VANCOUVER 4 - VICTORIA 0
The lessons from the school of hard knocks continued on Thursday night for the youthful Victoria Royals, who fell to 1-7-1 following a 4-0 Western Hockey League loss to the Vancouver Giants in Kamloops.
Vancouver has leaned well into the post-Bowen Byram era. Even without the Canadian world junior gold medallist, now a rookie blueliner in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, the Giants returned a boat load of players and are 6-3 in the 24-game B.C. Division season.
Veterans Alex Kannok Leipert, a Washington Capitals NHL draft pick, Tristan Nielsen and third-round Florida Panthers draft pick Justin Sourdif led Vancouver with a goal and assist each to snap a two-game losing skid and send Victoria to its fourth consecutive defeat.
“Vancouver was more physical and I want our guys to take pride in being more physical going ahead,” said Victoria head coach Dan Price.
There were two fights in the affair.
Starting Royals goaltender Adam Evanoff was lifted in the second period after allowing three goals on 22 shots and was replaced by rookie Connor Martin as Vancouver outshot Victoria 40-16.
Giants rookie goaltender Drew Sim recorded his WHL career first shutout as the Giants moved to 3-0 this season against their coastal rivals.
The Royals, the youngest team in the WHL with 12 rookies, were happy to see captain Tarun Fizer return after two games out.
But Victoria was again missing other veteran players to injury.
Defenceman Noah Lamb and import forward Keanu Derungs, who represented Switzerland in the 2021 world junior championship, are both day-to-day.
Veteran forward Riley Gannon is back home in Nanaimo after being sidelined last week with a season-ending injury.
Matthew Smith and Graeme Bryks, the latter a converted forward, are the only Royals veterans on defence with Lamb out.
The Royal meet the Prince George Cougars (3-3-2) tonight in Kelowna.
“Nobody is down at all,” said Price, of his Victoria squad.
“We know we are improving. It’s the little adjustments to make to get on the right side of the score.”
Price was not happy, however, with his power play going 0-3. Vancouver scored on both its odd-man chances.
Meanwhile, the Kelowna Rockets have been cleared to resume team activities after all individuals within the team cohort tested negative for COVID-19 this week following the virus outbreak that put the team on the shelf for two weeks.
The Rockets (1-1) return to game action on Saturday against the Cougars in Kamloops before facing the Royals on Monday in Kelowna.