The whole idea in hockey is to be playing on sunny, warm days like Saturday but in May.
The Victoria Royals are bubbling with optimism after finishing the Western Hockey League pre-season at 4-2 after four consecutive wins, culminating in a 4-2 matinee victory yesterday over the Vancouver Giants at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Following the game, the Royals made probably their biggest move of the pre-season by dealing physical 18-year-old forward Zane Jones to the Calgary Hitmen for darting 20-year-old forward Alex Gogolev, who had 28 goals and 61 points in 73 regular-season and playoff games last season for the Alberta club.
The five-foot-11 Russian forward played three games in 2010-11 for Spartak Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League, which is Russia's top pro league.
"When you look at his stats, you know exactly why we brought him in here," Victoria head coach Dave Lowry said.
"[Gogolev] is a very dynamic player. But it's always a tough day when you have to move a player who was very well-regarded [the six-foot-two Jones, who had 15 goals and 33 points in 72 regular-season and playoff games last season for Victoria]. You have to give up quality to get quality."
Each WHL team is allowed to carry three 20-year-olds and two imports. The Royals had room on the roster for Gogolev in both categories, which are now full.
Jones, a native of Olds, Alta., is essentially returning to his hometown by going to nearby Calgary. In Jones, the Hitmen get a player who can help them next season while Gogolev is set to age out from junior after this season.
"I'm happy to be close to home, where my friends and family can watch me play, but it's bittersweet to be leaving teammates you have known for a while," Jones said.
"[Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio] said he is going to give me a good opportunity and I'm happy to get a fresh start."
Also thrown into the deal was a fourth-round bantam draft pick for Victoria and a conditional sixth-round pick for Calgary.
On the ice Saturday, returning forwards Brandon Magee and Ben Walker led Victoria with a goal and an assist each. Also scoring for Victoria were returning forwards Jamie Crooks and Logan Nelson.
"We're looking pretty good," said Minnesota native Nelson, selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres and a U.S. team prospect for the 2013 world junior championships.
"The veterans have taken the younger guys under our wings. We have confidence going into the season and are getting some chemistry going," Nelson said.
"We're upbeat and on a roll heading in," said the energetic forward, who scored the winner his third goal of the pre-season on the power play off a sharp assist from Walker.
Patrik Polivka went the distance in goal for Victoria, which was outshot 30-17. After allowing first-period Vancouver goals by Austin Vetterl and Marek Tvrdon, the Czech rookie import displayed quick reflexes to shut the gate the rest of the way.
"He's a good goalie, and we're glad to have him," Nelson said. "After a rough start today, he stayed focused."
The Royals have three goalies returnee Jared Rathjen and newcomers Polivka and Coleman Vollrath who have acquitted themselves well in the pre-season.
"It's going to be a hard decision," Royals GM Cameron Hope acknowledged. "All three are about the same age, and all have played well."
The Royals open the regular season Friday against the Giants (1-3-2 in pre-season) at the PNE Pacific Coliseum before hosting them next Saturday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
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