#WHLPlayoffs Preview: Tri-City Americans (WC1) vs. Victoria Royals (2)
With the second round of the 2018 WHL Playoffs set to begin Friday, April 6, WHL.ca provides a look in at each of the four head-to-head matchups across the league.
With a general introduction, vital statistics and keys to the series, we’ve got everything you need to know heading into the 2018 WHL Playoffs. While the usual suspects are known, our ‘Players to Watch’ section will take a deeper dive into some of the supporting characters set to take on a big role in the post-season.
Finally, we close each of our series previews with a quick look to the past for a brief historical take on the rivalry that exists – or stands to ignite.
In our fourth of four second round 2018 WHL Playoffs previews, we examine the Victoria Royals and Tri-City Americans.
Round two of the 2018 WHL Playoffs will feature an intriguing matchup between the Victoria Royals and Tri-City Americans.
The Americans were the first team to punch their ticket to Round Two following a four-game sweep of the B.C. Division Champion Kelowna Rockets in a series that ended a week ago. The Royals meanwhile needed to play down to the final seconds of Game Seven in order to secure their spot, outlasting the Vancouver Giants in a classic match that should fuel the regional rivalry for years to come.
The matchup will see a pair of Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings prospects line up against each other as Tyler Soy, captain Matthew Phillips, and Lane Zablocki will take on Kyle Olson, Juuso Valimaki, and captain Michael Rasmussen.
You can catch Games One and Two of the series on Vancouver Island this weekend as the teams meet Friday, April 6 (7:05 p.m. PT) and Saturday, April 7 (7:05 p.m. PT). The series will then shift south of the 49th parallel for Game Three on Tuesday, April 10 (7:05 p.m. PT) and Game Four on Wednesday, April 11 (7:05 p.m. PT).
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 4, 2018
Game 1 – Friday, April 6– Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria, B.C – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 7 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria, B.C – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 3 – Tuesday, April 10 – Toyota Centre – Kennewick, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 4 – Wednesday, April 11 – Toyota Centre – Kennewick, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 5* – Friday, April 13 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria, B.C – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 6* – Sunday, April 15 – Toyota Centre – Kennewick, Wash. – 5:05 p.m. PT
Game 7* – Wednesday, April 18 – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – Victoria, B.C – 7:05 p.m. PT
|Victoria Royals||vs.||Tri-City Americans|
|39-27-4-2 (84 points)||Record||38-25-8-1 (85 points)|
|Eighth||WHL Standing||Tied for Eighth|
|Second – B.C.||Division Standing||Fourth – U.S|
|287 (Second)||Goals For||255 (Ninth)|
|264 (17th)||Goals Against||249 (Eighth)|
|24.9% (Sixth)||Power Play||25.4% (Fifth)|
|74.1% (21st)||Penalty Kill||77.1% (15th)|
|Eliminated in First Round||2016-17 Playoffs||Lost Round 1|
|Matthew Phillips – 48-64–112||Leading Scorer||Morgan Geekie – 30-54—84|
|Tyler Soy – 36-56–92||Second Leading Scorer||Jordan Topping– 38-42—80|
|Dante Hannoun – 25-54–79||Third Leading Scorer||Dylan Coghlan – 17-46—63|
|Matthew Phillips – 48 goals||Top Goal Scorer||Jordan Topping – 38 goals|
|Jared Freadrich – 12-20–32||Top Scoring Defenceman||Dylan Coghlan – 17-46—63|
|Griffen Outhouse(35-17-4-1, 3.08, .914, 2 SO)||Top Goaltender||Patrick Dea (22-14-7-0, 3.17, .913, 2 SO)|
Key to the Series – Victoria Royals
Commit to defence: The Victoria Royals are guaranteed their four games in Round Two against the Americans, but it’s almost a series that wasn’t. The Royals gave up 25 goals in the seven-game series to the Vancouver Giants, similar to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
It’s all well and good to score and score again, but as the rounds progress and the competition gets tougher, simply going by the motto that offence is the best defence won’t cut it. The Royals’ two victories against the Americans this year came in 8-2 and 7-3 routs over their south-of-the-border opponents, but they also came up short in a 5-4 overtime loss and 7-1 loss. If the Royals can master that side of the puck while allowing their offence to operate as it has normally, there won’t be many teams that can stop the Royals going forward.
Key to the Series – Tri-City Americans
Maintain momentum: Friday’s Game One of the series will provide fans with a glimpse as to whether the long layoff favoured the Americans or not. When they did conclude their Round One series, the Americans were a team buzzing and continually creating offensive chances.
Averaging six goals per game is probably an unsustainable rate for them to produce at for the entire playoffs, but if they continue to create chances like they did against the Rockets, they’ll make short work of the Royals. The Americans were on the Rockets from the opening puck drop in Game One and it helped to secure a sweep of Games One and Two on the road. Maintaining that momentum will be huge for the Americans, especially in a building where they haven’t won in regulation since Nov. 12, 2016. Parker AuCoin had the game-winning goal in that contest, a 5-1 victory for the Americans, so relying on their now older players to carry them will be essential for the Americans’ success away from the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena.
Forward to Watch – Victoria Royals
C Matthew Phillips (6-10-16): Tied for the lead in WHL Playoff scoring through Round One, there’s no doubting how important he was to the Royals in the last four games of the series, recording points on 14 of his team’s last 18 goals to help them win the series. When it came to the four-game regular season series, Phillips had nine points (5G-4A) against the Americans, tied for the scoring lead among both sides.
