Lashing out in anger during an undisciplined moment could have the effect of prematurely ending Victoria Royals assistant captain Kody McDonald’s junior-hockey career.
McDonald has been suspended indefinitely, which is something the Western Hockey League does automatically while it reviews all match penalties for possible suspensions for a specific number of games. The league is looking over McDonald’s actions in the third period of Wednesday night’s 6-3 Blazers victory in Kamloops.
The Victoria Royals and Kamloops Blazers are playing an opening-round best-of-seven playoffs series, which is tied 2-2. Game 5 is on Saturday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
McDonald, who is 20 and in his final year of junior, was assessed an intent-to-injure match penalty and game misconduct.
McDonald wasn’t even on the ice at the time. He leaned over from the end of the Victoria bench to swing his stick at Kamloops forward Zane Franklin, who was on the end of the Blazers’ bench. McDonald was immediately ejected from the game.
“The WHL takes incidents of this nature very seriously,” said WHL commissioner Ron Robison in a statement.
“Actions of this kind are unacceptable to the WHL. The WHL director of player safety is undergoing a complete review of the incident at this time.”
Adding to the impact of that single act, the score was tied 3-3 at the time with the game hanging in the balance. Kamloops scored three unanswered goals to win it.
Franklin was assessed a concurrent two-minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct to go with McDonald’s five-minute match penalty.
The insurance goal came on the Kamloops power play during the remainder of McDonald’s match penalty after Franklin’s minor penalty had expired.
If the league suspends McDonald, the Royals would be without their top two forwards. Team-leading scorer Kaid Oliver is out with an injury, likely for the duration of the series.
The Royals are claiming extenuating circumstances as the league reviews McDonald’s situation. They say he was reacting to a comment from the Kamloops bench.
“It was very personal and very specific,” said Royals head coach Dan Price.
Price said Franklin had his head around the partition and into the air space of the Victoria bench in the moment before McDonald reacted.
“Our players are going to draw great inspiration from this, no matter what the league decides,” said Price.
The series has been physical, chippy and yappy.
“That is the Kamloops game plan,” said Price.
“But it’s been physical both ways. That’s playoff hockey.”
Kamloops forward Brodi Stuart sat out Wednesday’s contest with a one-game suspension for a hit that downed Royals defenceman Matthew Smith in Tuesday’s 3-2 Victoria win. Smith did not play Wednesday.
“These guys are not inviting each other out for Easter dinner,” said Royals GM Cam Hope, about the comment directed at McDonald during Wednesday’s game.
Hope said he couldn’t guess what the league will rule.
“The bench is considered sacrosanct,” he said
“It all depends on the circumstances.”
McDonald has three goals in the series, including the game winner Tuesday in Victoria’s 3-2 win in Game 3.