Game seven, the playoffs.
This is what every young hockey player dreams of.
And that is what faces the Vancouver Giants and the Victoria Royals when the puck drops tonight (Tuesday, April 3) at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria. Game time is 7:05 p.m.
The Giants, making their first foray into the WHL playoffs in four seasons, had ample opportunity to end the series — and advance to the second round for the first since 2010 — on Monday afternoon in game six, but were thwarted by goaltender Griffen Outhouse’s 40-save performance.
The Royals were outshot 43-20 but prevailed 4-3 in overtime thanks in large part to captain Matthew Phillips, as the Calgary Flames draft pick scored twice and set up Dante Hannoun and Noah Gregor for the other two goals.
The Giants were led by their captain, Edmonton Oilers draft pick Tyler Benson, who scored twice on six shots while Ty Ronning, property of the New York Rangers, had the other Giants goal and led all players with nine shots on goal.
But all of that is out the window now as it comes down to one game to see which of the two B.C. Division rivals will host the Tri-City Americans in the WHL semifinals.
Vancouver entered the series with just 76 games of playoff experience while Victoria countered with a combined 336 games.
And when it comes to game seven experience, two Giants have experience — defenceman Brennan Riddle played in two deciding games last year, winning both— while forward Jared Dmytriw was on the losing end of a game seven in 2016.
Dmytriw was with the Royals, in fact, alongside seven current members of the Victoria squad — Phillips, Hannoun, Chaz Reddekopp, Ralph Jarratt, Scott Walford, Tyler Soy and Outhouse, who was the team’s back-up goaltender.
The Royals lost that game 3-2 in overtime to Kelowna.
Jared Freadrich, Lane Zablocki and Jeff de Wit also have game seven experience from before they joined the Royals.
Through the first six games of this series, the road team has won four times and game six marked both the first overtime game of the series, and the first time the team which scored first did not win.
Five-on-five, the Giants have outscored Victoria 20-14 but when it comes to special teams, the Royals hold a distinct edge, scoring seven power-play goals in 29 chances compared to Vancouver’s 2-for-18, which puts them dead last among all 16 playoff teams in power play percentage.
Vancouver has the more well-rounded offence with a dozen players finding the back of the net, while seven have multiple goals in the series.
Benson, Milos Roman and defenceman Bowen Byram have three goals apiece.
Victoria’s offence has been top heavy with four players — Phillips, Hannoun, Gregor and Soy — accounting for 64 per cent of the team’s goals. Soy only played game four before he was injured again.
Phillips (four goals, 13 points), Hannoun (three goals, 10 points) and Gregor (four goals, nine points) have done the majority of Victoria’s heavy-lifting at that end of the ice.
In goal, Outhouse stole game six and for the series, has an .897 save percentage. Dean McNabb played the final 2:50 of game four, stopping three of four shots.
At the other end of the ice, David Tendeck and Trent Miner have combined for an .885 save percentage.
Miner was sensational in game one, stopping 40 of 41 pucks, while Tendeck was great in game three with a 35-save performance.
But eliminate those two games from the equation, and the Vancouver netminders have a .821 save percentage.