When head coach Dave Lowry called Tyler Stahl’s number during the shootout Wednesday night, the Victoria Royals captain and defensive-minded rearguard thought the coach was joking.
Perhaps it was only fitting on a team missing six regular forwards that it would come down to a defenceman as Stahl ripped home a slapshot in the eighth round of the shootout to give the Royals an unlikely 3-2 Western Hockey League victory over the Kamloops Blazers before 4,811 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
“I’m not a finesse guy, so I thought I would put my strength into the shot,” said Stahl.
The Royals had 126 points watching the game from the press box with injured forwards Jamie Crooks, Tim Traber, Ben Walker, Mitch Deacon, Logan Nelson and Luke Harrison all scratches.
“We showed what we can do when we put our noses to the grindstone,” said Victoria forward Steven Hodges, whose two goals in regulation and one in shootout paced the victory.
“This was a big opportunity for the younger guys to come through and show Dave [Lowry] what they can do.”
And they did.
The game lacked much of the physical bombasity of Tuesday’s 6-4 Royals victory over the Kamloops. The Blazers don’t usually play that way and reverted more to style Wednesday while the Royals could ill afford to lose any more players.
Adding to the Royals’ wariness, not to mention exhaustion level, is the fact they are in a string of seven games in 11 days, which concludes Friday in Vancouver against the Giants and Saturday in Kamloops.
Brandon Magee’s two assists were key on the night.
“I’ve been playing with Steven for some time now and we have chemistry,” said Victoria energy forward Magee, who assisted on both Hodges goals.
“But it was our young guys stepping up tonight that made this possible. Everyone stepped up, from [goalie Patrik Polivka] on out.”
The Blazers dropped to (29-13-5), while Victoria moved to (23-17-3) as Victoria won for only the fourth time in 18 meetings against the Blazers over two seasons, including playoffs.
“We know we can beat these guys [Blazers],” said Stahl.
Hodges, a third round 2012 draft pick of the Florida Panthers, opened the scoring at 12:40 of the first period after being set up by some diligent work behind the net by Magee.
Kamloops tied it through captain Dylan Willick’s shot from the face-off circle at 52 seconds of the second period. Cole Ully pulled the Blazers ahead at 14:12 of the second.
The Hodges-Magee combo was at it again to tie the game 2-2 at 1:24 of the third period on the power play as Hodges banged in a Magee rebound for his fourth goal in two nights against the Blazers.
Kamloops’ final chance in the shootout came from defenceman Sam Grist of North Saanich, who like Stahl is a stay-at-home rearguard. Instead of going for the power shot, Grist made a gutsy finesse move that just missed with the puck sliding past the post.
Polivka had a fine night with 31 saves. Taran Kozun, making an appearance ahead of normal Kamloops starter Cole Cheveldave, made 26 saves for the Blazers.
ICE CHIPS: The Royals called up affiliated forwards Michael Bell and Regan Nagy.
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