The Warriors brought their Moose Jaw weather with them Tuesday to the Island. They also brought a pretty good Western Hockey League club, led by Columbus Blue Jackets first-round draft pick Denton Mateychuk, Seattle Kraken second-round selection Jagger Firkus and New York Rangers third-round pick Ryder Korczak. Oh, and Brayden Yager is ranked for the first round of the 2023 NHL draft.
The Warriors (16-9) moved to 3-1 on their B.C. Division swing, their first since pre-pandemic in January of 2019, with an 8-3 victory over the Victoria Royals. The reeling Royals fell to 3-18-3 in losing all six games of their homestand and eight of their last nine overall.
The sparse crowd of 2,093 on Tuesday was in stark contrast to the sellout 7,006 fans on Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. News flash, they weren’t there to watch the Royals, who were blasted 9-5, as the big draw was consensus top 2023 NHL draft pick Connor Bedard. Even discounting the prodigy Bedard’s hat-trick, Victoria was still outscored by an otherwise decidedly average Regina team. Perhaps predictably, the Royals’ woes did not cease Tuesday against a far better Moose Jaw side.
Yager scored his 14th goal of the season, Firkus his 15th and Korczak his third. The classy blue-liner Mateychuck added a goal and four assists. Atley Calvert scored twice for the winners. Canada U-18 player Brayden Schuurman scored his third goal in two games for Victoria, and fourth in six games on the season, in a campaign hampered by an injury sustained in Boston Bruins rookie camp. The other Royals goals came from Riley Gannon short-handed and Alex Thacker.
“It’s tough losing six [consecutive] at home but we have to take every positive we can moving forward,” said Schuurman.
“Everyone in our group wants to win so badly. But it’s not how you play in November but how you play in the second half of the season.”
Victoria has allowed 17 goals in two games.
“We have to lockdown better in defence,” said Schuurman.
With goaltender Tyler Palmer away without explanation amid speculation he has asked for a trade — the Royals have listed it vaguely as a “personal leave” — the team traded Monday for goalie Nicholas Cristiano from the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2023 WHL prospects draft. The six-foot-one Cristiano, 18, was given the start and faced a 42-shot Warriors barrage in his fifth career WHL game. He began the season on loan with the West Kelowna Warriors of the B.C. Hockey League with a 4.42 goals-against average.
Connor Ungar made 21 saves in goal for Moose Jaw. That’s not to be confused with Jackson Unger, ranked for the fourth-through-sixth rounds of the 2023 NHL draft, who shares the Warriors crease with Ungar.
The Royals dip below the border for games Friday in Portland against the Winterhawks and Saturday in Seattle against the Thunderbirds.
ICE CHIPS: The Royals will be missing import forward Marcus Almquist from now through most of December. He left Monday to represent Denmark in the IIHF world Div. 1 junior championship Dec. 11-17 in Asker, Norway, which is the level below the IIHF top-tier world junior tournament beginning Boxing Day in Halifax and Moncton.