There was only so much Victoria Royals rookie goaltender Connor Martin could do. The Royals were outshot 53-18 in a 6-3 Western Hockey League loss to the host Kamloops Blazers on Friday night.
The rebuilding Royals fell to 1-5-1 while the veteran-laden Blazers improved to 5-1 as they moved to the quarter pole of the pandemic-abbreviated 24-game WHL B.C. Division season.
Martin, who turned 18 in December, again stamped his credentials as Victoria’s goalie of the future.
“He is intelligent in reading the play. That’s why he does not have to move that much,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.
“He has a very calm style, much like Carey Price, but also a real competitive edge.”
The Royals, with 12 rookies on the roster, went further in arrears in veterans with captain Tarun Fizer and defenceman Noah Lamb scratches for the contest. Lamb has an upper-body injury with no timeline, according to Price. Fizer was hit by the puck in a freak pre-game warm-up mishap and is expected back for Sunday when the Royals play the Blazers again.
“It was a hard game, made harder by having two veterans out,” said Price.
Orrin Centazzo and Calgary Flames first-round NHL draft pick Connor Zary, on a three-point night, gave Kamloops a two-goal lead in the first period. The Royals leveled in the second period through Riley Gannon and rookie Tanner Scott’s first career WHL goal. NHL first-round Anaheim Ducks draft pick Brayden Tracey gave Victoria the lead on the power play at 48 seconds of the third period before the Blazers tied it 3-3 just over a minute later on a goal by Quinn Schmiemann. Reese Belton restored the lead for the Blazers at 3:44. Goals by Centazzo and projected 2021 second- or third-round NHL draft pick Logan Stankoven put it away.
“We had a shaky first period but I liked our pushback in the second period and early in the third,” said Price.
The Blazers gave New York Rangers goaltending prospect Dylan Garand of Langford the night off for the first time this season. Sixteen-year-old understudy Dylan Ernst had a pretty easy time in recording his first career WHL victory.
The Royals-Blazers game Sunday is in Kelowna, the other B.C. Division season hub.
Meanwhile, the WHL announced two more positive tests for COVID-19 in the B.C. Division – one for the Kelowna Rockets and one for the Vancouver Giants. That’s on top of the Rockets outbreak last week which forced a two-week suspension of team activities. The Calgary Hitmen have also suspended team activities due to a positive test of a player. The Medicine Hat Tigers were deemed a close contact after playing Calgary on Monday, so the Tigers have also suspended all team activities. The WHL said it will provide more information later.