Did we also mention that it’s Phillips’ 20th birthday today? He has yet to play on his birthday in his WHL career and if there’s someone who can provide a special performance on this special day, it’s Phillips himself.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 4, 2018
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 4, 2018
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 4, 2018
Forward to Watch – Tri-City Americans
C Morgan Geekie (9-4-13): Only one player from the Tri-City Americans managed to match the production levels of Matthew Phillips in the regular season series between the two clubs: Mr. Morgan Geekie. The WHL Player of the Month and the leading goal scorer from Round One of the WHL Playoffs also had nine points (3G-6A) in the four-game regular season series against the Royals.
Though Geekie was just one player on the ice, he proved to be kryptonite for the Rockets, tallying four multi-goal games, including one hat trick. In a realistic world, we’d caution that Geekie’s offensive success won’t last forever, but if he can keep it up, it’ll be fun to watch him deliver a repeat performance. Well fun for everyone except the Royals that is.
Defenceman to Watch – Victoria Royals
D Jared Freadrich (1-4-5): The Royals haven’t had to depend on contributions from the blue line much, but were certainly appreciative of Freadrich’s goal and five points against the Vancouver Giants. With three goals coming from the Royals’ blue line in the first round, they’ll go toe-to-toe with a blue line that includes two top 10 NHL draft picks and another in Dylan Coghlan that singed an entry-level contract earlier this year.
Freadrich and the Royals’ blue line may not be expect to go goal-for-goal with the Americans’ formidable blueline, but there’s no denying that any contributions will be greatly appreciated and that the blueline’s major responsibility will lie with shutting down the Americans’ top producers up front.
Defenceman to Watch – Tri-City Americans
D Dylan Coghlan (0-5-5): As the highest-scoring defenceman from the regular season series, it would be a disservice to not recognize Dylan Coghlan (Vegas Golden Knights) for his contributions. With eight points (3G-5A) in the season series, Coghlan finished a point behind Phillips and Geekie for most points in the four head-to-head meetings.
The Golden Knights signed Coghlan to an entry-level contract at the beginning of the season because they saw something in him they liked and over the course of a seven-game series against a team he had plenty of regular season success against, you’d be wise not to take his presence lightly when he’s on the ice.
Goaltender to Watch – Victoria Royals
Griffen Outhouse (7 GP, 4-3-0-0, 3.41 GAA, .898 SV%): Griffen Outhouse didn’t have a perfect series against the Vancouver Giants, but when push came to shove for the Royals, he was there with a clutch stop. The Likely, B.C. product was in net for the majority of the season series against the Americans, sporting a 2-1-1-0 record, 4.53 goals-against average, and .872 save percentage. Take that as you will, but Outhouse has proven himself more than worthy of earning the start option between the pipes for the Royals.
If his game reaches another level in the series, it’ll be a tough go for the Americans.
Goaltender to Watch – Tri-City Americans
Patrick Dea (4 GP, 3-0-0-0, 3.35 GAA, .889 SV%, 1 SO): Patrick Dea had a weird start to the 2018 WHL Playoffs, posting a 39-save shutout against the Kelowna Rockets in Game One. Then he got pulled in Game Two, but ended back between the pipes to win Games Three and Four. As goals came fast and furiously, Dea helped the Americans stay in front for the majority of the series, trailing for just 11 minutes and 11 seconds of the wild 9-7 Game Two victory.
Dea knows all about the Royals’ offensive talents, having faced them twice this season and having 13 goals scored on him in 80 minutes of action. The Royals certainly won’t be making things easy on the overage goaltender, but Dea has risen to occasion before. Can he do so again?
Playoff History – Victoria Royals
The Victoria Royals are playing some of their best hockey at the moment, winning two straight games to edge the Vancouver Giants in Round One, but an ominous stat awaits them in Round Two. In the team’s franchise playoff history, they’ve advanced past Round One three times, with a combined five wins in those Round Two series. You don’t have to be good at math to see that the Royals have struggled in the second step on the ladder to play for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, but this year feels different.
Also consider that the Royals will be rolling hot into this series, having just wrapped up their series at home Tuesday. The absence of Tyler Soy (Anaheim Ducks), while considerable, didn’t cost them and Matthew Phillips (Calgary Flames) took his game to another level to send the Royals to Round Two. It’s the playoffs, so anything can happen, but Victoria is a team on a mission and are a tough team to beat when they’re on their game.
Playoff History – Tri-City Americans
The Tri-City Americans pulled off the most shocking results of Round One in the WHL Playoffs, downing the Kelowna Rockets in four games with an offensive showing in each contest. The franchise’s first playoff series victory since the 2012 WHL Playoffs, success was a long time coming, but also worth the wait for the U.S. Division club.
Don’t kid yourself though, the Americans aren’t satisfied with just that one series victory and will be aiming high for success once again. Given they’ve managed to score a win in Victoria and routed the Royals at home in the final meeting of the regular season series, the Americans have a realistic mindset when it comes to advancing to the Western Conference Championship.
Head-to-Head Playoff History – Victoria Royals vs. Tri-City Americans
2009-10: Tri-City Americans defeat Chilliwack Bruins 4-2 in Western Conference Round One