Goaltender Ty Rimmer continued his quest for the Western Hockey League awards season.
Rimmer has already surpassed the 24-year-old previous Lethbridge Hurricanes franchise record for most saves in a season. He added 44 more to the total Wednesday night in a Herculean performance before 4,231 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to lead the ’Canes to a 5-4 victory over the reeling Victoria Royals, who lost their fifth consecutive game in extending their winless streak to seven games at 0-6-1.
Rimmer, the undrafted overage 20-year-old who has been indefatigable in making 56 starts and 58 appearances in 63 Lethbridge games this season, was the critical factor as Lethbridge snapped its own winless streak at six games.
Rimmer was aided by two Victoria close calls in the waning seconds, including a shot off the post by forward Logan Nelson.
“[Rimmer] was the difference,” said Nelson, who scored twice in the game.
“When you put up 48 shots, you expect to win the game.”
The other goals for the Royals (32-25-5) came from Jamie Crooks and defenceman Jordan Fransoo.
“We had a ton of quality chances,” said Fransoo.
“Any other night, any other goalie, and we would have had six goals.
[Rimmer] showed why he is one of the top goalies in the league.”
It wasn’t exactly an auspicious start for the Royals. They gave up three goals in the first seven minutes and 11 seconds to a Lethbridge team (26-28-9) that was shutout back-to-back in its previous two games.
That was it for Victoria starting goalkeeper Patrik Polivka, pulled for the second consecutive game after allowing three goals in the first period and replaced by back-up Coleman Vollrath.
It was the breakout game from Nelson that the Royals had been hoping for and desperately needed as the Buffalo Sabres prospect finds his legs after recently returning from a lengthy injury. The native of Minnesota scored twice in a row in the first period, the second on a two-man power play, to bring Victoria to within one at 3-2.
Fransoo got Victoria level on the odd-man at 9:32 of the second period. But then Lethbridge defenceman Adam Henry squeezed a soft goal from a bad angle through the pads of Vollrath to take away some of the momentum Victoria had accumulated and allowed the Canes to head into the second break leading 4-3.
Then another against-the-flow Lethbridge goal, short-handed by Jamal Watson on a smart pass from Russell Maxwell at 7:19 of the third period, further stemmed Victoria’s attempted surge. It was the second goal of the game for the six-foot, 18-year-old Watson.
There was a serious-looking injury in the second period as Victoria forward Logan Fisher lay motionless and face-down on the ice after being ridden into the boards by Lethbridge captain Graham Hood.
Fisher slightly moved his left arm before being stabilized, strapped-in and rolled off the ice on a stretcher. There was no penalty called on the play. Fisher’s condition was not immediately known after the game.
“We are evaluating [Fisher] as we speak,” said Victoria head coach Dave Lowry.
Victoria was hoping to finally tie the franchise record for 33 wins in a season, set in 2010-11 when the team was located in Chilliwack and known as the Bruins. Reaching that benchmark has been delayed by a winless stretch in which Victoria has allowed 35 goals in seven games.
Victoria, sixth in the Western Conference, fell seven points behind fifth-place Spokane.
The Royals open a two-game set against Spokane on Friday at the Memorial Centre.
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