KAMLOOPS 5 VICTORIA 3
As eager as the Victoria Royals' coaching staff was to see their prospects in pre-season action, you could double that anticipation for the players themselves.
"It's nice to get camp over with and to get into some real games," Ben Walker said before suiting up in Friday night's 5-3 exhibition loss to the Kamloops Blazers in Maple Ridge.
Clay Spencer had a pair of goals for the Royals in the losing cause, while Kolton Dixon had the other. Starting goaltender Jared Rathjen allowed three goals on 23 shots for Victoria and Michael Herringer stopped 15 of 16 in a backup role (the Blazers also had an empty-net goal).
"I'm really looking forward to get this going. It'll be great to get back on the ice with the boys and start playing up again," Walker said.
"I'm really looking forward to getting this going. It'll be great to get back on the ice with the boys and start playing up again."
The 19-year-old veteran has looked extremely quick through camp and was itching to get into game action and assume a veteran's job with the Western Hockey League club.
"I just want to play whatever role the team has me in. I want to be the best I can be and be the hardestworking kid on the ice. I'm not looking to be a top scorer. If it happens, it happens, but I'm just looking to be a team player."
That couldn't make head coach Dave Lowry any happier. Lowry has stressed that fact to his troops throughout camp and into the pre-season.
"I don't want these guys to go out and re-invent the wheel," Lowry said. "If you're not a scorer, don't try to be a scorer. Play the game the way you're supposed to play the game. Play the game that will make you be a key piece on our team. Make it easy for us to make decisions."
Walker has taken that advice to heart.
"I've never really been the type of kid who wants it to be all about goals," said the winger, who had eight goals and 26 assists in 46 games last season. "I'm more worried about playing a team game."
Walker led the Royals in the plus-minus category last season at plus-2. In fact, he was the only Royal on the positive side of the ledger.
"You have to play both ends of the ice," he stressed. "Being a plus last season was really nice, and I'd like to be a plus again this season, especially if it helps us out as a team."
The scoring will fall on the shoulders of others, like veteran Steven Hodges, a third-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers this summer, who was also in the Victoria lineup on Friday and recorded an assist.
"I can't wait for the season to start, but this is all part of the process when you get back from summer," said Hodges, who had 21 goals and 25 assists in 72 games last season. "You have to get the rust off in these pre-season games and these camps with your hockey.
"It can't come soon enough, and I can't wait to get it going," he said of the regular season.
Unfortunately, it looks as if the impending National Hockey League lockout will keep the Delta native from attending his first pro camp with Florida.
"I'd probably say it would've been more of an experience matter. I wouldn't expect to be playing with them this year, but it would have been nice to [go to camp]," he said of likely missing out on the opportunity. "It would be a great experience to go, and if we do end up missing it, I guess I'll have to wait till next year."