It was Brandon Glover’s homecoming but Patrik Polivka’s victory at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
The last time goaltender Glover wore a jersey in Victoria for a team called the Thunderbirds, it was for the South Island Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget League. He returned to his hometown Tuesday night as a T-Bird once again but was unable to hold the Victoria Royals at bay in a Western Hockey League game.
Victoria starter Polivka turned in a sharp 26-save performance to lead the Royals (29-19-4) to a 4-1 victory over Glover and the Seattle Thunderbirds (19-30-5) before an announced 3,907 fans to move Victoria into a fifth-place tie with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Conference tables.
The Thunderbirds have received good mileage out of 20-year-old overage creaseman Glover as the six-foot-five Peninsula Minor Hockey product, who played the last two seasons for the Calgary Hitmen, has appeared in a workhorse 46 games this season for Seattle and is 18-22-5 following last night’s 21-save losing performance.
Glover doesn’t have the cast in front of him that Polivka is afforded with the Royals. But that said, the Royals pretty much muddled to victory Tuesday with a less than brilliant outing.
“We didn’t play our hockey,” said Polivka, as to why he was relied upon so much.
“We need to be better. But I thought our defence did a good job in our own zone and I was happy about that.”
Victoria’s Jamie Crooks beat Glover right off a face-off taken in the left circle to open scoring at 12:19 of the first period. Alex Gogolev, off a masterful assist from Brandon Magee, made it 2-0 at 19:15. That stood as the winner.
Defenceman Shea Theodore brought Seattle to within one on the power play at 1:46 of the second period. Victoria went ahead 3-1 at 12:41 of the second when Glover was unlucky on a Seattle own goal awarded to Steven Hodges.
It’s good to get one of those every now and then, said Hodges.
“I got it on net and the rebound went out and their guy’s stick tipped it in.”
Rookie defenceman Joe Hicketts sealed the deal with an empty-net goal late in the third period.
“We mucked our way through this as a group,” said Hodges.
“We need to be more disciplined and stronger in the neutral zone.”
But the Royals will take the two points even while negating style points.
“Seattle played solid right to the end but we found a way to win a game,” said Victoria head coach Dave Lowry.
In what may be bad news for the Royals, leading-scorer Gogolev was helped off the ice in the third period with his left skate off and leaving a trail of blood from his foot. The club did not have information about the extent of the cut immediately following the game.
The cross-border hockey rivalry between the Garden City and Emerald City goes back to the 1950s and 1960s, when Guyle Fielder and the Seattle Bombers-Americans-Totems used to come onto Blanshard Street to play the Victoria Cougars and Maple Leafs of the old professional WHL.
It continues tonight at 7 when the Royals host the Thunderbirds again to conclude their two-game set.
“We know [the Thunderbirds] are going to come out hard against us,” said Polivka.
The Royals then embark on a pivotal six-game road trip beginning Friday in Tri City against the Americans and Sunday in Spokane against the Chiefs. The trek continues through Cranbrook against the Kootenay Ice next Wednesday before concluding in Alberta against Red Deer, Calgary and Edmonton.
The next home date isn’t until Feb. 22 against Kelowna.
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