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No super heroes to the rescue as Winterhawks dominate Royals

Two teams play again Saturday in Victoria
Royals defenceman Justin Kipke, sporting the team’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles jersey, battles for the puck with Winterhawks forward Nate Danielson during WHL action at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Friday. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Not even a first line of ­Raphael centering Donatello and Michelangelo, with Leonardo on defence, would have helped the Victoria Royals against the Portland Winterhawks on Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

The Royals played the ­Western Hockey League game in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed jerseys on ­Children’s Miracle Network Night, to be auctioned off online to support hospitals across Western Canada, including B.C. Children’s Hospital.

But the Winterhawks ­(38-14-3), ranked No. 7 in the CHL major-junior top-10 poll, played the role of arch-nemesis Super Shredder in beating the Royals 6-2 before 3,775 fans. The shots clock was a telling 40-12 in favour of Portland after the second period and 53-16 overall as the Winterhawks indeed shredded an injury-ravaged Victoria defence missing Austin Zemlak, Ryan Spizawka, Hudson Bjornson and 2024 NHL draft-ranked Nate Misskey.

Affiliate player Jerrett Ross, 16, was called up from the Calgary International Hockey Academy U-18 Prep team to help shore up the Royals blue line but that wasn’t going to be nearly enough against a Winterhawks team with the best winning percentage in the Western Conference and second best in the WHL after the Saskatoon Blades.

Portland centre Nate Danielson, a Team Canada player at the 2024 world juniors who was selected ninth overall in the first round of the 2023 NHL draft by the Detroit Red Wings, was held to an assist. The Winterhawks hardly needed him as James Stefan picked up the slack with two goals on a three-point night.

The Winterhawks defence is loaded with NHL-drafted defencemen Marek Alscher, Tyson Jugnauth, Carter Sotheran and Luca Cagnoni, and the Royals could barely make a dent in it. Victoria forward Tyson Laventure, however, managed to score his 25th goal of the season while Norwegian world junior championship tournament player Casper Haugen Evensen also scored for Victoria to earn his 15th point over his last 15 games.

Czech-import goaltender Jan Spunar, ranked for the 2024 NHL draft, needed to make only 14 saves in goal for Portland. A harried Braden Holt made 47 saves in the Victoria net.

With 10 regular-season games remaining, Victoria (27-23-8) is tied with the Wenatchee Wild for fourth place in the Western Conference. With that slot goes home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Wild, who rallied from 2-0 down to beat the Calgary Hitmen 3-2 on Friday night, have two games in hand on Victoria. The sixth-place Vancouver Giants lost 4-1 on Friday to the Kelowna Rockets and remained five points behind fourth place with two games in hand on the Royals. The seventh-place Rockets moved to within seven points of the fourth position with a game in hand on the Royals.

The Winterhawks and ­Royals meet again tonight at the ­Memorial Centre.

ICE CHIPS: Other Canadian-based WHL teams are ­wearing other ­Nickelodeon-themed jerseys, from PAW Patrol to Blue’s Clues, on ­their Children’s ­Miracle Network Nights.

The initiative raised nearly $542,000 last season, almost $90,000 of which came from the Royals-auctioned jerseys.