunate to come up with the victory last night. Today, we got off to a great start and they clawed back. “It’s something that we haven’t had in a while,” said Mallette. “We haven’t been able to get points in consecutive games. So for us, it’s about feeling good and building off those positives.”
The games in Victoria were Mallette’s first as the top man behind the bench, as Adam Foote was relieved of his duties on Wednesday. “It’s been tough the last four or five days for these guys,” added Mallette. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for myself included. We haven’t had any practices, it’s just been pregame skate – let’s play. We’ve just been doing a lot of talking and trying to get these guys to play a little free. Work hard and good things will happen.”
The first goal of the game came on a misplay by the Royals goalie Evanoff. The goaltender tried to clear a puck to the corner, however, Pavel Novak cut it off and it went to Kyle Topping who buried it at just 1:14 into the game.
Victoria responded with a great short-handed effort by Tarun Fizer. Fizer stripped the puck off the defender at centre ice and went in all alone, beating Kelowna starting goalie Roman Basran. The marker at 8:53 brought the home crowd back to life after the early Rocket goal.
Kelowna would strike late in the period after a strong effort from Novak. The forward from Tabor, Czech Republic muscled in on the Royals’ defender and fed a cross-crease pass to Trevor Wong. Wong tapped it home for the 2-1 lead with four seconds remaining in the period.
Kelowna added to their lead early in the second after a scramble in front of the Royals net. Evanoff was down and lost his stick, the puck eventually made its way to Elias Carmichael who came in off the point and wired it home. The marker for Carmichael was his first WHL goal.
Late in the period, Victoria would get one back while the teams were 4-on-4. An Oliver point shot went off Tracey and into the net. The officials went to a video review, after which the goal stood, cutting the Rocket lead to 3-2.
The Royals would tie the game, with yet another early period goal. Tracey would strike again, this time on the power play, firing a shot over Basran while Oliver provided the screen. The goal was the second of the night for Tracey and his 20th of the season.
The Rockets looked like they took the lead off a greasy goal with just under four minutes remaining. However, the referees waved it off after determining Jake Poole pushed the Victoria defender into the goalie for accidental interference.
Basran saved the game for the Rockets with 19.1 seconds remaining as Oliver had the puck in the crease. The Kelowna goalie stretched out and made the stop with a nice save on the Oliver dangle. That would be the last chance in regulation as the game headed to overtime.
In the extra frame, the action was end-to-end and included a Kelowna shot off of the inside of the post. In the end, nothing was solved, and the game headed to a shootout.
In the shootout, Victoria got goals from Oliver and Gary Haden, while Evanoff made the winning save.
Next up for the Rockets is a trip north to face the Prince George Cougars for a pair of games starting on Tuesday. For Victoria, it is a few days rest before the face in the Vancouver Giants for 3 games in 3 days, starting Friday in Langley.
– Noah Lamb took a hit to the face in the second period and did not return for the rest of the game.
– Will Warm played in his 200th game. In addition, he wore the “C” for the Pink in the Rink game, as part of the tribute to his family’s battle against cancer.
– Phillip Schultz also had a milestone on the evening, as he played in his 100th WHL game.
– Brayden Schuurman (’04) played his first WHL game for the Victoria Royals. The Abbotsford product has 34pts (15g, 19a) in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy Lions.