VICTORIA 3 (OT)
Scott Walford recorded what had to be among the two sweetest assists of his WHL career.
Walford drew the two helpers, including on the winner by Chase Wouters at 36 seconds of overtime Tuesday in Saskatoon, as the Blades defeated the Victoria Royals 4-3. Saskatoon blueliner Walford spent his first four seasons with Victoria.
Royals forward Gary Haden, who went the other way in the Walford deal, victimized his former Blades teammates by scoring in the third period to send the game to overtime. Throw in Royals forward Riley Gannon, formerly a Blades prospect, and the teams might as well have been called the Victoria Blades and Saskatoon Royals.
“[The interconnections] added to the overall intensity of the game,” said Royals head coach Dan Price.
As well, Royals rearguard and Saskatoon native Matthew Smith picked up an assist in his return to his hometown. Another Royals product from Saskatchewan, forward Carson Miller of Yorkton, also drew an assist in front of family and friends.
Victoria (25-17-4) scored the first two goals for a second consecutive game, only to lose, echoing the same sort of plotline as in Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Winnipeg against the Ice. “There is a specific reason why that happened. Both times, it was penalties,” said Price.
A natural hat-trick for Saskatoon in the third period by Slovak and former Everett Silvertip Martin Fasko-Rudas eclipsed the 2-0 Royals lead. The last two of Fasko-Rudas’ tallies came on the power play.
“At the beginning of the season, we were losing games because of penalties. Then we turned it around, and through that good stretch, our discipline was outstanding,” said Price.
But it has slipped as the Royals’ four-game losing streak became a five-game winless slide Tuesday in Saskatoon. This after Victoria went 8-1-1 in its previous 10 games.
“[Recent lapses of discipline] are something we can deal with ourselves. So it is something we can correct,” said Price.
A second-period goal by captain Phillip Schultz and a third-period power-play tally by rookie Swiss-import Keanu Derungs, his 13th goal of the season, had given Victoria a 2-0 lead.
The inter-relationships continue as Victoria is in Prince Albert tonight to play the defending WHL champion Raiders, coached by former Royals coach and GM Marc Habscheid. The Raiders are also Royals forward and Yorkton boy Miller’s former team. It gets even eerier. The player going the other way in that trade was Victoria veteran and graduated forward Dante Hannoun, who scored the overtime winner for Prince Albert in Game 7 of last year’s WHL final against the Vancouver Giants.
“[Tonight] will be a big night for Carson Miller,” said Price.
Not to mention for Price himself. Prince Albert GM Curtis Hunt was head coach of the Regina Pats when Price scouted for the Pats. As they say, hockey is a small world.