After a heart-breaking shoot-out loss in Kelowna Wednesday night, the Victoria Royals return home Friday to face a Vancouver Giants’ squad that has played its best hockey of the season recently. The two teams lock horns for a weekend doubleheader that ends Saturday in Vancouver.
With a short-handed bench, the Royals were 48 seconds away from a victory in Kelowna Wednesday night, only to see the Rockets eventually win the game in a shoot-out. The loss extended the Royals’ slide to 11 games, but it was the third point the Royals have captured over that span. The Royals head into action against the Giants with a 32-27-2-5 record and sit sixth in the Western Conference, nine points behind Spokane for fifth and 10 back of Tri-City for fourth with only six games to play.
Jamie Crooks notched his team-leading 32nd goal of the season Wednesday, while Jack Walker and Austin Carroll also found the back of the net. Walker has posted two goals and two assists in his last three games and is +3 in that span. Brandon Magee has been a thorn in the Giants side all season, with nine goals and 10 points in eight games. Steven Hodges has also had a strong year against the Giants, with five goals and 10 points. Wednesday was the 14th consecutive game the Royals played without their top point producer, Alex Gogolev, who is listed as day-to-day with the lower body injury he suffered against Seattle on February 5.
The Giants have been knocked out of playoff contention, but have picked up wins at their best rate of the year. Vancouver has won four of its last five games and scored a 1-0 overtime win over Everett in their last game Sunday. Vancouver will miss the playoffs for the first time since their inaugural season of 2001-02 and have a record of 19-46-2-0, but are 6-5-2-0 in their last 13 games. Jackson Houck leads the Giants with 54 points this season and Cain Franson has a team-high 27 goals, seven of which have come against Victoria.
The Royals will try to add to their season series lead over Vancouver, with six wins in eight battles against their closest division rivals. The two teams have not faced off since January 26 when the Royals grabbed a 4-1 victory at home and have won three straight in the season series. The two clubs will see each other for the 10th and final time Saturday night at the Pacific Coliseum before the Royals take on Portland for the first of two games Sunday.
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