It is back to Victoria for a winner-take-all game seven.
Noah Gregor scored at 7:06 of overtime on Monday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre as the Victoria Royals staved off elimination in game six of the WHL quarter-final series with the Vancouver Giants.
Gregor took a drop pass from Matthew Phillips and beat David Tendeck blocker-side to send the series back to Victoria.
And the Royals can thank clutch goaltending, superior special teams and an opportunistic offence in their game six victory.
Griffen Outhouse kept his team in it early — the Giants were all over the Victoria zone in the opening 10 minutes — the penalty kill came up with four kills in the second period alone, and the offence scored four times on their final 11 shots to force a deciding game.
The win tied the series at three apiece with game seven set for Tuesday night back at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.
“We have to regroup, it’s a quick turnover here, we have to jump on the ferry and maybe that’s a good thing that we don’t have time to dwell on it,” Giants coach Jason McKee said.
Vancouver lost despite a 43-20 advantage in shots on goal and having five power-plays opportunities compared to Victoria’s two.
It was the first game the Giants have enjoyed more power-play time, but for the series, Victoria is 7-for-29 compared to Vancouver’s 2-for-18.
“Our effort was there. We put up 43 shots, their goalie made some key saves,” McKee said.
“I am not disappointed in our effort. Our guys gave us everything they had tonight.”
“Ultimately, I am upset right now, of course,” said Ty Ronning, who scored once and had a game-high nine shots on goals in what could be the over-age winger’s final junior home game.
“But tomorrow is a new day and we are going to be looking at is as a new game and a new start.
“We know we played hard, we know we played well, but we just didn’t get the win.”
Vancouver was all over Victoria early and led 1-0 after 20 minutes thanks to a Tyler Benson goal 7:07 into the contest.
The score could have been much worse but Outhouse kept his team in it, and was also aided by James Malm hitting the cross bar and Ty Ronning firing one off the post.
“We didn’t come out with that same speed and intensity and they were able to take advantage,” said Royals coach Dan Price.
“Vancouver took advantage of that time and space and we needed Griff (Outhouse) big time to get through that.”
“(The Giants) did a really good job of playing fast as well as being physical and aggressive.”
The score stayed that way into the second period when Dante Hannoun got his skate on a centring pass from Phillips, with the puck redirecting past David Tendeck.
The Royals had just three shots in the period but Vancouver could not capitalize despite spending eight minutes on the power play.
Victoria went ahead 2-1 18 seconds into the final frame, when Noah Gregor stole the puck behind the Giants goal and fed a wide-open Phillips for the go-ahead score.
And the Royals captain was not done, as Victoria took advantage of their first power play opportunity, gathering the puck in the neutral zone and then using his speed to cut through the defence and beat Tendeck with a fore-hand deke.
It marked the team’s third goal on just six shots.
Ronning gave the home side some life, beating Outhouse with a snap shot from the slot less than four minutes later, and Benson tied the game with just over five minutes to go, scoring from the right face-off circle through traffic.
Victoria did have a golden opportunity as Vancouver was whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty with 2:32 to go.
Davis Koch came up with a couple of nice defensive plays to thwart the Royals and for the first time, a game would go beyond 60 minutes.
And much like the majority of regulation, it was the Giants dictating play, pressuring the Royals and firing the first six shots of overtime on Outhouse, before Phillips fed Gregor and Victoria scored on their one and only shot of sudden-death overtime.
Phillips, the game’s first star, finished with a pair of goals and set up the other two scores.
Game six marked the first time the team which scored first, lost in the series.
Announced attendance was 4,344 fans.
The winner of the series will host the Tri-City Americans. And despite the Americans having more points than both the Royals and the Giants, the series will start this week in either Victoria or Langley.