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Familiar echo as Chiefs beat Royals in WHL season opener

The Spokane Chiefs started the fall just where they left off last spring with victory on Blanshard Street. The Chiefs, as Royals fans will bitterly recall, denied Victoria a playoff berth in the final game of last season.
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Victoria Royals goaltender Tyler Palmer watches the tip from Spokane Chiefs Ty Chveldayoff during their WHL game at Save-on-Foods Memoria lCentre on Friday night. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The Spokane Chiefs started the fall just where they left off last spring with victory on Blanshard Street.

The Chiefs, as Royals fans will bitterly recall, denied Victoria a playoff berth in the final game of last season. Fate brought Spokane back to Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to open the 2022-23 Western Hockey League campaign. It was a new season but familiar refrain Friday as the Chiefs defeated the Royals 7-5 before 3,837 noisy fans.

There was a lot of institutional memory on both sides with Victoria returning 20 players and Spokane 17.

The first goal of the season on Blanshard came from Ty Cheveldayoff, on the power play for Spokane at 4:41 of the first period, following a questionable penalty on Victoria defenceman Austin Zemlak.

Reggie Newman opened Victoria’s account on the season by stealing the puck in the Spokane zone and going in alone to level the score at 9:43. It was Victoria’s turn to have the defensive breakdown, one of many on the night, as Kooper Gizowski polished off a two-man breakaway to put Spokane back in the lead at 10:07. Raegan Wiles made it 3-1 before the opening period concluded with Victoria outshot 13-7.

The first minute of the second period heaped even more misery on the home side’s opening night. Another mistake – Victoria defenceman Justin Kipkie fell – allowing Chase Bertholet, returned from the rookie camp of the Winnipeg Jets, to go in all alone to make it 4-1.

Carter Dereniwsky recorded the first Royals power-play goal of the fresh season to pull the hosts to within two. But any momentum was snuffed by Mac Gross restoring the three-goal Spokane margin at 11:49 as goaltender Tyler Palmer was again screened as the Victoria defenders had a hard time all night moving the Spokane players from in front of the net. Tommaso De Luca, left alone in front of the goal, made it 6-2 at 16:25. Newman’s second goal, this one on the power play, came in the third period for Victoria. The final two Royals goals were by Danish-import Marcus Almquist, the latter on the power play. Gross closed out Spokane’s scoring with his second goal of the night, this one into an empty net.

The Royals’ third-period mini-flurry allowed them to finish with a 33-29 shots advantage.

It didn’t help the Royals’ cause to be missing their two best players. Forward Brayden Schuurman was hurt last week in the NHL rookie camp of the Boston Bruins and Victoria captain Gannon Laroque, signed to an NHL entry-level contract by the San Jose Sharks, is also out with injury. Spokane is without defenceman Graham Sward and goaltender Mason Beaupit, in the respective NHL training camps of the Nashville Predators and Sharks.

The Royals and Chiefs meet again this evening at 6 p.m. at the Memorial Centre.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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