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Royals, Blazers heading in opposite directions

It will be another study in contrasts tonight and Saturday in the Western Hockey League for the reeling Victoria Royals.
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It will be another study in contrasts tonight and Saturday in the Western Hockey League for the reeling Victoria Royals.

The host Kamloops Blazers (25-11-1) are riding a three-game winning streak into the ­weekend set at the Sandman Centre and are ranked No. 10 in the ­Canadian Hockey League top-10 poll, which has the WHL holding down the top-three spots with the Winnipeg Ice, Edmonton Oil Kings and Everett Silvertips. Throw in the Portland Winterhawks at No. 7.

The Royals (12-21-5) are a long way from that level and have yet to taste victory in 2022 and are carrying a nine-game winless skid into the Interior.

Victoria is 0-5-1 against the Blazers this season.

The Royals will have to figure out Dylan Garand, the Langford product and New York Rangers-signed prospect, who was named WHL goaltender of the week for recording a 1.50 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in a pair of ­victories to the week ending Jan. 23. The Islander was at it again Wednesday night, being named game first star as the Blazers edged the Vancouver Giants 2-1. Garand leads the WHL with a 2.00 goals-against average and the two-time Team Canada world junior player is also tops among WHL goaltenders with 20 wins this season.

“We have to take away his sightlines and obstruct his vision with screens,” said Royal coach Dan Price.

These will be Victoria’s ninth and 10th games in 16 days. Head coach Dan Price said his players will need to fight through the fatigue again and said he was proud of them for finding that extra gear Wednesday night at home to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the third period against the Kelowna Rockets before bowing 4-3 on a late goal.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com