The Victoria Royals turned in a good performance Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
The problem is Brenden Kichton turned in a better one.
Kichton’s three assists — including on Mike Aviani’s overtime winner at 3:38 — paced the Spokane Chiefs to a 4-3 Western Hockey League victory over the Royals before 4,929 fans.
Those assists pushed Kichton’s defenceman league-leading points total to 75, which is 16 points clear of the next-leading blueliner and an astounding 27 points clear of the third-leading.
“[Kichton] is an overager [20-year-old] and a great team player,” said Victoria forward Logan Nelson, who led the Royals with two goals on his second double-goal game in a row.
“Spokane is lucky to have him. It’s why players like that go to the NHL.”
The Royals (32-25-6) have lost eight consecutive games in a 0-6-2 skid.
“We put forth a good effort tonight,” said Nelson.
“Eventually, the puck will drop right for us.”
Fifth-place Spokane (38-24-2) won for the fourth consecutive game in moving eight points ahead of sixth-place Victoria in the Western Conference standings, although the Royals retain a game in hand.
Spokane got on the board 3:30 into the game Friday, on the power play with Mitch Holmberg’s 36th goal of the season. Power-play goals by Nelson and Brandon Magee, the first of those on a two-man advantage, staked the Royals to a 2-1 lead in a first-period dominated by special teams.
Magee’s goal was the first in nine games for the forward, whom the the Royals need to provide a jolt if they are to be performing optimally. He’s had numerous opportunities during his dry patch, but his finishing had been askew.
“It was good to get the monkey off my back, for sure,” said Magee.
“We worked hard all night. There were a few bad bounces and that was the game. We need the same effort [tonight, when the Royals and Chiefs close out their two-game set.]”
The special teams theme continued in the second period when Spokane forward Carter Proft, the most penalized player in the league, was an unlikely candidate to score on a two-man advantage to tie the game 2-2.
The first even-strength goal off the game was by Blake Gal, who somehow managed to squeeze the puck into the short side at 6:12 of the third period to give Spokane the 3-2 advantage. Nelson’s second of the night levelled it 3-3 at 13:24.
“We did a lot of good things tonight,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry.
“We were solid, productive and played our hearts out.”
Three of the four Spokane goals were the result of point shots by the captain Kichton, a fifth-round draft steal of the New York Islanders.
“[Kichton] plays about as much as a goalie,” quipped Lowry. “He is certainly a highly valuable player.”
ICE CHIPS: Called up for the game were 15-year-old forward Tyler Soy, the Royals’ first pick in the 2012 bantam draft, and 18-year-old, six-foot-five defenceman Isaac Schacher, a Victoria-signed player whose Kimberley Dynamiters were eliminated in the Kootenay Junior League playoffs . . . Chiefs forward and Nanaimo-native Adam Smith is a product of the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL.
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