In a potential first-round playoff series, it was the Victoria Royals earning the extra point after prevailing in the sixth round of the shootout.
Sixty-five minutes didn’t produce a winner so for the first time this season, the crowd at the Langley Events Centre got to witness a shootout on Friday night.
But the majority of the 3,637 fans in attendance went home disappointed after Victoria’s Tanner Kaspick came in with speed and deked out Vancouver Giants goaltender for the winning goal in a 4-3 Royals victory.
Losing a valuable point aside — the Royals now sit second in the Western Hockey League’s B.C. Division at 27-13-3-1 and 58 points, one ahead of Vancouver (25-14-4-3, 57 points) — Giants head coach Jason McKee was impressed by his team’s effort.
“I thought we were the better team for large portions of the game. I thought our guys stuck with it,” he said.
“I liked our game. I don’t think we lost the game — we were pretty good for 65 minutes and unfortunately, they got one extra one in the shootout.”
The game got off to a fast pace with no stoppages in play until Ty Ronning back-handed home the opening goal at the 5:23 mark, beating Griffen Outhouse with his 41st of the season. And the Giants continued to control play but after birthday boy Matt Barberis took an offensive zone penalty, the Royals needed just a dozen seconds with the man advantage before Dante Hannoun wired home his 19th.
Prior to the goal, which came at the 17:20 mark, the shots were 12-2 for Vancouver.
Early in the second, the Royals’ Vic de Wit scored from just inside the blue-line for a 2-1 lead.
Ronning would get that back with his 42nd, taking a drop pass from Tyler Benson and beating Outhouse over the shoulder.
The Giants fired 17 pucks on goal that period, and had a 29-12 advantage through 40 minutes. But 60 seconds into the final frame, Tyler Soy beat Tendeck on a wraparound to put the Royals up 3-2.
A few minutes later, Tendeck came up with back-to-back pad saves in quick succession to keep it a one-goal game and his teammates would reward him as Dylan Plouffe took a pass from Benson and walked in to the top of the face-off circles and beating Outhouse with a wrist shot. Plouffe leads all Vancouver defenceman with eight goals on the season.
Vancouver would have to kill a late penalty to Bowen Byram with the team blocking a couple of shots and Tendeck coming up with a pair of saves while the team was short-handed for the final 1:50 of regulation.
Benson and Malm scored in rounds one and four, respectively, of the shootout, but Ronning, Tyler Ho, Dawson Holt and Davis Koch were all stopped.
Tendeck stopped three of the six Royals shooters.
Vancouver outshot Victoria 43-24 for the game.
Loss aside, there was plenty McKee liked about his team, which was facing a deeper, heavier Victoria than the one they last faced. Since that mid-December meeting, Victoria acquired eight new players and their roster now features seven NHL draft picks, with six of them suiting up on Friday night.
The Royals also have nine 1998-born players, compared to Vancouver’s four.
“They are deeper, they are heavier, they are older, they are a bigger, stronger team than when we last saw them. But we hung in with them fine,” McKee said.
“We have said it for months now, if everyone plays to the best of their abilities, we can hang with anybody and we showed that again tonight.”
McKee also did some line juggling, moving Owen Hardy up to the top line, and the result paid off.
The trio of Hardy and wingers Benson and Ronning, produced all three Vancouver goals and each player had two points.
They also generated 17 shots, 10 of which came from Ronning alone.
“They were moving the puck real well. They were finding areas. They were a force all night. I really liked that group’s work ethic tonight,” McKee said.
“(Ronning and Benson) think the game at the same speed, they know where each other are, they know where the small areas are, they have great offensive instincts and you saw that tonight.”
Despite the loss, the Giants remain unbeaten in regulation in 2018, as they are 6-0-1-1 since January 1 and 8-0-1-1 in their past 10 games.
Vancouver is back in action on Saturday (Jan. 20) as they welcome the Portland Winterhawks to the LEC. Puck drop is 7 p.m.