The Victoria Royals are getting hot at the right time.
The Western Hockey League team, fresh off a pair of overtime wins and having gone 8-2 in their last 10 games, begin the week tied with the Kelowna Rockets for top spot in the B.C. Division.
While the Royals (32-18-3-1) roll into Portland for a game against the Winter Hawks this Wednesday, they are no doubt anticipating the critical weekend coming up at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
The Rockets (32-16-3-1), who just lost both ends of a weekend home-and-home against Everett Silvertips and play Vancouver on Wednesday, are in Victoria this Friday and Saturday (Feb. 9 and 10) for games against the Royals. Kelowna then hosts their divisional rivals on Monday in the final head-to-head game between the Rockets and Royals in the regular season.
Matthew Phillips was the hero for Victoria on Saturday, scoring two goals including the winner shorthanded from Tyler Soy and Scott Walford in the final minute of overtime, as the Royals beat the Thunderbirds in Seattle, 3-2. It was Phillips’ 38th goal of the season, keeping him on pace a second straight 50-goal campaign.
Jeff de Wit scored the other goal for Victoria, who trailed 2-0 after two periods and were outshot 40-34 overall.
At home on Friday, it was Noah Gregor scoring a beautiful goal from Soy and Phillips, 51 seconds into OT to give the locals a 4-3 win over Medicine Hat.
The Tigers had erased a 2-0 deficit with three straight goals, two of which came from James Hamblin. It was Soy who knotted the score at 3-3 with his 24th of the year at the 18:41 mark of the third period.
Phillips and Kade Jensen scored 1:09 apart early in the first to give their team a quick lead.
The overtime wins eased the sting of the 7-1 trouncing the Royals suffered last week against the Tri City Americans in Kennewick, Wash.