Vancouver Giants (3rd in B.C. Division) vs Victoria Royals (2nd in B.C. Division)
Vancouver Ty Ronning 84 pts
Victoria Matthew Phillips 112 pts
Vancouver David Tendeck- 25wins; ; 0.912 SV%; 3.02 GAA; 1576 SA
Victoria Griffen Outhouse- 35 wins; 0.914 SV%; 3.08 GAA; 1959 SA
After a slow start to the season, the young Vancouver team found its footing and became contenders in the B.C. Division, making a return to the WHL playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Giants finished the season with 81 points, an improvement of 35 points from the year before. Offensively they are led by Ty Ronning, who netted an amazing 61 goals on the year, many of them clutch ones for his team. Much of the Giants improvement this season can be linked to the return of Tyler Benson, who after recovering from an injury played in 58 games this year. Goaltender David Tendeck went from unproven starter to one of the more impressive goalies in the league, winning six consecutive games in December and finishing the season with a .912 save percentage. Vancouver boasts secondary scoring with the likes of James Malm and Davis Koch, as well as import forward Milos Roman who plays a nice two-way game for the Giants.
The Royals hovered around the top of the B.C division for most of the season, eventually chasing the Kelowna Rockets for the last half and settled for second seed. Inconsistency plagued Victoria all season, as one game they would look dominant, only to fall the next game to a seemingly weaker opponent. As a result, GM Cameron Hope was extremely active at the trade deadline, adding speed, size and experience. Captain Matthew Phillips again was a catalyst this season for the Royals, paired with linemates Tyler Soy and Dante Hannoun they are one of the most dangerous lines in the league. Trade pickups of Tanner Kaspick, Lane Zablocki and Noah Gregor offer valuable depth of scoring. Team defense has improved as the season has progressed and the return of Chaz Reddekopp from a lengthy injury help to solidify the back-end. Griffen Outhouse has been spectacular all season, playing lots of minutes and seeing lots of shots. Victoria’s goalie has seen a lot of contact in his crease over the season and for the most part has remained focused.
The series should be a tight fought battle as the last three meetings of the season between these clubs were extremely close – each ending in a 4-3 win for Victoria. Of those victories, the first came via a shootout, the second in overtime and the final one came with 11 seconds remaining in regulation. Offensive weapons will likely be on display and the goalies will have to be sharp as an average of seven goals a game were scored in matchups during the regular season.
Vancouver will look to weather the firepower of the Royals, while playing disciplined to limit Victoria’s power play opportunities. Although they boasted an impressive penalty kill for the season of 79.2% (tied for 4th), Vancouver would be wise to not give the Victoria power play a chance to get revved up. It is no secret that the Royals give up chances, often being out-shot. The Giants will need it’s snipers to make the chances count. Vancouver will need to play physical against the smaller Victoria forwards, and hard-nosed veteran defenceman Darian Skeoch will be a key to that game plan.
Victoria will look to come out fast to keep a younger, less experienced Giants team on their heels. The Royals were successful when they limited shots against and didn’t rely so heavily on Outhouse to bail them out, consequently possession will be key. Kaspick will see a heavy workload in keeping Ronning and Benson in check, allowing the top-line featuring Phillips to get some favorable match-ups. The Royals success hinges a lot on their 6th ranked powerplay (24.9%) and they will need it to fuel their offense driven game.
Impact Players to Watch
1. Matthew Phillips
2. Ty Ronning
3. Tyler Benson
4. David Tendeck
5. Tanner Kaspick
Ronning and Phillips are game changers and how they preform will greatly affect the series. Should either of them break free of their checks and be allowed to heat up in the series, either could propel their team to victory. Benson plays Victoria tough, with a physical edge and an alway present danger of creating offence. He has never played in the post-season, so his potential and compete in the playoffs could be unlimited. The young Tendeck may understandably be nervous in his first playoffs, and how he responds to the expected Victoria offensive push will be worth watching. Finally, Kaspick was brought to Victoria with the playoffs in mind and now has another chance to shine in the post-season. While he will draw coverage on Vancouver’s top line, he is always a threat to score goals and often even mans the point on the first power play unit.
Vancouver must consider making a return to the playoffs a successful feat itself. In contrast, anything other than making it out the second round would likely be a disappointment for Victoria. The added pressure will likely weigh on the Royals, however they appear to have the experience to accept the challenge. In what should be a close battle between two closely matched teams, that experience should be a difference.
Prediction: Royals in six games.
Game 1 – Friday, March 23 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 2 – Saturday, March 24 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 3 – Tuesday, March 27 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT
Game 4 – Thursday, March 29 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 7 p.m. PT
Game 5* – Saturday, March 31 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 6* – Monday, April 2 – Langley Events Centre – Vancouver – 2 p.m. PT
Game 7* – Tuesday, April 3 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria – 7 p.m. PT
-Banner photos by Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings and Christoper Kelsall, Victoria Sports News