So much for the preseason Western Hockey League prognositcation that the power in the Western Conference had swung from the U.S. Division to the B.C. Division.
The Victoria Royals are zero for the U.S. Division.
That’s not a good thing as the Royals head into Kennewick, Washington, to face the Tri-City Americans on Friday and Spokane Chiefs on Saturday.
Victoria fell to 0-3 against U.S. Division squads following the Everett Silvertips’ 3-2 victory Wednesday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
The Royals (2-3) squandered a solid, tight-checking effort with a costly lapse late in the third period, allowing Silvertip’s forward Michael Gut to get to the puck first behind the Victoria goal at 15:51 of the third period. Gut got the puck out to Jackson Berezowski, who squeezed it in the short side for the winning goal.
The Royals were left with the sinking feeling that they had allowed at least one point slip away in the standings. It was a better performance than Victoria’s 6-0 season-opening loss in Everett, but that seemed like small consolation.
A late penalty to Kaid Oliver didn’t help Victoria’s bid to tie it. Nor did Tarun Fizer’s fanning of clear shot at the open side in the waning seconds.
The crease play was good, especially with 20-year-old Shane Farkas making 39 saves and being named second star. Dustin Wolf, a 2019 NHL draft pick of the Calgary Flames, was there when needed in making 31 saves for Everett (4-2).
The Victoria power play, ranked 20th heading into the game, showed stirrings of life with both goals. It struck early at 2:34 of the first period through Fizer. Everett forward Bryce Kindropp, doing what 20-year-olds are supposed to do in the WHL, scored his league-leading eighth goal of the season on a two-man power-play at 18:24. Brendan Lee gave Everett the lead at 2:10 of the second period. That was answered by Victoria when Logan Doust banged home a Jacob Herauf rebound on the power play at 16:25 to tie it 2-2.
Phillip Schultz was a surprise player Wednesday for Victoria. Thought to be out for another week or two yet with injury, the two-time Danish world junior championship tournament performer made his season debut. It was also the home debut, and second game of the season, for 2018-19 Royals leading points-scorer Oliver after missing the playoffs last spring and training camp this fall.
The Royals returns, however, are mitigated by the loss of sniper Carson Miller for four-to-six weeks with a lower-body issue. It didn’t get any better for Victoria when forward Gary Haden, who scored 31 goals for Saskatoon last season, had to be helped off the ice after a hit from behind during a crease scramble with Victoria pressing for the equalizer.
Everett GM Garry Davidson, former GM and head coach in the BCHL of both the Victoria Salsa and Nanaimo Clippers, has constructed a team that has won the U.S. Division the past three seasons. And it’s a big team with 14 skaters six-foot or taller.
The Royals’ next home game is Oct. 18 when the Swift Current Broncos make their once-every-two-years trip to the Island.