EVERETT 5 - VICTORIA 3
The Victoria Royals couldn’t have been facing a more daunting challenge Saturday night to end a losing streak. In town on Blanshard were the Everett Silvertips (27-7-4), with the second-best winning percentage in the Western Hockey League behind the Winnipeg Ice, and showed it with a 5-3 victory to send the reeling Royals to their seventh consecutive defeat.
Victoria got off to another poor start, a recurring issue in the losing skid, with the Silvertips taking a 2-0 lead by 6:46 of the opening period on goals by Finnish import and Tampa Bay Lightning draft-pick Niko Huuhtanen with his 20th of the season and six-foot-three Ryan Hofer on the power play with his 17th.
“I need to step in as a coach and be tougher and clearer on how to start games,” said Royals GM and head coach Dan Price.
“We have now given up early first-period leads too many times in a row.”
Royals forward Keanu Derungs, who has twice represented Switzerland at the world junior championship, brought the hosts to within one on the power play at 4:46 of the second period.
The 21st goal of the season by 20-year-old former Kelowna Rockets forward Alex Swetlikoff restored Everett’s two-goal lead before Tanner Scott again narrowed it for Victoria at 3-2 at 13:02 of the second period.
But Huuhtanen’s second of the night proved the back breaker for Victoria on a two-player power-play advantage at 56 seconds of the third period.
The Silvertips blueline includes Ty Gibson of Victoria and second-round Anaheim Ducks draft pick Olen Zellweger, the latter who scored at 16:12 of the third period to make it 5-2 on a three-point evening before Derungs closed out scoring with his second goal of the game and 10th of the season.
Tyler Palmer made 39 saves in goal for Victoria and Braden Holt 26 for Everett.
Both power plays did well with Everett going 2-5 and Victoria 2-6. Victoria upset Everett 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 26 at the Memorial Centre but lightning would not strike twice.
The Royals (12-20-4) and Tri-City are now tied for eighth place in the race for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. Tri-City, however, holds a game in hand.
The Royals host the Kelowna Rockets (18-10-4) on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Memorial Centre, pending the Rockets’ health situation.
Kelowna’s scheduled game Friday night in Everett was rescheduled to Feb. 6 and its scheduled game Saturday in Vancouver against the Giants was postponed to a date to be announced due to COVID protocols.