Tarun Fizer belongs on a late-night television commercial. He slices, dices and purées.
Not only does he lead the Victoria Royals in goals with six, points with nine and rating with plus-3, but he also eats up volumes of ice time defending in his own zone and on the penalty kill.
“Tarun has worked very hard to earn the coaching staff’s trust in every aspect of the game, from five-on-five to the power play to the penalty kill,” said Royals head coach Dan Price.
Unless your name is something like Patrick Kane, said Fizer, any forward looking to make it in hockey needs to be a two-way player. That’s why Fizer says he has based his game on that of players such as Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar. Playing well in your defensive zone should be a big part of a forward’s game, said Fizer.
“That has always been drilled into me by my past coaches and now here on the Royals,” he said.
“That’s the only way I’ve known how to play.”
That approach has helped the Royals (5-5-1) hang in so far in a very difficult B.C. Division that includes the Vancouver Giants, Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets, which are teams considered elite for this season. Victoria, however, has beaten both Vancouver and Kamloops in winning three of its last four games. It gets a shot at the Rockets (7-4-1) tonight and Wednesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
“We’ve had the puck for much of the game in our recent stretch,” said Fizer.
“Our D-zone play and our goalies have been good [Victoria has allowed only four goals in its last four games]. If we continue to hold opponents’ scoring down, we are going to win games if we score three or four goals. The scoring bounces have not come for [some of the other Royals forwards] right now but we know they will come.”
Those thoughts were echoed by Royals forward Phillip Schultz.
“Off our great defence, the goals will start to come,” said the two-time player for Denmark in the world juniors.
“I’m not scared about us not scoring because I know that will come.”
Schultz is the newly-minted Royals captain, announced over the weekend.
“It’s a huge honour,” he said.
“We have lots of leaders on this team and that makes my job easier,” added Schultz, noting 11 of the Royals are 19- or 20-year-olds.
“Guys like [Mitchell] Prowse and Willy [Will Warm] are great at leading by example. I’m more of a vocal leader. I’m not afraid to step up and be the loud guy.”
The Royals’ Shane Farkas, meanwhile, was named WHL goaltender of the week on Monday for his lone appearance, blocking 34 of 35 shots for a 1.00 goals-against average and .971 save percentage in a 2-1 win over the Blazers on Saturday for his 50th career WHL victory.
“It’s kind of like the Twilight Zone, which is fitting for this time of year in October,” quipped Farkas, about being named for the honour despite playing only one game in the week.
Sophomore Brock Gould, projected by Central Scouting for the fourth- to- seventh rounds of the 2020 NHL draft, had played the previous three games for Victoria and allowed only three goals.
“Brock is having great success,” said Farkas.
“Being able to split the time is huge because it takes the load off.”
The value of crease depth is not lost on Royals bench boss Price, a former goaltender.
“It’s really important when you have game density like this [four games in six days],” he said.
ICE CHIPS: The Rockets led the WHL with four players selected in the 2019 NHL draft. And they were all prime-time picks, Lassi Thomson and Nolan Foote in the first round and Kaedan Korczak and Dillon Hamaliuk (acquired via the off-season from Seattle) in the second round. . . . Undrafted fourth-year Rockets forward Kyle Topping from Salt Spring Island has five goals and 12 points and is as valuable to the Kelowna cause as any drafted player.