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Victoria Royals Ready for All-Out Battle for WHL Throne

By Ryan McCracken on February 24, 2017

Griffen Outhouse has been an absolute powerhouse for the Victoria Royals this year and will be heavily relied upon in the postseason. (Jonathon Howe Photo)

When Loch Morrison was shipped from his hometown Prince Albert Raiders to the Victoria Raiders at the WHL trade deadline, he knew it meant one thing for sure — a lot of ferries.

The Royals boast one of the most unique travel schedules in the league with every road game requiring a trip to the mainland on a ferry, but what seemed like another daunting step in the WHL’s already gruelling transportation demands ended up being the perfect way to join the team’s ranks.

“It’s pretty different that way. I thought it was going to be worse than it actually is,” said Morrison. “With the guys on the ferry, they keep you company and you get to bond and stuff, it’s pretty good that way.”

The Royals picked up Morrison and a fourth round draft pick from the Raiders in exchange for Brayden Pachal and a sixth rounder on the eve of the trade deadline. While it took Morrison away from his hometown and onto the third team of his career, it was a golden opportunity to climb out of the basement and onto a playoff contending roster.

“It’s a great organization. You get treated really well here, the coaches are great and the guys are really something,” said Morrison, who put up three assists in his first 18 games with the Royals, adding he believes the team has what it takes for a deep playoff run. “We’ve got to realize what we’re capable of doing. That’s going to come. We’re a good team.”

While the team has seen some ups and downs since the calendar turned to 2017, they boast some serious playoff potential with one of the league’s finest young goaltenders, Griffen Outhouse.

The draft eligible netminder is top five in goals against average, save percentage, wins and shutouts despite being one of the most heavily relied upon young men in the league. Outhouse suited up for 54 of his team’s first 58 matchups, stringing together a 30-20-3-1 record with a staggering .921 save percentage.

“It definitely just comes down to preparation. That means before games, after games. I have cool downs after games and even practices,” said Outhouse, adding the meticulous planning even consumes his time at home. “When I’m eating, I’m watching how much fluids I’m getting into me. It’s all stuff I have to pay attention to and keep working on.”

Outhouse added he’s had some strong leaders in front of him, with former starting goaltender Coleman Vollrath making a big impact on his standout performance this season and head coach Dave Lowry always pushing him to be at his best. 

“Dave’s a really good coach and he expects a lot out of his goalies,” said Outhouse. “He’s leaning on me this season, and he leaned on Coleman last season, but we’ve had good goalies come out of here. [Lowry] knows what he doing.”

Up front, the Royals have been helped tremendously by the scoring touch of Matthew Phillips. The 18-year-old Calgary native recently surpassed last season’s goal tally of 37 by cracking the 40-goal plateau — keeping him very much in the race for the title of leading goal-scorer this season — while tallying 30 assists in the process. Phillips isn’t the only Royal drumming up some offensive noise this season though, as the team boasts eight players with 10 or more goals, four with 50 or more points and three averaging a point-per-game or better — Phillips, Tyler Soy and Jack Walker.

But Victoria’s strength shines through on defence. The Royals allowed just 173 goals through their first 60 contests this season — good enough for fifth in the WHL, despite being the league’s fourth-largest producer of penalty minutes. 

Additions like Morrison have helped to complete the defensive picture in Victoria, and Outhouse says he couldn’t be much happier with the unit of blueliners set out in front of him, adding they play very well as a group of six.

“They do a good job of talking to me and I think I’m pretty loud in their ears too,” said Outhouse. “They’re letting me see pucks, they’re blocking shots for me and just talking to me when I’m playing the puck so they’re definitely making my job easy.”

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By Ryan McCracken| February 24, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior
Keywords:  Victoria RoyalsWHL

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