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Dawson Pasternak leads Victoria Royals past Rockets

The Victoria Royals took a 3-0 lead en route to a 3-2 WHL victory over the Kelowna Rockets on Friday.
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Victoria Royals’ goaltender Braden Holt and Ryan Spizawka fight for the rebound with Kelowna Rockets’ Gabriel Szturc. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

VICTORIA 3 - KELOWNA 2

Utility players are better known in baseball but Dawson Pasternak fits the bill in hockey for the Victoria Royals. The forward has recently been forced to play defence because of the Royals’ dire injury situation on the blueline. Placed back on the forward corps Friday night, Pasternak responded with two goals and an assist before 2,415 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre to give the Royals a 3-0 lead en route to a 3-2 WHL victory over the Kelowna Rockets.

“This is a great opportunity for guys to step up and play roles they are not used to. Some of the younger guys can prove themselves and take advantage of this situation,” Pasternak said heading into the game.

“It starts with competing and working as hard as you can.”

Star rookie Cole Reschy drew back into the line-up Friday, as did 20-year-old forward Tyson Laventure the game before, from the injury parade but it remained acute with two-time Czech world junior medallist forward Robin Sapousek and cornerstone defencemen Nate Misskey, ranked for this year’s NHL draft, and Austin Zemlak still out along with their fellow-blueliner Hudson Bjornson.

The returnee impacts were felt Friday with Laventure having a goal and two assists and Reschny two assists.

Tij Iginla, the son of Calgary Flames legend Jarome Iginla and the 11th-ranked North American skater for the 2024 NHL draft, scored for Kelowna to cut the Victoria lead to 3-1. But Victoria goaltender and game third-star Braden Holt stymied Iginla on two later prime chances. The Rockets made it a one-goal game late through Caden Price with their goaltender pulled.

The Royals (26-21-8) are 3-7-4 in their last 14 games and 1-5-1 in their last seven and moved back into a fourth-place tie in the Western Confence with the Wenatchee Wild. It is hardly academic as fourth place means home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

“Obviously, this time of year, every game is important,” said Royals forward Tanner Scott.

“With only [13] games left, each one is important, especially these ones against a team [Kelowna fell nine points behind Victoria] that is trying to catch us. Plus they are a rival. This is a really important weekend and we have to bring it.

“These are the most important points of the year. We’re in a good spot right now but we can’t let anyone in and give them any ground. That’s why these games are tougher.”

The Royals and Rockets meet again tonight at the Memorial Centre to conclude their eight-game season set. The Royals lead it 5-2.

In an attempt to staunch their recent downward trend, Royals head coach James Patrick this week conducted the most in-depth video session of the season with his young charges.

Movie night proved beneficial.

“The video session was long and we learned a lot in it,” Scott said about the Thursday session.

Patrick said it wasn’t to be punitive: “It wasn’t to say we were bad [in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Giants], it was to show this is why certain things happen on the ice.”

It is clear from Friday’s effort that the Royals watched, listened and learned.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com