Victoria Royals’ forward Noah Gregor does his best to block Spokane defenceman Tyson Helgesen from getting the puck during Western Hockey League action at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on Tuesday night. Gregor scored his 28th goal and the Royals snapped a 3-3 tie in the third to win 7-3. The teams play here again Wednesday night. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Royals shrug off pesky Chiefs in third period to win WHL matchup

Playoff race in Western Conference tightening up, Kelowna slumping

A big third period carried Victoria to a 7-3 win Tuesday over the Spokane Chiefs in what may have been the first glimpse for fans of the Royals’ first-round Western Hockey League playoff matchup.

After Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto scored to make it 3-3 at the 4:22 mark of the third, the locals reeled off four unanswered goals to send a tough and talented Chiefs team to the showers with a disappointing result.

Defenceman Scott Walford converted a pass from Jeff de Wit for what proved to be the winning goal, just 24 seconds after Spokane tied the game. From there, Matthew Phillips on the power play, Tanner Kaspick into an empty net and de Wit all added to the victory margin.

The win pulled the Royals (37-24-4-2) within a point of Spokane (38-22-3-2) for fourth spot in the Western Conference. It also left them just two points back of B.C. Division-leading Kelowna (38-22-4-2), losers of their past four games but hanging on to third in the conference.

With five games left, including another against Spokane on Wednesday night (March 7, 7:05 p.m.), the Royals have a chance to gain home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. They host the golf course-bound Prince George Cougars for a pair of games this Friday and Sunday, then play a home-and-home against conference-leading Everett next week.

Victoria led Spokane 2-0 by the 6:54 mark of the first on goals from Braydon Buziak and Dante Hannoun, but watched the Chiefs ring two shots off the post in the period.

Griffen Outhouse was kept busy in the Royals net, stopping 28 of 31 shots overall, while at the other end Dawson Weatherill made 16 saves. The locals managed just 12 shots in the first two periods but made them count, taking a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.

Noah Gregor also scored for the Royals while Hudson Elynuik and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, with his 36th of the season, tallied the other Spokane goals.

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