Royals and Giants fight for positioning in B.C. Division on WHL in 30
The holidays may have come and gone, but the opportunity to leap over a division rival is the gift the keeps on giving to all 22 WHL teams no matter what time in the season it is.
That’s the situation facing the Vancouver Giants this weekend as they host the Victoria Royals. While the Royals burst out of the gate with an impressive start that featured them holding the division lead for the majority of the first half of the season, they’ve since fallen back into second place with the Giants hot on their heels.
Early in the season series between the two clubs, the Royals held the Giants out of the win column, taking the first four contests between the two teams. The Giants have since answered back with wins in two of the last three games, their defeat coming in a shootout. Friday’s matchup will be the last at the Langley Events Centre in the regular season, though a playoff series looms for a addition to their rivalry in March.
While a first-round playoff date is possible, the top three teams in the B.C. Division – the division-leading Kelowna Rockets, Royals, and Giants – are separated by just six points in the standings. Lots can change over the final month and a half of the regular season.
The Royals are eager to preserve a streak that has seen them finish ahead of the Giants in the standings for the past five Western Hockey League regular seasons. The last time the Giants finished ahead of the Royals in the standings was the 2011-12 season, when current Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher led the Giants with 77 points (41G-36A) in 54 games.
Royals captain Matthew Phillips (Calgary Flames) is eight games shy of 200 for his WHL career and six points shy of 250 for his WHL career, all with the Royals. His teammate Tyler Soy (Anaheim Ducks) recently played in his 300th career WHL game and is nine points shy of 300 for his WHL career.
Dante Hannoun is 15 games away from 250 for his WHL career and 14 points shy of 200 for his WHL career. Defenceman Chaz Reddekopp is three points away from recording his third straight 30-point season.
Defenceman Scott Walford (Montreal Canadiens) is an interesting player to watch in this matchup. He leads the WHL scoring race for players who have yet to score a goal this season with 24 assists. His last four goals have come against the Giants with him finding the back of the net in games on Jan. 27, Jan. 28 and Jan. 29 as well as Feb. 24 of last season.
Since moving to Victoria, the Royals have enjoyed five straight seasons of 35 or more victories. They need eight wins in their last 24 games to make it a sixth straight year.
⏰ 12pm MT
📺 Shaw TV (Ch. 10); Shaw Direct (Ch. 299) pic.twitter.com/lgVte5dQ3C
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 26, 2018
At his current goal pace, Ty Ronning (New York Rangers) will finish with 63 goals, easily the team lead. The would make him the second player in the last decade to lead the Giants in goals for three straight seasons, with Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher accomplishing the feat in the three seasons between 2009 and 2012.
Ronning is a good bet to break the Giants’ team record for goals in a single season. He needs just six to tie Evander Kane’s record 48 goals in a single season and seven to set the new record. Given his current production, he could become the first Giant to reach the 50-goal plateau in the team’s history later this season. He currently sits third all-time for the most goals in Giants’ history.
Should he also notch three more game-winning goals, Ronning would tie Gilbert Brule’s team record of 19 game-winners.
James Malm is having an incredible season of being in the right place at the right time. His nine game-winning goals lead the league. Malm recently surpassed the 100-point plateau for his WHL career and is eight games away from 150 for his WHL career and three goals away from back-to-back 20-goal seasons.
The Giants are 10-7-4-3 in one-goal games this season and 6-0-3-1 in their last 10 one-goal games.
Vancouver Giants goaltender David Tendeck is 4-0-0-1 when facing 40 or more shots in a game this season.
The 2017-18 season has been one full of milestones for Tyler Benson (Edmonton Oilers). The forward has played in his 150th WHL games, while also surpassing the 50-goal and 150-point plateaus in his WHL career.
Sept. 22 – Vancouver 1 Victoria 7
Sept. 23 – Victoria 6 Vancouver 1
Oct. 28 – Vancouver 5 Victoria 6 (SO)
Oct. 29 – Vancouver 3 Victoria 4
Nov. 11 – Victoria 1 Vancouver 4
Dec. 15 – Victoria 1 Vancouver 3
Dec. 16 – Vancouver 6 Victoria 2
Jan. 19 – Victoria 4 Vancouver 3 (SO)
Jan. 26 – Victoria at Vancouver*
Feb. 17 – Vancouver at Victoria
*WHL in 30 broadcast