The Seattle Thunderbirds probably left it later than any other hockey team in North America in hosting its Teddy Bear Toss night on Saturday before 6,206 fans at Accesso ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington.
But better late than never, as the Thunderbirds also displayed on the ice, in scoring the final three goals in the third period to steal a 6-4 victory over the Victoria Royals. Two of those last three Seattle goals were scored shorthanded to really rub it in.
Nothing encapsulates the Victoria Royals season to date better than the past eight games, in which the Western Hockey League club has followed four wins with four losses.
Consistency is clearly not this team’s strong point.
There will again be references to how hard the Royals worked. But moral victories do not equate to actual ones.
Royals head coach Dan Price, however, said it’s as much about other things than the timing of results in the win-loss column.
“We’ve deserved more than zero points over the last four games considering the way we have played,” said Price.
“Every season ebbs and flows and there were maybe a few games earlier that we didn’t deserve to win.”
Maybe there is something to the tidal shifts narrative. Probably no team in the WHL has gone through more upheaval this month than the Thunderbirds. They unloaded six players at the draft deadline with an eye to the future and then lost promising Dillon Hamaliuk for the season due to injury just at the point he was being touted as this year’s potential steal of the NHL draft.
But the Thunderbirds (16-21-5) have gone undefeated in five games since many observers left them out as roadkill by the side of the I-5.
“It was a real war out there tonight,” said Price. “It was extremely competitive and really physical with a lot of drama. It really felt like a playoff game.”
That latter point is now not insignificant because the Royals (22-19-1) seem playoff bound, if only because the Kelowna Rockets, Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars have been even more uneven that Victoria in the B.C. Division.
Import forward Igor Martynov from Belarus and defenceman Mitchell Prowse each had a goal and assist each Saturday in Kent for Victoria. Rookie Royals goaltender Brock Gould made 29 saves for Victoria and Cole Schwebius 18 for Seattle.
The Royals head up I-5 today to play in Everett against the Western Conference-leading Silvertips.
The Royals return home for a game against the CHL top-ranked Prince Albert Raiders — featuring former Victoria GM and head coach Marc Habscheid and former Royals forwards Dante Hannoun and Noah Gregor.