GAME DAY: VICTORIA VS. SEATTLE
7 p.m. at the ShoWare Center
Radio: The Zone 91.3 FM / TV: None
With just three games remaining before the Christmas break, there is little chance that the Victoria Royals will be losing focus this week.
Head coach Dave Lowry isn't about to allow it.
There's nothing the old-school bench boss would love more for an early seasonal gift than two points packaged under his standings tree, especially from a conference opponent as the Royals are in Seattle tonight at 7 against the Thunderbirds.
Victoria will then trek on to Alberta for stops in Red Deer and Edmonton on Friday and Saturday, respectively, to wrap up the pre-holiday season.
"If you look at our opponents it should be pretty damn easy to remain focused," Lowry said prior to departing B.C. after Monday's practice. "Seattle is a team that is right there with us in the standings.
It'll be the first time we've seen them and it is, to this point, our biggest game of the year."
The Royals are 16-13-0-1 for 33 points in the Western Conference, while the T-Birds are 16-14-1-0, also for 33 points, with one more game played.
"Moving forward, Red Deer has won nine of its last 10 games and they have points in all 10," added Lowry. "Edmonton is the defending league champion and, from that stand point, it should be real easy to keep us motivated."
Not to get that far ahead of themselves, he insisted.
"Our mindset is we have to approach it as this being a one-game trip and that's going to Seattle," Lowry stressed. "We have to make sure we are focused and dialed in as to how we have to play."
Much like fans witnessed in Saturday's 2-1 win over Swift Current.
"We've got some big games here," said defenceman Keegan Kanzig. "Seattle is right with us, so they don't get much bigger. We have to take points like these out of the conference when we can.
"We need these points, especially with teams so close. We have to focus in and make sure we're playing at our best."
Kanzig is one of seven Alberta players looking forward to the remainder of the trip, but Lowry - who played four of his 19 NHL seasons in Calgary and coached with both the Flames and the Hitmen for seven years - has obviously given his pre-Christmas pep talk.
"It starts off, first, in Seattle," insisted Jamie Crooks, a native of Vermilion, Alta. "They're tied with us and it's definitely going to be a big game. We need to come out strong and have a good start.
"They're right there with us, so it's obviously important to get this one and make sure we try and separate ourselves from them."
And make the rest of the trip, and then the Christmas season, that much more enjoyable.
"I just want to see our guys compete," said Lowry. "We never really have issues with the work. We want to make sure we're working smart and not shooting ourselves in the foot.
"When we're a smart team and we're a working team, we're usually tough to play against and these games, at this time of the year, are huge.
"They're points that when you look back on - when the stretch drive is in full swing - that they're points you haven't given up on."
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