Perhaps the only point of optimism for Calgary fans on Friday night was the fact that Calgary Flames prospect, Matthew Philips, earned a hat trick in Victoria’s 7-2 routing of the Calgary Hitmen. Phillips, the WHL’s second highest goal-scorer, put on a show for his home-town crowd, earning 4 points on the night and finishing with a +5 rating. The 18-year-old Calgary native leads his team in scoring, coming off of a ‘rookie of the year’ performance last season. Bobylev opened the scoring at 2:51 in the first period before Phillips followed up with his first of the night and 33rd of the season. Phillips registered the Insurance Goal of the Game 29 seconds into the second period capping off Victoria’s four straight tallies against a tired-looking Hitmen defense. Hitmen forward Beck Malenstyn’s goal did nothing to stave off the pushing Royals who chased Kyle Dumba from the net, adding two more goals before the period ended. Phillips scored his third of the night at 16:51 of the third period, capping off the Royals’ 7-2 win. The 18 year-old earned first star of the night, and earned a cheer from the hometown fans, despite absolutely undressing the home team on each goal.
Both teams have been struggling all season as both sit fourth in their respective divisions. Despite this, the Royals have 16 more points than the Hitmen and have gone 7-3 in their last 10. The Hitmen have gone 3-4-2-1 in their last 10, with 3 of their 4 losses coming on home ice. Experts are calling this season a rebuild for the Hitmen, which stems from the lack of senior players playing this season. The team has 10 players born between 1999 and 2000, putting them under 18 for the majority of the WHL season. This is a plus for Hitmen fans looking toward the future. The Hitmen top scorers are all under 20 years old and fans can only hope that they will continue to excel in the league in the next few seasons.
This is unlikely the last time that Calgary fans will see Phillips on Saddledome ice. The Calgary Flames took Phillips 166th overall in last year’s draft and with the performance he’s been having in the WHL, fans are hoping it won’t be too long before Phillips will join the C of Red officially. At 5’7, 141 pounds, an NHL debut seems somewhat far away as the average NHL forward is 6’1. However, the Flames haven’t frowned on height lately. Johnny Gaudreau, who is only 5’9, is tied for second most points on the team. The similarities between Phillips and Gaudreau don’t end there. Phillips’ play resembles Johny Gaudreau’s with slick hands and quick feet. Gaudreau was also drafted late, going 104th overall in the 2011 Entry Draft. The Flames could get lucky with both forwards playing together at some point in their careers. Still, the 18-year-old has plenty of time left in his WHL career and the Royals will be in no hurry to give him away to the NHL anytime soon.
The Royals continue their road trip to Red Deer on Saturday Night, while the Hitmen will travel to Lethbridge to take on the Hurricanes.