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Royals revert to old ways in another loss to the Rockets

The Royals lost their third consecutive WHL game, all in Kelowna to the Rockets, in dropping a 9-1 decision Saturday night.


A slow start to the season was followed by an encouraging winning stretch followed now by three consecutive losses. Sound familiar? The Victoria Royals are doing a bang up job of mimicking the Vancouver Canucks, and that’s currently not a good thing.

The Royals lost their third consecutive WHL game, all in Kelowna to the Rockets, in dropping a 9-1 decision Saturday night in the Okanagan. Victoria began the season 1-11-2, rallied to 12-13-4, and has now dropped to 12-16-4.

Kelowna is 18-10-4 as the Rockets proved again difficult to beat at home at 13-4-1. The Rockets continued bedevilling Victoria, which is 1-4-2 against Kelowna on the season.

The Royals got off to a disastrous start with Kelowna taking a 5-0 first-period lead. Victoria’s goaltending, which has brilliantly held the team in so many games this season, has suddenly become an adventure as Tyler Palmer allowed two goals on the first four shots of the game. Palmer was replaced after five minutes by 16-year-old affiliate player Logan Cunningham, a call-up covering for the injured Royals goaltender Campbell Arnold, but Cunningham allowed three goals on 11 shots. Palmer came back into the game to start the second period but to little avail.

Asked repeatedly post-game about what he thought of the contest, Victoria head coach and GM Dan Price tersely answered each time: “We’re just on to Prince George,” referring to the Royals’ next two games Tuesday and Wednesday. Price and the Royals clearly want to put this debacle behind them.

Forward Colton Dach, second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2021 NHL draft, had a goal and three assists for the Rockets and Jake Poole a goal and four assists. Import forward Pavel Novak, a 2020 fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild who has twice represented the Czech Republic in the world junior championship, had two goals and an assist for the Rockets.

Emerging centre Brayden Schuurman, ranked the 58th North American skater for the 2022 NHL draft, scored the Royals goal for his 20th of the season. Schuurman had three goals and five points in the back-to-back set in Kelowna, which included a 6-4 Victoria loss Friday night to the Rockets.

The two games were the first for the Royals since a 5-2 loss, also in Kelowna, on New Year’s Day after having four consecutive games postponed due to seven players previously being on the league COVID protocol list.

With two players still on the list and day-to-day, combined with eight injuries, the Royals were again short-staffed Saturday. Key among the injured players are captain Tarun Fizer and world junior championship player and Swiss import forward Keanu Derungs, both of whom did not make the trip, which continues with the games Tuesday and Wednesday in Prince George against the Cougars. The Royals have called up three affiliate players, including goaltender Cunningham.

With the postponed contests to make up, game density will now be an issue. The Royals are in the midst of six games in nine days, returning from their four-game road swing to meet Vancouver and Everett next Friday and Saturday at the Memorial Centre.