VICTORIA — Hostile territory. A desperate opponent. A goalie in his first junior season.
Griffen Outhouse, the Victoria Royals’ rookie goalie, has already made a habit in his young WHL career of making the most out of his first impressions. He picked up his first WHL win and shutout (a franchise first for a rookie) at the expense of the Spokane Chiefs back in October, blanking the Chiefs 3-0 in Spokane. On March 31st, Outhouse pulled a similar feat, getting a win in his first WHL playoff appearance - again, against Spokane, in Spokane, this time against a Chiefs team fighting to recover from a 2-1 series deficit.
Maybe it’s something in the Spokane air.
“I really like the rink a lot,” said Outhouse as he reflected back on his first regular season and playoff wins south of the border. “It was kind of a cool experience. The fans are pretty loud and it's just a fun rink to be in.”
With that kind of calm, cool confidence, it’s small wonder that head coach Dave Lowry tapped Outhouse to start a pivotal Game 5 which could eliminate the Chiefs from the playoffs. Outhouse, however, was quick to praise Lowry for simply giving the rookie netminder so much valuable playing time.
“A lot of people, I don't think, would've had faith in me. He gave me a chance and he gave me lots of playing time, more than I expected over the course of the season.”
Winning one playoff game is hard enough. Winning the second, and the third, and all the ones that follow can be a mammoth task. In Friday’s game, Outhouse got a taste of just how gruelling playoff hockey can be. He surrendered the first two goals of Friday night’s game in the first period before forward Jack Walker closed the gap to one with a sparkling individual effort. Spokane would add two more to their tally, including a two-on-one short-handed goal before the midway point of the third period.
That kind of reality check could easily rattle a rookie. Luckily for Outhouse, he has a fantastic support network behind him, from coach Lowry and his staff to veteran Royals goalie Coleman Vollrath. The bond between Outhouse and Vollrath in particular has been a massive boon for Outhouse as he adjusts to a higher level of hockey.
“When things are going good, he's always reminding me to keep level-headed,” says Outhouse of the 20-year-old Vollrath. “When things aren't going good, he's always there to give me a pat on the back and remind me of what I can do so I can trust in my abilities.”
For his part, Vollrath is happy to play the role of the mentor and big brother, joking that he’s the “dad” of the team — a role he learned from former Royals leaders like Jamie Crooks and Tyler Stahl.
“[Crooks and Stahl] definitely both mentored me a lot and showed me what I had to do: come to the rink every day, be professional, prepare every game the same way. I'm passing that on to guys like Griffen now.”
Outhouse is soaking up everything he can learn from his teammates and coaches. Going back to that Game 5 loss, Outhouse came away from it with another valuable lesson from Vollrath.
“That game, he said that was just a matter of bounces that weren't going our way. Before Game 6, before I went on the ice, he said just make sure you're doing what you did last game because you were good. The bounces are going to go your way.”
And they did. Outhouse returned to the net for Game 6 for another big game in Spokane and, as he’s done all season, came home with another win.
Maybe it's not just the Spokane air. Maybe it's the Victoria effect.
“I couldn't ask for better group of coaches, staff and team. It's been a really great experience for me.”