Royals blanked by Rockets
VICTORIA -- The Victoria Royals dropped the second of back-to-back home games against the Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday night, suffering a 1-0 shutout loss at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Despite coming off a hard fought shootout victory over the Rockets a night prior, the Royals didn't show any signs of fatigue on Wednesday. Victoria established strong puck possession in the early going, and didn't give it up for most of the night. However, it was Rockets' star Nolan Foote scoring the game's only goal on a first period powerplay to lift his team to the two game split.
"I thought the effort was exceptional from both teams," said Royals' coach Dan Price following the game. "Just from our perspective I thought for the full sixty all twelve of forwards and our goalie played very well."
Coming off a heated contest just twenty-four hours prior, the two teams came out with a conservative game in the early going. Some strong puck possession by the Royals would give them the edge in offensive zone time, though the Rockets defenders were able to keep the majority of the shots to the outside. This would be a theme all night as Kelowna would lay down a defensive blanket around their goaltender Cole Schwebius.
Kelowna would break the ice on the powerplay at the 11:31 mark of the first, as forward Nolan Foote would clean up a rebound opportunity with a quick shot to beat Brock Gould. For the 2019 first round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, it would be his eigth goal of the young season.
Minutes after Foote scored to make it 1-0, the Rockets would have an opportunity to add to their lead. On a Kelowna odd man rush Alex Swetlikoff would take a cross ice pass right in front of the net, only to have his shot denied by Gould sliding to his right.
Head Coach Dan Price said after the game that overall he liked what he saw from Gould.
"It was a great response for Brock," said Price. "After having a tough one last night he came back in and played great."
The Royals best chance of the first period came off the stick off Tarun Fizer, who toe-dragged around a Rockets defender but found himself in too tight to get a proper shot away.
The second period began with an ugly moment as Rockets' Kyle Topping would get tied up with a Royal before falling awkwardly into the boards. Unable to get back to his skates -- Topping then began to crawl towards hte Kelowna bench, as play would not be halted due to Victoria having possession of the puck. After finally making it to the bench he would leave the game and not return.
Nearing the midway point of the period the Royals top line of Kaid Oliver, Tarun Fizer and Philip Shultz would begin to control the pace, though the Rockets would continue to effectively block shots and continue to keep Victoria's attackers to the outside.
Victoria would get their best opportunity of the night to get on the board late in the second. A breakout blunder by the Rockets would cough the puck up right onto the stick of Logan Doust, who would walk in on a short 2-on-0 breakaway along with Tanner Sidaway. The Royals would squander their chance however as Sidaway would be unable to handle the pass, and Victoria would head into the final frame still down by one.
After starting the first and second on their heels the Rockets came out strong to start the third period, coming close to finding the insurance marker early and cutting Victoria's lead in shots down to just four after being outshot by a decent margin all night.
At the five minute mark of the period the Royals powerplay -- which went 0/3 on the night -- went back to work looking to draw the game even. On the man advantage Kaid Oliver would come within an eyelash of scoring his 2nd of the season after a between-the-legs set up from Sean Gulka, though the White Rock native would be unable to solve Rockets' goaltender.
The Royals would press for the equalizer in the late-goings of the third period but would fail to generate the tying goal, and would go on to fall by a 1-0 final.
Despite tilting the ice for long stretches of Wednesday night's contest the Royals offensive would fail to click. According to the Royals bench boss, the team knows they need to do a better job at creating traffic in front of the net.
"One thing we talked about each period was getting a bit more of a net front presence." said Price. "Not just traffic around the net but screens in front of the goalie. We did that at times, but I also thought that a lot of the shots we recorded were shots that he saw."
The Royals will be back in action on Saturday when they host Medicine Hat.