DUBNetwork writers Aaron Piper and Ryan Sinclair take a look at the second round series between the Tri-City Americans and Victoria Royals.
October 10th, 2017 / TC 2 at VIC 8
October 11th, 2017 / TC 5 at VIC 4 OT
November 18th, 2017 / VIC 7 at TC 3
January 31st, 2018 / VIC 1 at TC 7
Leading Scorers season series:
Tri-City: Morgan Geekie(3-6-9)
Victoria: Matthew Phillips (5-4-9)
Tri-City: Patrick Dea (9.75gaa, .750sv% in 2 games vs VIC); Beck Warm (4.20gaa, .904sv% in 4 games vs VIC)
Victoria: Griffen Outhouse (4.53gaa, .872sv% in 4 games vs TC)
Besides a 5-4 overtime win for the Americans, the meetings between these clubs were one-sided affairs. Victoria’s wins came via 8-2 and 7-3 scores, while Tri-City closed out the meeting of these clubs with a 7-1 victory. Goaltending has been suspect during the regular season between these clubs as starters Patrick Dea and Griffen Outhouse put up less than average numbers. Where goaltending and defense suffered, offense excelled led by snipers Morgan Geekie and Matthew Phillips. Although Tri-City actually finished one point ahead of the Royals, given that they were a wildcard entry, home-ice in the series goes to Victoria.
How did they get here?
Tri-City pulled off a major upset in the first round of the WHL playoffs…or did they? The Americans underachieved all year long, partially due to some injuries to key players, but before the season started they were being picked to go deep by more than one source. Yes, they entered the postseason as a wild card and matched up against the B.C. Division winning Kelowna Rockets, but it was anything but an upset when they swept the Rockets. Only eight points separated the two teams at the end of the regular season standings.
Tri-City played in a division where every team made the playoffs. The diversity they faced for a majority of the season seemed to teach them a couple of things, the biggest being hard work is a big part of the game. They outworked Kelowna in the first round in almost every aspect of the game. The came out of the gate hard every night, scoring first in all but one of the games. The game they didn’t score first? They won 9-7 after being down 3-0 in the first three minutes.
And Morgan Geekie…not enough can be said of his production. Nine goals in four games which ties him with Daymond Langkow for most goals by a Tri-City player in a playoff series. The team was hungrier, and they got production from every line. When the dust settled, it was no surprise they came out on top of a four-game sweep.
Victoria held off the Vancouver Giants in the first round, in an intense series that went the full seven games. The Royals had their hands full with the young Giants team, as momentum swung back and forth with each period and each game.
Led by their captain Matthew Phillips, the Royals poured everything they had into their first round victory, and then some. Injuries seemed to come fast and furious, leaving Head Coach Dan Price’s club to take a platoon mentality of next man up. Missing in action against Vancouver included the likes of Tyler Soy, Tanner Kaspick, Scott Walford and Dino Kambeitz, all of whom are still question marks for the Royals in the series against the Americans.
Phillips had an unreal first round series, with 16 points (6G, 10A) which included setting up Noah Gregor’s overtime winner in Game 6 and as well as scoring the series winning goal himself in Game 7. Goaltender Griffen Outhouse had his best two games in Games 6 and 7, making unreal acrobatic saves to keep his club in the fight.
Victoria’s high-flying style means that a lead is never safe, including their own, but they were able to dig deep and do whatever it took to overcome the Giants in seven games.
What does Tri-City have to do to win?
The storyline of what the Americans need to do in round 2 doesn’t change much. Victoria is a team that relies a lot on it’s speed and skill to get the job done, much like Kelowna. If the Americans are going to win the series, they will have to have the same work ethic they did in round one. They are going to have to clog up the middle of the ice, win board battles, limit Victoria’s quality chances, and get some timely saves from Patrick Dea. They are also going to have to get a lot of pucks on Griffen Outhouse. The Americans will have a harder time scoring at will on the Victoria net minder than they did in round one against Kelowna’s rookie goalie.
A big part of playoff success is the mental game. They proved they can win that battle in game two of round one and again in Game 4. Being down 3-0 in the first three minutes of a playoff road game can cause a lot of teams to cash in and go home. Tri-City stuck with it and ultimately won the barn-burner that was game two. In Game 4, Kelowna kept coming back to tie things up. In fact, with just a minute to play in the third, it was tied. Tri-City was not content with just going to overtime. They wanted it, and they got it done by scoring two goals in the final minute. That same mental toughness is going to be a key component in round two against the Royals.
What does Victoria have to do to win?
Victoria plays a real fundamental game and when they can execute they have success. Playing with speed, forcing turnovers and converting on the powerplay almost always leads to positive result for the Royals. Where they struggled in the first series was failing to clear traffic in front of Outhouse, not maximizing opportunities with the man-advantage and allowing too many chances against. Victoria’s commitment is never in doubt and their coaching staff always have them ready to play a full 60 minutes, never getting too high or too low emotionally.
Assuming their injured teammates may still be out for part of this series, players like Jeff de Wit, Kaid Oliver, Lane Zablocki and Andrei Grishakov will continue to play an important role and must elevate their games.
Outhouse will be solid as usual, however his game ranges from good to spectacular, depending on how his team clears his sight-lines. Finally, Victoria’s power play, a key to their regular season success, must heat up and make the most of any chances.
Five players who will impact this series
1) Morgan Geekie
2) Matthew Phillips
3) Patrick Dea
4) Dylan Coghlan
5) Griffen Outhouse
Aaron Piper (Americans Beat Writer)
Outhouse has the ability to steal games for Victoria. That, and the ability to keep teams on their heels sometimes, will keep the Royals alive for a couple of nights. The talent down the Tri-City roster, however, will give the Royals defense fits and should give the Americans the upper hand. The confidence they are riding right now, and the long rest between rounds should also be big factors on how this series kicks off. Just like round one, if the Americans can get at least a split of the first two games in Victoria, I think they take it in six.
Ryan Sinclair (Royals Beat Writer)
Does Victoria have enough time to refuel the tank? Did the Giants push them past a chance for a quick recover? The first round war with Vancouver had to have been exhausting both physically and mentally for the Vancouver Island team. Victoria showed in the series they could play it all: fast, skilled, tough, nasty. But with that, they also played at times scattered, undisciplined and soft. We know the Americans are rested and fairly healthy, whereas the Royals are possibly anything but. I think Tri-City will be too much for Victoria to overcome, and I think it will be the Americans winning the series in six.
Game Visitor Home Date Time
1 Tri-City @ Victoria Friday, April 6 7:05
2 Tri-City @ Victoria Saturday, April 7 7:05
3 Victoria @ Tri-City Tuesday, April 10 7:05
4 Victoria @ Tri-City Wednesday, April 11 7:05
5 * Tri-City @ Victoria Friday, April 13 7:05
6 * Victoria @ Tri-City Sunday, April 15 5:05
7 * Tri-City @ Victoria Wednesday, April 18 7:05
* If necessary