The Victoria Royals made certain that their breakthrough in the Western Hockey League playoffs would be memorable.
Austin Carroll and Logan Nelson teamed up for third-period goals Thursday night as the Royals captured their first postseason series in franchise history with a 4-2 win at the Arena that capped a 4-0 sweep.
“The monkey’s finally off the back,” said Royals overage player Jordan Fransoo, who scored the team’s first goal and assisted on the second.
Victoria advanced to the second round despite being outshot 34-21, including 16-5 in the deciding third period. The Royals, as the Western Conference’s third seed, will most likely play No. 2 Portland, the defending league champion. Victoria was 3-1 against Portland during the regular season.
The Chiefs were outscored 16-7 in the series but were competitive in every game except Wednesday’s Game 3, a 6-1 Royals blowout.
“It’s sad the year’s over, but I’m proud of the guys,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We could have rolled over and said, ‘Here’s the fourth win,’ but we fought to the end.”
Spokane has lost eight consecutive playoff games since a 3-1 win over Tri-City on March 30, 2013.
The Chiefs gave the fans hope early in the third period when Connor Chartier scored to tie the game at 2. Spokane held a 9-2 advantage in shots through 8 minutes of the third.
But the Royals got the winner on a 2-on-1 play in which Ryan Gagnon made a perfect pass to Carroll alone on the left side at 10:06.
Carroll assisted on the insurance goal, at 15:41, when Nelson waited a beat and deked goalie Eric Williams, who made 17 saves in his final game with the Chiefs. Williams’ Royals counterpart, Patrik Polivka, completed his outstanding series with 32 saves.
WHL scoring champion Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani also played their final games with Spokane. The two, who combined for 100 goals and 199 points during the regular season, were held to a combined three assists in the playoffs.
“They say good players find holes and I didn’t find them this series,” said Holmberg, who had one assist in the four games. “It’s going to haunt me for a while, that’s for sure.”
“We obviously knew some of their key players and who we had to key on,” said Fransoo, who was traded from Brandon two years ago.
“I think if we look back on this series, maybe it was like our year,” Nachbaur said. “We needed our best players to be our best players and if you look at the points, there are some guys who are noticeable who aren’t at the top of the list.”
The bright spot for Spokane was 16-year-old defenseman Tyson Helgesen, who scored his first goal as a Chief with 58 seconds left in the first period for a brief 1-all tie. Helgesen also assisted on Chartier’s goal.
Spokane’s series leaders were Jason Fram with three points and Liam Stewart with two goals. Carroll, Nelson and Ben Walker had three goals apiece for the Royals, and Brandon Magee had six assists and seven points.
“We made some mistakes and that’s hockey,” Nachbaur said. “We got beat by a pretty good team. They were the better team in the series and they deserved to win.”