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Visiting Vancouver Giants roll over Victoria Royals

This might have been the turning-point weekend when normalcy was restored to the B.C. Division of the Western Hockey League.
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Victoria RoyalsÕ Tarun Fizer protects the puck from Vancouver GiantsÕ Jackson Shepard in WHL action at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Saturday. The Giants won 6-2.

This might have been the turning-point weekend when normalcy was restored to the B.C. Division of the Western Hockey League.

The Vancouver Giants finally looked like last year’s league finalists while the Victoria Royals fell back to mere mortal status.

The cross-strait home-and-home set had its built-in plotline, featuring as it did the biggest overachievers and underachievers to date in the B.C. Division.

The Giants have not lived up to their considerable expectations this season, but they showed that other teams discount Vancouver at their own peril.

The Giants defeated the Victoria Royals 6-2 on Saturday before 5,961 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to follow up the 4-1 Giants win over the Royals on Friday in Langley which halted a five-game Vancouver winless streak.

“We’re . . . disappointed. It was a good crowd tonight and we take pride in playing well in front of our fans,” said Royals head coach Dan Price, following Saturday’s loss.

Victoria went into the two-game Vancouver set 8-1-1 in its past 10 games.

The previously unheralded Royals (25-15-3) are still 11 points ahead of the Giants. Even with Vancouver having two games in hand, few could have predicted that in September.

But Vancouver indicated it will be heard from down the stretch. There is simply too much talent not to be. The Giants’ roster includes Colorado Avalanche-prospect Bowen Byram, the fourth overall selection in the 2019 NHL draft and 2020 world junior champion with Canada, and fellow NHL-drafted players Milos Roman (Calgary Flames), Alex Kannok Leipert (Washington Capitals), former Royals forward Eric Florchuk (Capitals) and goaltenders David Tendeck (Arizona Coyotes) and Trent Miner (Avalanche). In addition, Justin Sourdif is ranked 23rd among North American skaters and Cole Shepard 153rd for the 2020 NHL draft.

The shots on goal Saturday were 29-9 for Vancouver after two periods. The Giants’ power play was lethal at four-for-seven.

It was Victoria’s fourth game in five nights.

“There was some fatigue but that's no excuse,” said Price.

“You have to play through it.”

The Royals were again done in by players with Island connections. Former Royals’ first-round bantam draft pick Florchuk, who scored a hat trick against his old team Friday, added another goal Saturday. Victoria product and 20-year-old forward Tyler Preziuso, acquired by the Giants following five WHL seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers, had a goal and assist for Vancouver on Saturday as the Giants climbed over .500 at 19-18-4. Danish international and Royals captain Phillip Schultz and Gary Haden, the latter on the power play, scored for the hosts.

Royals goaltender Shane Farkas, the consensus team MVP to date, was a scratch for the second consecutive night. The Royals did not release details of the injury. Adam Evanoff again started in goal for Victoria while affiliated-player Keegan Maddocks was called up to back him up.

The Royals will have plenty to think about on the bus ride to Brandon, Man. — the longest possible in the WHL from geographic bookend to bookend — as they begin a six-game trip through the Eastern Division. It begins next Friday against former Royals head coach Dave Lowry and his Wheat Kings.