Talk about reversal of fortune.
The Victoria Royals could not do at home what they did with such regularity on the road in sweeping all six games of their recent swing through Saskatchewan/Manitoba and the Western Hockey League’s East Division.
The Seattle Thunderbirds, trailing 2-0, scored four unanswered goals in the third period Friday night to send a shudder through both the Royals and the 5,138 fans at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre who welcomed their boys back from the lengthy absence.
The 4-2 victory moved the Thunderbirds to 11-6-1 and denied this Victoria group (14-6-1) a share of the all-time 10-season Victoria Royals/Chilliwack Bruins franchise record for longest winning streak. A win would have matched the seven-game runs accomplished during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
“We sat back too much in the third period to protect the lead and we paid for it,” said Royals captain Joe Hicketts.
The Thunderbirds’ top-end players simply took over the game in the third period. Third-round Columbus Blue Jackets NHL draft selection Keegan Kolesar got Seattle on the board at 3:31 of the third period. Ryan Gropp, a second-round NHL draft pick of the New York Rangers, tied it at 11:56. Seattle took the lead on a redirected shot by Nolan Volcan at 12:48 and Alexander True put it away at 16:44 on the power play. The classy Mathew Barzal, a first-round draft pick of the New York Islanders, and Edmonton Oilers blueline-prospect Ethan Bear each picked up two assists in that big T-Bird third period.
“We really have to bear down and take away those guys’ time and space,” said Hicketts, of Seattle’s constellation of stars.
Royals head coach Dave Lowry wasn’t arguing with his captain’s assessment.
“Their best players beat our best players,” said Lowry.
“We got only two shots in the third period. You’re not going to win too many games playing in your own end like that. They had us on our heels [in the third].”
Victoria forward Jack Walker opened scoring with a a precision shot to the top of the net at 5:09 of the first period. Dante Hannoun found an unlikely candidate for a back-door assist as defensive blueliner Ryan Gagnon converted at 11:00 of the second period for his first goal of the season to make it 2-0. That looked as if it may be enough.
The T-Birds outshot the Royals 35-19. Victoria started Coleman Vollrath, while Seattle started Logan Flodell.
ICE CHIPS: The teams meet against tonight at the Memorial Centre with the Royals wearing retro throw-back jerseys based on the 1925 Stanley Cup champion Victoria Cougars. . . . Lowry returned to the Isalnd afater scouting the Thursday night game in Owen Sound between the Russian junior selects and Ontario Hockey League all-stars as part of his duties as Canadian head coach for the upcoming 2016 world junior championship. Lowry leaves again Sunday to scout the remaining OHL and Quebec Major Junior League games against the Russian juniors. He will miss Wednesday’s home game against the Edmonton Oil Kings.