The entire season came down to the Victoria Royals’ final and do-or-die game on Saturday night.
But the Royals couldn’t muster a second win against the Spokane Chiefs in as many nights to secure a playoff spot, with the 4-2 loss ending Victoria’s season.
The local team entered the weekend one point back of the final postseason spot in the WHL’s Western Conference following months of jockeying in the standings with Spokane and Prince George.
Victoria was able to vault into the eighth and final playoff spot after Friday’s (April 15) commanding 7-3 win over the Chiefs at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
That momentum was shut down early the next night when Spokane opened the scoring. The Chiefs were up 3-1 after the first period and would improve their lead to three going into the final frame.
Although Victoria would get within two midway into the third and put up 20 shots in the final 20 minutes, the comeback wasn’t meant to be with the final score 4-2 in the Chiefs’ favour.
Despite the result, Royals head coach Dan Price said it was one of his favourite years behind the bench.
“Because of all the adversity, because of what the team had to endure from an injury perspective, from a COVID perspective, all the ups and downs they went through on the ice. … It’s incredible that the team was a point away from qualifying for the WHL playoffs on the last day of the season,” Price said postgame. “The pride we have in the group is tremendous.”
Victoria struggled to start the 2021/2022 campaign. The team found itself in a hole after it took weeks to secure its second win. The tides changed around the holidays as the Royals looked like a completely different group during an inspired December run.
However, the new year brought hardship again. The Royals had to temporarily shut down as COVID-19 impacted several players and staff in early January. The club then struggled to find its footing, taking a month and a half to get its first win of 2022.
But improved play down the stretch put the postseason within reach as Victoria was in a tight playoff race with several teams in the season’s final months.
That race was buoyed by continued support from the Victoria faithful, with Price saying fans were unwavering in cheering the team on throughout the season.
“They were with us through thick and thin, you can hear the love for the players and how loud they were at the end of the game, cheering us on, how they recognized the team at the end and the 20-year-olds. I know they have a lot of love for the team, and we have a lot of love for them.”
The Royals finish with a 23-39-5-1 record as the team closes the book on the 2021/2022 season.
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