If nothing else, Saturday night’s Western Hockey League exhibition game between the Victoria Royals and Seattle Thunderbirds at the Comcast Arena in Everett, Wash., may have helped the T-Birds narrow in on their goaltending options for the regular season.
The Royals unloaded 56 shots on Devon Fordyce — who played only 17 junior games last season split between the Prince George Cougars of the WHL and Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior A League — but still lost 6-5 in a shootout to drop their second game of the pre-season following Friday’s 2-1 opening loss to the Everett Silvertips.
Coleman Vollrath, expected to again back up Patrik Polivka, went all the way for Victoria in facing 34 shots.
The Royals eased rookies Landon Welykholowa, Regan Nagy and Matthew Campese, all forwards, into the lineup Saturday while again using rookie forwards Matthew Phillips and Jared Dmytriw. The latter two, however, are 15-year-olds and are heading back to their hometowns from Everett because they can’t play this regular season.
The other Royals rookies, however, will never get a better chance than these next few weeks to state their cases. That’s because Victoria veterans Logan Nelson, Ben Walker and Keegan Kanzig will be headed to the respective NHL rookie camps of the Buffalo Sabres, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames. Victoria forward Steven Hodges will miss the Florida Panthers rookie camp because he is about to undergo minor surgery. Another Royals player, yet to be named, is also expected to be invited to an NHL camp.
“We have some great young prospects, and with some of our veterans away, these rookies are going to get some opportunities,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry. “It’s up to them how long they are going to stay.”
Victoria got regulation-time goals Saturday from Nelson, Phillips and veterans Austin Carroll, Luke Harrison and Trent Lofthouse.
Mathew Barzal, the touted 16-year-old, showed why he was taken No. 1 overall in the 2012 bantam draft by tying the game for Seattle with a power-play goal at 17:28 of the third period to send it to a fruitless overtime before the Thunderbirds won it 2-1 in the fourth round of the shootout.
The Royals continue their exhibition series this afternoon against the Tri-City Americans, also in Everett.
Victoria’s pre-season concludes Sept. 14 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre against the Vancouver Giants and with a game the following day against the Giants in Ladner.
The Royals regular season begins Sept. 20 at PNE Pacific Coliseum against the host Giants, with the home opener the next night, also against Vancouver, at the Memorial Centre.
ICE CHIPS: Twenty-year-old Kamloops Blazers product JC Lipon has signed a two-way entry-level deal with the Winnipeg Jets.